Is Afghanistan A Lost Cause?

Matthew Hoh, Nir Rosen and John Donvan at an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on Afghanistan.

Matthew Hoh (left) and Nir Rosen participate in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate about Afghanistan, moderated by John Donvan (standing), at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 10. Chris Vultaggio hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Vultaggio

After nearly a decade of fighting, Americans are still debating the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, its toll on the military and its financial cost.

Some argue that U.S. involvement is actually spurring more fighters to join the Taliban — increasing violence in the country and instability in the surrounding region. At the same time, they say, the war is now having little effect on al-Qaida, which is largely based in Pakistan.

Others counter that the "surge" of additional troops is already making a difference. They say Gen. David Petraeus' strategy is aimed not just at defeating Taliban fighters but also at reducing corruption and improving governance. It's worth the investment, they say, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

A team of four experts recently went head-to-head on the topic, facing off two against two in an Oxford-style debate on the motion "Afghanistan Is a Lost Cause."

Coming Up

On Nov. 22, a group of experts will debate the motion "U.S. Airports Should Use Racial and Religious Profiling."

Before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 46 percent in favor of the motion and 23 percent against, with 31 percent undecided. After the debate, 51 percent supported the motion — an increase of 5 percentage points — and 36 percent opposed it — up 13 points — making the latter side the winners of the debate. Thirteen percent remained undecided.

John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline, moderated the Nov. 10 debate. Those debating:


Matthew Hoh is a former State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan over U.S. strategic policy and goals in Afghanistan in September 2009. Prior to his assignment in Afghanistan, Hoh served in Iraq — first in 2004-05 in Salah ad Din province with a State Department reconstruction and governance team, and then in 2006-07 in Anbar province as a Marine Corps company commander.

Nir Rosen is a fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security and a writer who has been published extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other countries. His first book, In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, was published in 2006. His latest book, Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World, was released in October. From 2005 to 2008, Rosen was a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Peter Bergen (left) and Max Boot argue against the motion "Afghanistan Is a Lost Cause."

Peter Bergen (left) and Max Boot argue against the motion "Afghanistan Is a Lost Cause." Chris Vultaggio hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Vultaggio


Peter Bergen is a print and television journalist; a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where he co-directs the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative; a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security; and CNN's national security analyst. Bergen has reported for a range of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He is editor of the AfPak Channel, a joint publication of Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation. His most recent book, The Osama bin Laden I Know, was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2006 by The Washington Post.

Max Boot is one of America's leading military historians and foreign-policy analysts. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and the Los Angeles Times, and a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary and many other publications. He is author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today (2006), which has been hailed as a "magisterial survey of technology and war" by The New York Times, and of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (2002), which has been placed on Air Force, Army, Marine and Navy reading lists. He is currently writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.



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