Khan, Exum discuss American role in Mideast

Posted by Julia Leef

?Approximately 60 students gathered at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 in Davis Auditorium to hear two guests, Amil Khan and Adrew Exum, speak about the current wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how America's involvement has affected those countries.

Andrew Exum is the author of "This Man's Army: A Soldier's Story from the Frontlines of the War on Terror" and is a fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He served in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2004 on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and as an advisor to the CENTCOM Assessment Team. Exum is also the founder of the counter-insurgency blog "Abu Muqawama."

Amil Khan, who works in Pakistan for Radical Middle Way and writes about terrorism and extremism as Londonstani on the Abu Muqawama blog, has also written a book about the development of extremism titled "The Long Struggle," which will be published later in the year.

Exum began the discussion by explaining his take on the U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, focusing on the new policy established by the Obama administration in March 2009.

Exum said the announcement of a withdrawal period in the future will make it more difficult for people to commit to a stance on the war and work out negotiations.

Khan continued with a brief discussion of predatory governments and the view of many Pakistanis that extremist attacks were not an issue prior to American involvement. Khan added that this is not historically true and pressed the need for America to be more careful about delegating aid money. "In these times of constraint what we need to look at is not how much we spend, but how we spend it," he said.

One student questioned the possibility of flipping the less extreme fighters as a strategy, which Exum said would theoretically be ideal. However, as the presence of American troops has now become temporary, it would be difficult for America to establish the kind of control needed to initiate that switch.

Another student asked about a future in which American troops would finally withdraw and what would happen to these countries. Problems would either continue or become worse, with the positive result being that Pakistan may realize it "needs to sort this out for itself, for its future," Khan said.

Finally, another student asked what Americans have learned from Afghanistan and how it might be applied in future wars. Although Exum said we have learned how things work on an operational level, he added that we need to learn more on the political level concerning the reactions of Americans to events and how exactly citizens should respond to them.

Khan and Exum referenced their knowledge and experiences when answering questions and informed students and community members about a topic of worldwide concern.

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