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The present NATO strategy in Afghanistan is referred to as COIN (counterinsurgency strategy). The main objective of this strategy is gaining the trust of Afghan civilians by winning their “hearts and minds,” a strategy that decreased violence and possibly prevented an all out civil war in Iraq in 2007. In Afghanistan however, violence has increased dramatically the past two years, and although it is still early to say whether the COIN strategy is working or not, the statistics show a dark image of the future of the country. Lorenzo Zambernardi, a University of Bologna-Forli lecturer and doctoral candidate of Ohio State University’s Political Science department has written an interesting article on the “impossible trilemma of counterinsurgency.”

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One of the main reasons for the declining violence in Iraq the past few years was that the Sunni insurgents gave up their arms and started working with and for the American military and the Shia government. Salaries from the Americans and promises of jobs and influence within the government made the Sunnis realize that supporting Al-Qaeda would have devastating results for Iraq and possibly throw the country in to an all-out civil war. This switch of sides is known as the “Sunni Awakening”, and it has helped in restoring hopes for a more secure Iraq.

In the past few months however, Iraq has seen an increase in violence, as the Americans are withdrawing and the country is at a political standstill. Members of the Sunni awakening group are also switching sides again, due to an Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia recruitment offensive. The Sunni ex-insurgents are complaining that they are not getting the relevant jobs they were promised by the government, and that salaries are rarely being paid. An ex–Awakening Council leader, Nathum al-Jubouri says that “The Awakening does not know what the future holds because it is not clear what the government intends for them.”  Less than half of all Awakening members have been offered jobs within the government, and rejoining Al-Qaeda and the insurgency seems like the only solution for many of the Awakening members.

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By Tahira Saleem
Tahira is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Tahira below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

President Obama’s coming into the office was heralded as the wind of change and people pinned their hopes on the new leadership in the White House; their aspirations were fulfilled when he announced a new policy for Iraq and Afghanistan. Ever since his announcement of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Operation New Dawn in Iraq, a question has arisen about the future of youth in these two countries.

In the wake of troop withdrawal, the youth have got an enormous opportunity for carving their dream countries. The Iraqi youth, who have been grappling with an authoritarian rule and violence perpetrated by the state, can translate their dreams of liberalism, democracy, and blooming economy by playing a pivotal role in the reconstruction of their country. As Iraqi people are coping with a relentless wave of terrorism and violence, the youth of Iraq must take on the responsibility of their country’s security and safety by joining the national forces, because there can be no reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-stricken people without peace in Iraq. Moreover, the youth must not join the ranks of extremists who promise to liberate Iraq from occupant forces.

Though Afghanistan has yet to see the troop pullout, but the tide of fundamentalism can be reversed and Afghan history can be re-written only when the Afghan youth realize the gravity of situation. They say “waters of vengeance run deep in Pushtun culture”, but this vengeful policy will push the country deeper into an abyss. In this critical phase, the Afghan youth must lend a helping hand to the International Security Forces for bringing relief to the local population from the obscurantist ideology. Youth in Afghanistan can enjoy an uninterrupted period of peace and tranquility, only when they believe that challenge is an opportunity to make the things better.

Tahira Saleem is a young writer and researcher from Multan, Pakistan. A regular contributor to Pakistan’s leading English daily DAWN, she has a couple of research projects on her credit. She is the only Pakistani whose research paper “Persecuted by Law” by has been selected for the panel presentation in the World Forum 2010.

By James Robertson
James is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about James below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

President Obama’s recent announcement of an end to combat operations in Iraq signals a turning point in American operations there. A war which contributed to American students’ perceptions of American foreign policy will now enter a new stage focused on fortifying the young Iraqi government’s ability to protect and oversee its own people. While the latest round of terrorist attacks cast doubt upon the country’s ability to furnish its citizens with an environment of security, the newly revised U.S. diplomatic mission seeks to provide Iraqi security forces with the guidance and training they need to address future defense concerns.

Much rests upon this important point in Iraq’s progress towards a functioning democratic state. The costs of failure cannot be understated, a position the current administration intends to address by more than doubling the number of private security units in Iraq. This is a commitment that will likely be reflected by private investing, aid, and advocacy groups. The President also noted that Iraq must take control of its future by addressing its own problems. Historically, young people and students in particular have always served as a driving force for development in developing nations, and Iraq is no different.

