Afghanistan: Is Success Possible A Lecture by Ambassador Ronald Neumann
President Obama has made the Afghan war his war. What, realistically, can the United States accomplish there? And what are the obstacles in our path?
Ronald E. Neumann brings an informed and incisive perspective to these questions, having served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, years that saw coalition forces challenged by a renewed Taliban insurgency. Lessons learned will form the basis of his April 8 lecture, "Afghanistan: Is Success Possible?"'the second in the three-part BP Speaker Series: Prospects for Democracy: China, North Korea, Afghanistan.
Neumann's lecture draws on his new book The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan, which journalist Ahmed Rashid praised as "deeply insightful and thoughtful ... at times amusing and always frank." Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said of the book: "President Obama's strategy for Afghanistan needs to be informed by this tale. Clearly a vision of a nation is not sufficient to prevail. As Ambassador Neumann indicates, execution and accountability are essential."
Neumann knows Afghanistan intimately. His father, Robert G. Neumann, served as ambassador there in the late 1960s, and the son traveled extensively in the country after college. After serving as a combat infantryman in Vietnam, Neumann joined the State Department and began a diplomatic career that spanned almost four decades. Before his Kabul posting he served as ambassador to Algeria and Bahrain, deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, and political adviser in Iraq. Today he is president of the American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington, D.C.
He concluded his article in the September issue of Foreign Policy magazine with this piece of advice about Afghanistan: "Americans will understand limitations that are explained in advance along with thoughtfully conceived near-term actions. But we need to guard against the temptation to make short-term, 'feel-good' promises now that destroy credibility later when they cannot be achieved."