Lecture Summary

Canadian media coverage of Afghanistan has tended to portray the situation there as spiraling out of control. Canadians have been inundated with news of a Taliban-led insurgency that is steadily gaining momentum, a burgeoning narcotics trade that has bred criminality and obstructed development, and growing government corruption and incompetence that has begun to alienate the local population. By contrast, the Canadian government has painted a picture of a desperate and fading Taliban movement opposed by a unified NATO alliance and an Afghan government that is increasingly capable and assertive. It points to a selection of impressive development indicators in the areas of health and education and the achievement of several political benchmarks such as the holding of elections and the introduction of a new constitution to support this optimistic appraisal. Amidst these contradictory messages, it has been difficult for the Canadian public to gain an accurate picture of what is happening in Afghanistan. The reality on the ground in Afghanistan is far more nuanced and complex than either of these conflicting narratives convey, falling somewhere in-between the two. By charting the evolution of the Afghan security environment since 2001, this lecture will seek to provide some insight into the Afghan security predicament in 2008 and how it can be overcome.

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