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Afghanistan -- Is It Too Late?

Jim Townsend and Jeremy Shapiro
Jim Townsend and Jeremy Shapiro

Brookings scholar Jeremy Shapiro and Atlantic Council expert James Townsend assess the challenges faced by NATO in Afghanistan...

Is Afghanistan on the brink of failure? Or close to a major breakthrough? What can NATO and the international community do to improve the situation there? To answer those questions and others, two leading experts met today at RFE/RL's Washington, DC headquarters for a discussion on the future of Afghanistan. The briefing was moderated by RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin Radio Free and included Radio Free Afghanistan journalists participating via videoconference from Prague.

** Listen to audio of the briefing here: [RealAudio streaming / download] [Windows Media streaming / download].

"The pessimism taking hold in Washington and European capitals is understandable but not completely in tune with what's happening on the ground," said Brookings scholar Jeremy Shapiro. "On my recent trip to the region, NATO and U.S. commanders told me that, while Taliban-related violence is still a major problem, it's limited in scope and more Afghanis are looking to the government, and trusting it, to provide essential security and services.

Nevertheless, Shapiro believes Afghanistan still faces profound problems such as Pakistan's sanctuary for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, government corruption, tribalism, and a dangerous drug trade.

James Townsend of the Atlantic Council and former Director of European and NATO Policy at the Pentagon, added that the mixed message coming from Afghanistan makes it very difficult for the international community to plan for the country's future.

"On the one hand, real progress is obviously being made and on the other, Afghanistan seems to be on the brink of failure," said Townsend. In order to succeed, the international community needs strong political leadership to maintain the stamina and will to persevere in Afghanistan over the long term."

Radio Free Afghanistan broadcasts 12 hours of programming a day in Dari and Pashto. The programs are produced in Prague and the Kabul Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, satellite and AM and FM signals provided by the International Broadcasting Bureau. Radio Free Afghanistan programming is also available online at English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at