2015 – A new year and new era for Afghanistan

The countdown is over. The mission of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has ended last night, on December 31st 2014, after 13 years of international military operations in Afghanistan. The management of security and military operations has been gradually handed over to the Afghan army and police since 2011, and 12,500 foreign soldiers (mostly Americans) will remain to support the Afghan armed forces with training and technical assistance, but the challenges faced by the Afghan government and army are daunting.

Many questions are open: how strong are the Taliban and how much ground can they regain? Will civil war break-out, where and between which factions? How will neighbouring countries position themselves in this new political configuration? Will the economy and employment, which have been boosted by the billions invested in development aid and the presence of hundreds of international organisations, collapse? Will any of the gains in infrastructure, education and health be sustained?

It is far too easy to be pessimistic. Critics of the international military intervention and aid effort are vocal. Analyses of the failure of the reconstruction and state-building effort in Afghanistan are filling many newspaper pages.

Certainly, it is important to be honest, look back with objective eyes and draw lessons with the aim of doing better in the future, in Afghanistan and other countries ram-shacked by conflict, corruption and terrorism.

But it is above all time to hope. To pray. To believe. To look to the strengths of the country and its people. The Afghan people are amongst the most resilient people on earth. They have seen it all before and still remain standing, with dignity, humour and an immense capacity to thrive and build. Many challenges in the Afghan crisis of the last few years were also directly tied to the international military presence. With the withdrawal of troops, certainly many challenges will arise, but also new opportunities we may not yet see, especially if the end of military operations is not associated with a collapse in foreign aid.

As we celebrate this new year, I wish to tell my Afghan friends and their families from the depth of my heart: I have faith in you and your country and wish you peace and prosperity in this new year and many years to come!

I also take this opportunity to share with you a link to a video prepared to help spread words and images of hope: vimeo.com/115724075
Many thanks to my brother Thibault Dufour and Check-in Films for producing it!

Sol-e now mubarak!

Charlotte

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Washington, here we come! Book launch on 19th June

It’s a kind of home coming…
It is with much emotion that I will be sharing memories of my life-changing years in Afghanistan with friends in Washington DC, the city where I was born… (I won’t say how long ago! 🙂 )

If you live, or happen to be, in Washington DC, please join us on Thursday 19th June at 5pm in the World Bank, at 1818 H Street NW (Private Dining Room DE, C1 level).

Drinks will be served from 5 to 5:30, before an interactive presentation of the book followed by a discussion, from 5:30 to 6:30pm.

I cannot thank enough my friend Yurie and colleagues from the Secure Nutrition team at the World Bank for making this gathering possible.

Please RSVP (charlotte.afgha@gmail.com)

See you there!
Charlotte

Land of Eternal Hope – in London on the 4th June – mark your calendars!

A precious moment awaits: that in which I can finally share the life stories of my friends and my memories of these fascinating years with my London friends, and many more of you I hope!
Afghanistan is at a crossroads, as the Afghan people are electing their new President and getting ready to face their future with a reduced presence of foreign military. What better time to reflect on the evolutions of the last 10-15 years, comparing and contrasting perspectives, and looking to this future with hope?

Join us for an evening of reading, discussion, sharing and relaxing around drinks, on the 4th June, at 6:30pm in the London International Development Centre (Upper Meeting room). LIDC is in 36, Gorden Street.
See http://www.lidc.org.uk/events/land-eternal-hope-ten-years-lives-shared-afghanistan-book-launch for details.

I am extremely grateful to The Leverhulme Center for Integrated Research on Agriculture and Health for and London International Development Centre for hosting this event, in the context of their Annual Conference (http://www.lcirah.ac.uk/home). We’ll be talking about Afghanistan’s recent history, its people, humanitarian and development work, international politics, agriculture, health and nutrition, but most of all, about the preciousness of friendships through tough times…

Don’t hesitate to pass the word around and I look forward to seeing you there!
Charlotte

Afghanistan, land of hope… Really???

It can seem strange, and almost provocative, to see the word “hope” associated with “Afghanistan”, a name most often coupled with “war”, “terrorism”, “corruption”, “fallen soldiers”, “failure of the aid effort”, or “the drug trade”. As the withdrawal of the international military approaches, the stalemate over the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and Afghanistan continues, precious advances in women’s rights seem under threat, and uncertainty reigns over the outcomes of the upcoming Presidential elections, pessimism about the country’s fate seems to predominate.

So why hope? Because all those who have lived in, or visited, Afghanistan know that there is much more to the country than war; they have all been awed by the warmth, hospitality, joviality, intelligence and resilience of its people. Afghanistan, sometimes called Yaghestan – the “land of insolence”, is also a place where deep friendships are welded, where moments of joy and pain are shared daily, where life keeps on defying the odds. And where there is life, there is hope.

I am happy to announce that my book, Land of Eternal Hope – Ten Years of Lives Shared in Afghanistan, is finally available in English. It was first published in French, in 2011, with the title “AmitiĂ©s Afghanes, dix ans de vies partagĂ©es” by the Editions Fayard (see amitiesafghanes.wordpress.com). It is now accessible to anglophone readers thanks to the beautiful translation prepared by Philip Hodder and edited by Michael Fitzpatrick. The text has been delightfully laid out by Louis Forget. This edition includes a new epilogue as well as photographs that I have taken over the years and which have been carefully edited by Louis.

The book recounts my memories of working with various organisations in Afghanistan between 2000 – during the Taliban regime – until 2010. More importantly, seven of my Afghan friends, men and women, have generously accepted to share with me, and you, the story of their lives through over thirty years of war. They are related here, using their own words.  These friends  come from different regions, from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. Each story is unique, humble, tragic and dignified, just like that of so many others. Yet they are all bound by a common and enduring struggle for the reconstruction of their country. Like you and me, their lives are shaped by joys, fears, and hope, by their love for their family and friends, and their aspiration to, one day, live in peace.

I warmly invite you to meet them, and listen to what they have to say, about their country, about life. You can do so by ordering the book on Blurb, by looking up the following link:

http://blur.by/1ffzqe0

I will also be organising book launches so… watch this space!