USIP's Andrew Wilder appeared on NewsHour last night to discuss events unfolding in Afghanistan. He was asked a number of questions about perceptions of Afghans toward the U.S. in the aftermath of the burning of Korans by U.S. military personnel, and the killing of two American officers inside the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.
Read a transcript of the whole segment here: http://to.pbs.org/wKUXen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Andrew Wilder, how do you read this? How wide, how deep is this feeling?
ANDREW WILDER, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Programs, United States Institute of Peace: I think Afghan attitudes towards international forces is really ambivalent.
On the one hand, incidents like this Quran-burning incidents or the videos of troops urinating on dead Taliban or civilian casualties certainly don't do a lot to win Afghan hearts and minds. On the other hand, I don't think that translates into Afghans wanting international forces to head for the exits right away, because if there's one thing Afghans fear more than anything else, it's a return to anarchy and civil war like they had in the 1990s.
I was recently talking in Kabul, and I talked to one cabinet member there who said, if you took a poll today and asked the majority of Afghans do you want the international forces to stay, they said no. But if you turn around the next day and ask them do you want them to leave, they would also say no. So there's a real ambivalence about international presence in Afghanistan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Andrew Wilder, it sounds like you're occupying somewhat of a middle ground here between -- between our other two guests. Given what both of them are saying and given what you see and you've learned about what's happening over there, how does the U.S. thread and NATO thread this needle right now?
ANDREW WILDER: Well, I also don't think we should just rush for the exits and based on the events of the last few days dramatically shift our strategy.
However, I have long also been critical of the strategy of basing -- pinning too much hopes on the Afghan national security forces as our exit strategy. We have a lot of questions about their capability, a lot of questions about sustainability, who's going to pay for them in the long term, and now questions about, with the new strategy of embedded trainers, is there going to be sufficient trust for that strategy to work?
But that's where I feel that the security piece really needs to be matched by a much more robust political strategy and a diplomatic strategy to push forward on a political negotiating front, which is also going to be extremely difficult. But we need to complement the security strategy with a more robust political strategy.