Students will undoubtedly play an important role in Iraq’s transition to a democratic state. This presents an exciting opportunity for American students to engage and assist a foreign people in their work towards a self-governing society. American students will soon be presented with the chance to affect change in their world by assisting their counterparts in Iraq with the understanding and application of democratic ideals. The result of such an exchange of cultural and educational and values could contribute greatly to the establishment of a democratic peace in Iraq.

My name is James Robertson. I am currently studying Political Science and English at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The current American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan dominates foreign affairs and will undoubtedly shape American foreign policy for years to come. Accordingly, today’s students will play an important role in determining how relations with these two countries and the Middle East will proceed. Each of us has a voice and I believe it is our duty to stand up and speak out for democracy in these changing times.

By Kevin Hudnell
Kevin is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Kevin below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Faced with the challenge of improving “U.S.-Muslim relations,” three people could come up with three different interpretations of exactly what that term encompasses. One would be concerned with how American society continues to view the American Muslim population with prejudice and suspicion. The second might be concerned about how the U.S. treats the worldwide Muslim population and how that population thinks of the U.S. in turn. A third might be concerned with the faltering relations between the U.S. and various Muslim governments.

Yet these three problems are all connected. The treatment of Muslims in America has to square with our message of tolerance to Muslims abroad, and the success of U.S. interaction with Muslim governments is limited by how those governments see the U.S. treating Muslims at home and abroad. So, while the average American has little power to directly better the chances of amicable relations with Iran or bring about a peaceable resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, efforts to advance U.S.-Muslim relations here at home can advance U.S.-Muslim relations abroad as well.

There’s no unique role for college students to play in determining how the U.S. treats its Muslim population. But people, in general, have a responsibility here and young people are best poised to shoulder it. We have the option of inheriting stereotypes and prejudices passed down to us by the elder generation or passed on to us by the media, or not. We have the option of going out in the streets protesting the “Ground Zero Mosque,” or not. We have the option of looking no better to foreign audiences than Hezbollah supporters burning American flags look to us, or not.

Young people cannot directly affect U.S. foreign policy. We can, however, start working to engender an atmosphere in which well-reasoned and intelligent policy can take root.

Kevin Hudnell graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with a double major in Peace, War and Defense and Public Policy Analysis. His research interests focus on relations both among Middle Eastern states and between the Middle East and the U.S. He has traveled and studied in Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. His peers have described him variously as a strategic genius, a political pragmatist, and a jerk.

By Eamon Penland
Eamon is one of AIDemocracy’s new 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find his bio, and a description of the Issue Analyst program, below.

As we continue to withdraw troops from the region and shift our focus to other
problems such as Iran, we, as young people, must continue to stay informed.
That is our only real duty as citizens of the most powerful democratic country in
the world.

We don’t need to protest or go and fight necessarily. We are unfortunately
fighting more difficult battles at home. Sure, the stock market and economic
outlook look bleak, but we face other problems. Right now we are fighting the
problems of ignorance and apathy.

How is our democracy supposed to work if we have uninformed citizens voting
and making decisions or, even worse, not voting at all? How many of my friends
don’t have a clue what is going on in the world? My answers to these questions
are it can’t and most. What do you think?

So what role will we play as young people?

Our role as young people should be to stay as well informed as possible. Well,
this should be easier than ever, right? True, we do have more information at
our fingertips than ever before. We are the technology generation, and we must
realize that technology can and will influence our lives; however, we must also
remember that this constant exposure to information is both good and bad. We
can be easily blinded by others biases. It’s important that the issues at hand are
understood and discussed.

As young people we could make a difference by fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq
and protesting, but, for most, those options aren’t realistic; however, influencing
those around us is something we do every day. By influencing those around us
we can in turn influence policy makers. There will be policy decisions to be made
in the near future regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s make sure they are the
right ones.

Eamon is a senior Foreign Affairs Major at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. After taking classes regarding US foreign policy and learning about the Middle East, he realized the importance of staying up to date with what is going on in that region in order to make accurate and well thought out responses regarding issues taking place there. As we try to pull troops out of the region, he believes we must remember and learn from past mistakes so that we don’t create problems for ourselves in the future.

