World Affairs Town Hall Provides Afghan Conflict Context

SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

NASHVILLE — On October 7, 2001 the United States launched Operation “Enduring Freedom,” a coalition fight formed in response to the 9/11 attack on America by Al Qaeda terrorists based in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban. Less than three months after 9/11 every major Taliban held city in Afghanistan had fallen to the United States. In the decade-plus since American combat forces entered Afghanistan the end to the conflict proved to be elusive.

The drawdown plans have been shaken by increased violence in the countryside and attacks in the capital and lack of progress in peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. So while America’s longest war officially ended last December U.S. forces remain in the conflicted country. Yet Americans are not well informed about the country’s involvement there – the background, current role and prospects.

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This week LtGen. Keith M. Huber addressed questions Americans should have about this largely forgotten conflict in a town hall event hosted by the Tennessee World Affairs Council at Belmont University. Monday night’s standing room only audience from the general public and students from several Nashville campuses heard him describe the context for understanding the Afghanistan conflict.

General Huber, a 38-year Army veteran, served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 as Commanding General of the international task force responsible for detaining America’s most dangerous enemies, Al Qaeda and Taliban militants who were captured on the battlefield. In addition to describing his experiences in the grinding conflict he provided insights into the country and its people.

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The tyranny of topography, Huber said, referring to the rugged landscape where the mountainous terrain forged insular tribal loyalties, was important to understanding Afghan society and culture. So to was the concern among average Afghans about the staying power of the multi-national coalition that was fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Huber said American troops were confounded by citizens who openly acknowledged connections to the enemy, “no matter how evil” they were, because the Taliban would remain there when the foreigners depart. When would that be? They Army three-star, in responding to questions about the U.S. role in the future, reiterated that the mission from day one was to bring to justice those who attacked the United States in 2001 and to ensure that Afghanistan did not return to a country where America’s enemies could again find a safe haven.

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The presentation turned to moving recollections about the service that he witnessed among the men and women of the American military in Afghanistan, saying that outside the circle of those serving and their brave families, Americans would find it very difficult to comprehend the sacrifices they made for the country.

The town hall was the inaugural event of the Tennessee World Affairs Council’s distinguished visiting speakers program for 2015-2016 in partnership with Belmont University’s Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education program.

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Council president Patrick Ryan said the organization, newly launched in Nashville after operating from Cookeville for several years, was a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational group that worked to educate and inspire people to better understand world events. “We have an ambitious program calendar that includes speaker events like General Huber’s presentation at Belmont, small group discussion sessions around town, and youth programs like our WorldQuest high school competition to encourage people, especially students, to embrace a better understanding of a very challenging global environment.” More programs will be added as the Council becomes more established.

The Council welcomed the community, he said, to become a part of their work by becoming members, volunteering or making a donation. “We’re all volunteers,” Ryan said, adding, “We rely on support from the community to provide these important programs and resources.” He said that the association with Belmont University was important to hosting events open to the community and appreciated. “The Council has partnerships with many groups that share an international focus, but our work with Belmont Assistant Provost Dr. Mimi Barnard, has been especially important to what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

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More information on joining, volunteering and donating is on the TNWAC.org website.

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The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at: www.TNWAC.org  — Join / Donate / Volunteer

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