Events this week in Afghanistan and Pakistan have created a new sense of urgency among international policymakers.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday. That same day in Afghanistan, a pair of insurgent attacks rocked NATO forces — one a coordinated assault on a U.S. military base and the other an ambush that killed 10 French soldiers.
Greg Mortenson, executive director of the Central Asia Institute, recently met with Musharraf over tea during a five-week trip through both countries. The Pakistani leader had read a book Mortenson co-wrote titled Three Cups of Tea about his experiences building more than 60 schools in some of the most remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"He didn't mention he was going to resign, but he was reminiscing about his history and the many positive things he had done for his country," says Mortenson, a former mountaineer and soldier who stumbled into Pakistan in 1993 after spending days on K2.
Mortenson tells host Jacki Lyden that events in Pakistan over the past several years have presented an opportunity for the officials there to work with Western leaders and bring education reform as well as better heath care and roads in rural areas.
Mortenson, who has been kidnapped and threatened with death by the Taliban, wants to build more schools in Pakistan — even in hostile areas. He says the key is forging relationships, and that he has spent years building ties with tribal chiefs, mullahs and imams.
U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have contacted him about incorporating his methods for making inroads with locals into their strategy. The title of his book offers a clue about how he does it.
"The first cup of tea, you're a stranger; the second cup, a friend; and the third cup, you're family," Mortenson says. "And for the family, they're prepared to do anything, even die."