Ambassador Mark Sedwill looks at the challenges that lie ahead in Afghanistan

NEW YORK, March 28, 2011 - Ambassador Mark Sedwill presented Afghanistan 2011-14: The Challenges of Transition and Reconciliation, at Asia Society last week.

According to Sedwill, 2010 was a pivotal year, which saw a number of successes and failures. However, the ultimate message of the year was one of moving away from international aid, and allowing Afghans to govern themselves. Transition means getting Afghans off the welfare of international aid, and gradually having them take care of themselves.

Sedwill spoke about the town of Marjah, which has been transformed over the past year from a derelict town to a bustling center. According to Sedwill, "We found there are people traumatized, less by the Taliban, who are repressive but orderly, than by the years beforehand when they had suffered under a brutal and predatory police force who ran the drugs trade and could buy influence in Kabul [...] As President Karzai said afterwards, people in places like Marjah prefer the Taliban to his government, and regard him as a puppet."

But Marjah is now a town transformed with new elected district council, a police force, schools, clinics and roads. Their allegiance was determined by the core functions of the state: security and the rule of law provided by accountable institutions. Sedwill used this example as a model for the future of Afghanistan.

Of course, there are major obstacles to be overcome, but Sedwill assured that the next phase will be Afghanistan's journey to self-reliance.

Sedwill is NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. He was joined by Paul Fishstein, a Fellow with the State Building and Human Rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan program at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Reported by Rachel Rosado