From Afghanistan, Unfiltered: Traveling in Kabul

By Dawn Calabia
Arriving in Kabul, one is deposited in a small, bare airport terminal missing the usual hubbub of travelers and shopkeepers.  Passengers quickly leave the terminal as security staff, who are  everywhere, quickly pinpoint anyone standing about; “why are you waiting here?” they ask without informing you that those greeting guests must wait outside in a parking lot.  Barriers around the terminal prevent travelers from re-entering or even walking close to the VIP area.  It is a very small airport for the capital of a country receiving large amounts of international aid and numerous contractors.

Iraq & Afghanistan: An Orderly Departure

By Ron Capps
Thirty-five years ago this week, Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops. Even this many years later, the images are indelible: Helicopters landing on the roof of the embassy; American sailors pushing helicopters off of the deck of a carrier as more hover alongside waiting to unload American citizens; and refugees fleeing the North Vietnamese Army's advance.

Pakistan: Protect People Now

By Ellie Stamatopoulos

Refugees International hosted its eighth annual Washington Circle event, Protect People First: Eyewitness Reports from Afghanistan and Pakistan, last Friday in front of a captivated Georgetown audience with one message --- make civilians the priority.

Afghanistan: Work in Progress

By Kristele Younes

The Obama administration is a much stronger supporter of the United Nations than the Bush administration was. But even for those who strongly believe in multilateralism -- and who want to see the UN play a larger role in international relations, humanitarian assistance and nation-building -- it can be difficult to understand the mandate and work of individual agencies and the cumbersome bureaucracy that sometimes prevents swift action.

President’s Corner: Obama’s speech and displacement in the Muslim World

By Kenneth Bacon

President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World in Cairo was a complete home run.

He highlighted the shared religious values of peace and justice that unify the People of the Book--Jews, Christians and Muslims who live by their Holy texts, the Talmud, the Bible and the Koran. He addressed the differences that currently divide the faiths, and he proposed paths for dialogue, partnership and peace in the future.

Inspired by New Supporters at the Afghan Embassy

By Megan Fowler

I am always inspired when people hear about Refugees International's work for the first time. Last night, Ambassador Said Jawad and his wife Shamim hosted a group of some 100 influential supporters and new friends of Refugees International at the Embassy of Afghanistan. They were there to learn about our recent mission to Afghanistan and the latest work we are doing to improve the lives of Afghan refugees.  

Afghanistan and Pakistan: Bold Reforms Needed

By Patrick Duplat
The big news today in Washington circles is the announcement of President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He revealed significant increases in military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, as well as higher levels of assistance for both countries. There’s bound to be disagreements over whether this is the appropriate course of action, but Obama is undeniably making the region a top priority of his tenure.

Pakistan: The Real Price of Eleven Billion Dollars

By Patrick Duplat

Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has provided Pakistan with $11 billion in military aid, a staggering sum in both absolute terms and when compared with non-military assistance. Not surprisingly, Pakistan wants this financial and logistical support to its armed forces to continue. President Asif Ali Zardari, in a recent Washington Post op-ed, urged the U.S. to “give [Pakistan] the necessary resources – upgrading [their] equipment and providing the newest technology – to fight terrorists…”

Gain the Trust of the Afghan People

By Patrick Duplat

Vice President Joe Biden visited Afghanistan just one week before the inauguration, indicating the new administration’s foreign policy priorities. It is clear that America’s “to do” list in Afghanistan is a long one. But the first order of business should be regaining the trust of Afghans.

After seven years of international presence, the country is still facing tremendous challenges: a weak government, a fledging economy, a serious humanitarian situation and a growing insurgency. As the Vice President himself said on his return, "The truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they're going to get better.” 

President’s Corner: Holbrooke’s Challenge in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Kenneth Bacon

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, knows first hand that peacemaking can be dangerous and difficult.  He dedicated To End A War, his book on the negotiations that ended the war in the Balkans 15 years ago, to three colleagues who died in the early stages of that effort.

In announcing the appointment last week, President Obama said:  “There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al Qaida and Taliban bases along the border, and there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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