South Asia

I had heard many good things about Wilton Park's conferences, and was finally able to participate in one entitled "Public Diplomacy: Meeting New Challenges" on October 7, 2008. The conference consisted of several sessions, including one on Afghanistan that generated much discussion by a number of publicly renowned diplomacy experts and practitioners from some of the countries with forces in Afghanistan.

My brother and I, accompanied by his brother-in-law, were driving to the posh and overpriced Dynasty Chinese restaurant in Islamabad’s Marriott hotel recently. Yet the tightwad in me convinced them that we could enjoy ourselves just as much by going to one of the many cheaper Chinese local restaurants. Soon after we heard the Marriott explosion a few miles away, it became clear we had saved more than money.

Why good razor wire doesn't make good neighbors

The United States Embassy in Islamabad is a wary and reluctant piñata. Scheduled to meet the embassy's cultural affairs officers at 2 pm on a weekday afternoon in late May, I found myself running at least twenty minutes behind as I navigated a labyrinth of razor-wire-topped walls, car inspectors, metal detectors and interrogators.

This article first appeared on the MacArthur Foundation's Spotlight blog.

I spent the past week at the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo in San Jose, California.

There were a number of interesting panels, but two themes caught my attention that I’d like to discuss here: 1) Concern for ROI or Return on Investment in Virtual Worlds; and 2) The Rise of China.

ROI

This article originally appeared on Diplomatic Traffic.

The largest defeat of British-Indian forces in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) came through the leadership of a heroic Afghan woman: Malalai of Maiwand. Malalai courageously inspired dejected Afghan troops and carried the Afghan banner into the battle that would end her life.

Now is the time to finish the job we began in Afghanistan five years ago. Last year saw a desperate and vicious onslaught by a new generation of Taliban forces with enhanced logistical and financial support. More than 4,000 Afghans, many of them civilians, were killed in military actions in 2006, a three-fold increase from the previous year. Suicide attacks -- a phenomenon unknown to Afghans before 2002 -- jumped to 118 from 21.

Do we Afghans ever think about our debt of service to Afghanistan and actually doing something about it? I think we hardly do so. But let us begin with the basic fact that the land we call home is diversely populated, geographically landlocked, politically and economically least developed, and unfortunately located in a predatory neighborhood where at least one of our neighbors sees its raison d'être partly dependent on instability in Afghanistan.

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