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Reality Check on Afghanistan
A burqa clad woman walks past a poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai pasted on the back of a vehicle in Herat, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Afghans will head to the polls on Aug. 20 to elect the new president. (AP)

A burqa clad woman walks past a poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai pasted on the back of a vehicle in Herat, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Afghans will head to the polls on Aug. 20 to elect the new president. (AP)

The people of Afghanistan go to the polls tomorrow to elect a president — if they have the courage. At least one Taliban commander has threatened to cut off any finger he sees daubed with the blue ink of the voter.

British diplomat, soldier, and scholar Rory Stewart knows Afghanistan far better than most. He walked across it. Learned it up close. He’s an adviser to the U.S. envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke.

But Rory Stewart says we’ve got our vision wrong for Afghanistan, the war, and nation-building. We need a rethink.

This hour, on election eve, a reality check on Afghanistan.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us first from Kabul is Laura King, reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

Joining us from London is Rory Stewart, professor and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He has served as a British soldier and diplomat, has been an outside adviser to U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, and is executive chairman of the Afghanistan-based  Turquoise Mountain Foundation. He’s author of “The Places in Between,” about his 2002 trek across Afghanistan, and of “The Prince of the Marshes,” about his time as coalition deputy governor of two southern Iraqi provinces in 2003 and 2004.

Stewart’s recent essay, “The Irresistible Illusion” (in the July 9 issue of the London Review of Books), offers an extended critique of the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy.

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