Although the days are still hot, the evening winds blow cool over the mountains around Kabul and people are already thinking of winter. The presidential election took place several weeks ago, but still no final word on the winner has been announced. Rumors, threats, hints of impending doom, whirl like the coming snow, giving no satisfaction. People are weary and tired of the conflicting reports, the continuing casualties, particularly of civilians, the high-handed pressure of the foreigners, calling for this and calling for that. Somehow the election did not meet the standards that the internationals demanded, so now there must be continuous deadlock, and the many legal maneuvers that make a democracy real.
One wonders where the internationals find the right to decide on what happens here in Kabul, in Afghanistan. Perhaps it is written in their constitutions, or embodied in their monuments, or scrawled across the half-baked news reports purporting to be about this city and this country. Enough! It is clear here in the streets of Kabul, in the outskirts, in the towns, the villages, that once again the foreigners are trying to impose their will on the Afghan people. Once again, without understanding that without the hearts of the Afghan people, nothing can be done. True actions must be from the heart, not at the point of a gun, or through the hallowed halls of power in Washington D. C. or other foreign capitals.
Enough! It is time to hear from the Afghan people, in their own way, in their own voice, and not through artificial conventions and rules imposed from without. Unless we want to return this country to civil war, we must listen to them. We must realize that the knowledge of the West is precisely that, of the West. It is not what is important here. Afghanistan must find its own way, and it is time for the internationals to stop imposing and to start listening.
What is needed for Afghanistan is more understanding, not more troops. More troops without any other change will merely repeat the errors of the past, with no help for Afghanistan and no solution for the internationals. More patience, and more listening, and perhaps, just perhaps, we might begin to understand the needs and aspirations of the Afghan people. This is what is needed as the winter of 2009 approaches, swiftly over the mountains.
ANDREW T. HOOK, who owns a cabin in the Crosby area, is professor of economics and business at the newly formed American University of Afghanistan. He has 30 years of experience in banking, finance and economic development throughout the world and has worked for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.