I’m not a dedicated reader of astrological forecasts. The only times I do peruse the horoscope section is on crowded early morning trains into Boston, when it’s a toss-up between looking at what my future holds or staring into some guy’s adam’s apple.

Three days before the global peace & security event I organized in Bristol, RI on March 31st, I read my horoscope. It said, “watch out for difficulties ahead. Those in event management, public office and students must take special care.”

I’m a student. I was planning an awareness event on civil military balance and refugee crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan. Did I mention it was a rainy day I read that horoscope on?

D-Day

On March 31st, there was still a state of emergency declared in RI. Immense flooding, historical amounts of rainfall, water damage and traffic issues affected everyone in the state. One of my panelists found a river in his back yard! Other speakers found it hard to get to the event, what with road blocks and diversions.

Which made it all the more a miracle when the event turned out to be a success!

Audience gathering for the Panel Discussion.

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For his first presidential act upon taking office on Jan. 20 last year, President Obama signed an executive order requiring the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year. Many liberals and human rights activists breathed a sigh of relief as Obama promised to return the U.S. to the “moral high ground” and put an end to a shameful chapter in modern American history. One year later and that high ground appears beyond the reach of the Obama administration, as Guantanamo Bay prison remains open with the White House lacking a comprehensive plan to deal with its estimated 245 detainees.  

Obama’s laudable plan to close the prison has stalled for various reasons, some of which are beyond his control. The first reason relates to his attempts to re-house some of the prisoners on American soil. Local senators and governors have fiercely objected to the notion that their state should house suspected terrorists on the grounds that the new prisoners could endanger the safety of Americans. This nonsensical affirmation has been echoed by other partisan commentators and TV networks, despite the fact that the U.S. already houses many convicted al-Qaeda terrorists, as well as various other dangerous criminals. 

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With the December 6 news that it plans to build twenty new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran has dealt a serious blow to hopes of peacefully resolving its nuclear standoff with the West. After months of courtship by the international community, Iran’s announcement appears to be both a rejection of the West’s advances and a signal of its intent to step up its pursuit of a nuclear program. With the US running out of cards to play, many fear that the two countries are on a collision course to military confrontation.

Much like North Korea, the consequences of an Iranian possession of nuclear bomb are dire. The Obama administration has sought to right the wrong of American Cold War policy, when the US provided its then-ally Iran with nuclear reactors in an attempt to curry favor. Preventing proliferation is a priority for the Obama administration and confirmation that Iran has a nuclear bomb would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to counter Iranian domination in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb would also bring Israel and Iran closer to war. Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicised his hatred of Israel so often that Israeli leaders deem a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat. Just last year an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites was narrowly averted after George W. Bush refused to give Ehud Olmert the green light. The Obama administration has since tried to convince the Israelis of the virtues of diplomacy with Iran, but the latest setback means that hawks in Israel and the US will be circling Iran with greater intensity.

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Post by Haley Dillan, originally posted on GlobalEnvision.org

Security in Iraq is undoubtedly improving, but rising unemployment threatens to increase instability and worsen corruption, according to Iraq expert Frank Gunter.

Gunter, who’s done two tours in Iraq as an economics adviser, points out in a recent op-ed in the New York Times that 51 percent of the population — and an even greater percentage of young people — is either unemployed or underemployed.

Almost half of the country’s labor force is paid by the government from its revenues from petroleum exports. With the exception of agriculture, legitimate private-sector employment is small — by my calculations, about 6 percent of the labor force. Most of the remainder of the Iraqi labor force is either unemployed or working in the underground economy.

Gunter further laments that any business faces either the inefficiencies of the underground economy or the corrupt ministries that regulate them. (Iraq was just listed among the top five most corrupt countries in the world.) The process to register a new business is expensive and complicated — a license costs $2,800 and requires approval from 12 different ministries.

“The potential for private sector job growth is great,” Gunter writes. So what needs to be done? The number-one thing, Gunter says, is to make it easier and less expensive to register a new business. He also recommends that provinces, rather than Baghdad, set rules for regulating businesses.

But whatever is decided, the government of Iraq is running out of time. It must either end its hostility toward private businesses — or accept that a sharply growing mass of unemployed will nullify the progress of the last three years.

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