.
I

n the Western world, we suffer from a two-dimensional view of Afghanistan. We see it as a largely unknown place that is unsettled, uncivilized, and a theater for conflict against daunting foes -- be it an idea like terrorism or a long-standing adversary like the Soviet Union. Across much of the media landscape, Afghanistan is a tragedy… but a tragedy that is highly politicized by its use as a vehicle for finding fault with the respective administrations of Joe Biden or Donald Trump. These limited characterizations of Afghanistan do an unforgivable disservice to Afghans, service members, and civil servants who worked and suffered to improve the situation there, and to ourselves. After all, if we can’t understand what happened, what is to keep us from making the same mistakes elsewhere? Indeed, the United States remains embroiled in interventions around the world which may be lower intensity and get less coverage, but which nevertheless share certain key attributes.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Afghanistan and what went wrong where, why, and how. But by seeking broader understanding, listening to voices that don’t always have the platform they deserve, we can do better. We have to. 

With a view toward amplifying those voices, Diplomatic Courier is launching a new Afghanistan Channel and a Bookazine, both of which share the same name: “AFGHANISTAN. How America Broke Its Crucible.” This would have been impossible without the invaluable work of our partners on this project, No One Left Behind, the Truman National Security Project, and the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence. 

In the bookazine, we attempt to make sense of what happened in three acts. Every piece included in the bookazine will also be published to the channel, though in different order from the bookazine, as will all past and future contributions we publish that look to the same goal. 

In the first act, “Afghan Voices,” we invite four Afghans in their own words. Each person we interviewed came from a very different situation and so each format is slightly different. For some, the decision to speak to us involved a great deal of personal risk and bravery. Each of them was motivated by a desire to make their voices heard and to prompt the wider world to try harder to deepen our understanding of what’s happened and what’s happening. 

In the second act, “Perspectives from the ‘Field,’” we hear from folks who have been intimately and operationally involved in Afghanistan. Four veterans from the Truman network discuss their experiences as military service members in Afghanistan and how those experiences have shaped their perspectives. Three current and former board members with No One Left Behind -- a charity helping evacuate Afghans who served alongside U.S. service members -- talk about their experiences in this critical endeavor, and their attempts to understand the lessons from their challenges and successes.

In the final act, “Learning from Tragedy to do Better,” we feature analyses from a variety of experts -- American and Afghan -- about how we arrived at today and what it means for tomorrow. We hear from two Afghan civil society leaders -- Mariam Safi and Mustafa Aryan -- who were intimately involved in both attempts to build up Afghanistan’s civil society and in the peace talks. Regular Diplomatic Courier contributors Ethan Brown and Joshua Huminski provide historical perspectives and further reading through a book review roundup, respectively. Finally, we hear from three former and current government officials -- Alexia D’Arco, Ambassador Ronald Neumann, and John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- who talk about lessons learned through their work and thoughts about what moving forward should look like.

Afghanistan is personal for me. The events of 9/11 and the intervention that followed had an outsized impact on who I am today morally and professionally. The same can be said (except only much, much more so!) for all of our contributors in this bookazine. Their personal and professional experiences, their perspectives, their learnings can help add depth to our understanding of this country and this crisis. Diplomatic Courier and our partners hope you find meaning and greater understanding in the pieces to come. We certainly did.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Shane is a PhD holder and a Marine Corps Veteran. He is an experienced editor and analyst with expertise in energy, security, and state failure. He wrote his PhD at Oxford Brookes University, focusing on the intersection of history, sovereign identity, and intervention in Afghanistan.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Announcement: Afghanistan Bookazine & Channel

Afghanistan. Photo by Sebastian Rich. All rights reserved.

November 8, 2021

Diplomatic Courier is excited to announce the launch of our latest bookazine and channel: AFGHANISTAN. How America Broke Its Crucible, featuring perspectives and analyses from Afghans impacted by the crisis, from U.S. servicemembers, charity volunteers, academics, and government officials.

I

n the Western world, we suffer from a two-dimensional view of Afghanistan. We see it as a largely unknown place that is unsettled, uncivilized, and a theater for conflict against daunting foes -- be it an idea like terrorism or a long-standing adversary like the Soviet Union. Across much of the media landscape, Afghanistan is a tragedy… but a tragedy that is highly politicized by its use as a vehicle for finding fault with the respective administrations of Joe Biden or Donald Trump. These limited characterizations of Afghanistan do an unforgivable disservice to Afghans, service members, and civil servants who worked and suffered to improve the situation there, and to ourselves. After all, if we can’t understand what happened, what is to keep us from making the same mistakes elsewhere? Indeed, the United States remains embroiled in interventions around the world which may be lower intensity and get less coverage, but which nevertheless share certain key attributes.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Afghanistan and what went wrong where, why, and how. But by seeking broader understanding, listening to voices that don’t always have the platform they deserve, we can do better. We have to. 

With a view toward amplifying those voices, Diplomatic Courier is launching a new Afghanistan Channel and a Bookazine, both of which share the same name: “AFGHANISTAN. How America Broke Its Crucible.” This would have been impossible without the invaluable work of our partners on this project, No One Left Behind, the Truman National Security Project, and the William & Mary Whole of Government Center of Excellence. 

In the bookazine, we attempt to make sense of what happened in three acts. Every piece included in the bookazine will also be published to the channel, though in different order from the bookazine, as will all past and future contributions we publish that look to the same goal. 

In the first act, “Afghan Voices,” we invite four Afghans in their own words. Each person we interviewed came from a very different situation and so each format is slightly different. For some, the decision to speak to us involved a great deal of personal risk and bravery. Each of them was motivated by a desire to make their voices heard and to prompt the wider world to try harder to deepen our understanding of what’s happened and what’s happening. 

In the second act, “Perspectives from the ‘Field,’” we hear from folks who have been intimately and operationally involved in Afghanistan. Four veterans from the Truman network discuss their experiences as military service members in Afghanistan and how those experiences have shaped their perspectives. Three current and former board members with No One Left Behind -- a charity helping evacuate Afghans who served alongside U.S. service members -- talk about their experiences in this critical endeavor, and their attempts to understand the lessons from their challenges and successes.

In the final act, “Learning from Tragedy to do Better,” we feature analyses from a variety of experts -- American and Afghan -- about how we arrived at today and what it means for tomorrow. We hear from two Afghan civil society leaders -- Mariam Safi and Mustafa Aryan -- who were intimately involved in both attempts to build up Afghanistan’s civil society and in the peace talks. Regular Diplomatic Courier contributors Ethan Brown and Joshua Huminski provide historical perspectives and further reading through a book review roundup, respectively. Finally, we hear from three former and current government officials -- Alexia D’Arco, Ambassador Ronald Neumann, and John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction -- who talk about lessons learned through their work and thoughts about what moving forward should look like.

Afghanistan is personal for me. The events of 9/11 and the intervention that followed had an outsized impact on who I am today morally and professionally. The same can be said (except only much, much more so!) for all of our contributors in this bookazine. Their personal and professional experiences, their perspectives, their learnings can help add depth to our understanding of this country and this crisis. Diplomatic Courier and our partners hope you find meaning and greater understanding in the pieces to come. We certainly did.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Shane is a PhD holder and a Marine Corps Veteran. He is an experienced editor and analyst with expertise in energy, security, and state failure. He wrote his PhD at Oxford Brookes University, focusing on the intersection of history, sovereign identity, and intervention in Afghanistan.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.