Sarah Chayes has been living and working in Kandahar, Afghanistan since 2001, when she covered the fall of the Taliban for National Public Radio. In 2002 she decided to leave journalism to help rebuild the shattered country, whose fate will help determine the shape of the 21st century.
Currently she runs a cooperative in the former Taliban stronghold, producing fine skin-care products from local fruits, nuts, and botanicals. (www.arghand.org) The aim is to discourage opium production by helping farmers earn a living from licit crops, as well as to encourage collective decision-making. From this position, deeply embedded in Kandahar’s everyday life, Ms. Chayes has gained unparalleled insights into a troubled region. Her book about Afghanistan since the Taliban is The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (New York: Penguin, 2006)
Chayes's articles have appeared in a variety of international publications, and are collected here in an archive that chronicles the recent history of Afghanistan. In "Media Links" you will find links to articles about Chayes and her work. "Pictures" is a gallery of Chayes's photos as well as links to relevant maps. Chayes posts occasional letters to "Notes From the Field," where you can join the conversation.
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Afghanistan, once thought of as the “good war,” is on the brink of being lost. But the failure of the US and international effort there is not a foregone conclusion. A thoughtful, wide-ranging shift in strategy on the part of the Obama Administration can still avert Afghanistan’s likely fate as an irrevocable – and dangerous – failed state, with ominous implications for the region and the rest of the world.
'Lower your sights' is the wrong vision for Afghanistan. As U.S. officials talk down our goals, Afghans are listening and wondering what happened to our promises.
By Sarah Chayes
March 27, 2009
Writing From Kandahar,
As President Obama unveils his Afghanistan strategy, he should know
that a flurry of warnings by U.S. officials urging lowered expectations
has not fallen on deaf ears in Afghanistan.
guess we were wrong to hope for anything really new from the new
American government," sighed one of the members of my cooperative as we
peeled Chinese pears recently by the light of kerosene lamps.... (read the whole op-ed or Click for PDF
Nurallah strode into our workshop
shaking with rage. His mood shattered ours. "This is no government," he
stormed. "The police are like animals."
The story gushed out of
him: There'd been a fender-bender in the Kandahar bazaar, a taxi and a
bicycle among wooden-wheeled vegetable carts. Wrenching around to avoid
the knot, another cart touched one of the green open-backed trucks the
police drive. In seconds, the officers were dragging the man to the
chalky dust, beating him -- blow after blow to the head, neck, hips,
kidneys. Shopkeepers in the nearby stalls began shouting, "What do you
want to do, kill him?" The police slung the man into the back of their
truck and roared away.
"So he made a mistake," concluded
Nurallah, one of the 13 Afghan men and women who make up my
cooperative. "We don't have a traffic court? They had to beat him?"
In the seven years I've lived in this stronghold of the Afghan south -- the erstwhile capital of the Taliban
and the focus of their renewed assault on the country -- most of my
conversations with locals about what's going wrong have centered on
corruption and abuse of power. "More than roads, more than schools or
wells or electricity, we need good governance," said Nurallah during
yet another discussion a couple of weeks ago. Read More....