Students and professors debate Afghan independence

Students gathered for the second UTM debate and panel discussion of the year, organized by the UTM Debate Club, the Political Science and Pre-Law Association, and the Persian and Afghan Student Association, last Wednesday. The attendees discussed the future of Afghanistan after NATO troops withdraw in 2014.

“The topic is important because of its impact on other regions of the world,” said Rija Rasul, the president of PSLA. “It says a lot about U.S. military intervention—that it didn’t fully achieve its goal.”

The event, which was structured as a discussion rather than a debate, with four panelists: Humayun Hamidzada (former deputy minister of policy at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance), Abdullah Said (former Afghan diplomat to the U.S. and Italy), and two UTM political science professors, Justin Bumgardner and Arnd Jurgensen.

Bumgardener identified three major problems in Afghanistan that pose challenges to the country’s post-NATO stability: the Taliban, the incompetency of the Afghan Security Forces, and poor governance.

Hamidzada stated that the question of Afghanistan’s post-2014 future depends both on the successful transition of security back into the hands of the Afghan government and the political transition of the government during next year’s election. However, he believes that Afghanistan is prepared for the NATO withdrawal in terms of military resources.

Jurgensen was not optimistic about Afghanistan’s stability due in 2014, citing the proxy war being waged on its soil and the country’s major opium-trafficking problem as sources of instability.

The event was a briefly interrupted when Said took ill during his opening speech. Medical help was called during a 10-minute recess, and Said was absent for the rest of the event.

The event continued with an open platform for students to ask questions.

“It was great to see Afghan students interested in something other than just formals and semiformals, especially considering the messed up state of our country,” Ali Ibrahimi commented on Facebook following the event. “There was a genuine effort to discuss very pressing issues that sadly don’t get enough coverage these days.”

Nevertheless, Ali felt that the discussions were not very meaningful. “Overall, I was disappointed to see that the discussions didn’t go very deep. Throughout the evening, the talks were about very surface-level matters,” he wrote.

Other attendees said they had enjoyed the event and expressed their concern for Said’s health. His son Obaid, a UTM student, replied that his father’s sudden illness had been a result of low blood sugar and said his father was feeling better.

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