Americans Are 'All Complicit' In The Situation In Afghanistan, Journalist Says

Afghanistan deserved better, says New Yorker staff writer Steve Coll. "We're a democracy," he says. "We decided to go over there and do this — and look what we've got."

Excerpt of the interview by Dave Davies of Steve Coll at NPR - Fresh Air:

DAVIES: Now, before I let you go, I mean, you've spent many, many years studying this region of the world. And you know a lot of people there, and there's a lot of information now, and it's hard to be certain about what's going on. But I'm just wondering how you feel about this emotionally to see this happen.

COLL: I mean, I feel devastated. I - you know, I first went to Afghanistan by accident of assignment as a Washington Post reporter in 1989. And it's a place, as many Americans now know who have visited there or worked there - it's a place apart. It's a culture of deep hospitality and extraordinary landscape and resilient culture. And it's suffered. It's suffered so much since the Soviet invasion. And generation after generation has suffered not only insecurity and war but also humanitarian crises, even famine. And you know, there was such hope after the fall of the last Taliban government.

And for all the problems and for all the failures, there was a generation that many of us who visited got to know in the cities of Afghanistan who - just an extraordinary group of young people who wanted a different Afghanistan and were in the process of making it. And I can't help but feel for them now. I mean, you know, I hear from them in my - you know, in my inbox and on my messaging channels. They're frightened. They're - they don't know what awaits them. They don't know where to go. They can't get to the airport. I mean, it's devastating. And just, you know, it's a country that deserved better.

The thing that we all have to remember as Americans - we're all in - we're all complicit now in what's happened in Afghanistan. We're a democracy. We decided to go over there and do this. And look what we've got, OK? So we're all complicit. Let's think about it. And one thing to understand is that Afghanistan was at peace with itself and its neighbors. The civil war that is raging there now and that sucked us in was not something that Afghans started amongst themselves.

They lived, you know, in poverty but at peace for most of the 20th century until the Soviet Union invaded them. And over the last, you know, 40 years, outside powers, one after another - the United States, Pakistan, Soviets when they were there, Iran - have sought their own security by involving themselves in Afghanistan's civil war. So this wasn't something they started. And now we've left them with a mess that looks even worse than the one that we found when we came there in 2001 because there's so many more weapons, so much more killing capacity in the country than there was when we came in last time.

Steve Coll is a staff writer at The New Yorker Magazine.  He is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and reports on issues of politics, intelligence, and national security in the United States and abroad. 

Dave Davies is a guest host for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. In addition to his role at Fresh Air, Davies is a senior reporter for WHYY in Philadelphia. 

( Source: NPR )

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