Sarah Chayes

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de junio de 2009. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

“He would have kept my house for himself if it wasn’t for the Taliban. They were quick and fair.” Thus did a resident of Kandahar, Afghanistan, recently describe Taliban justice to the New York Times.

Such words sound jarring to Western ears. Taliban courts may be called quick and brutal in Western accounts, but never quick and “fair.” Yet this observation provides some explanation for the emergence and staying power of extremist movements, from Afghanistan to the Middle East to Nigeria. If the global turmoil of the late 1980s was fueled by a liberty deficit, today’s extremist movements may well be exploiting a justice deficit.…  Seguir leyendo »

Preident Obama called Kabul on Sunday to congratulate Afghan presidential contenders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah for finally accepting a power-sharing deal to resolve a months-long dispute over who won in an election deeply marred by fraud. “Signing this political agreement,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, “helps bring closure to Afghanistan’s political crisis and restores confidence in a way forward.”.

Afghans are not so sure.

Many express relief that the threat of a descent into chaos or civil war has been averted, and they hope that day-to-day business activities will resume after months of paralysis. Still, most Afghans fear that this cobbled-together government — in which Ghani has been declared winner and president but Abdullah has been given an extra-constitutional prime minister-style post — will prove even worse than the unpopular regime of Hamid Karzai.…  Seguir leyendo »

If anyone is surprised that with each passing day Afghan President Hamid Karzai seems to veer more sharply away from the U.S. and toward the Taliban, it might be time to remember some history. Karzai himself was once asked to become a high-ranking member of the Taliban government.

His every word and deed of late seems designed to appeal to the Taliban leadership and its backers in Pakistan, and to fracture the partnership between Afghanistan and the American people.

In one recent display, he held a news conference for Afghan villagers who claimed U.S. bombing had killed a dozen neighbors on Jan.…  Seguir leyendo »

“It’s started! They’re stuffing the boxes!”

My friend’s voice on the line was a breathless jumble. He was calling from the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak the night before Afghanistan’s last presidential election, in the summer of 2009. I was in nearby Kandahar, where I had lived for seven years. By then, I was serving as an adviser to the commander of the international troops.

“It’s the border police,” my friend galloped on, describing the house and the street where the crime was occurring. His tone conveyed the wild wish that I could somehow dispatch a platoon to stop the travesty.…  Seguir leyendo »

In one of the most famous 1st Amendment cases in U.S. history, Schenck vs. United States, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. established that the right to free speech in the United States is not unlimited. “The most stringent protection,” he wrote on behalf of a unanimous court, “would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Holmes’ test — that words are not protected if their nature and circumstances create a “clear and present danger” of harm — has since been tightened. But even under the more restrictive current standard, “Innocence of Muslims,” the film whose video trailer indirectly led to the death of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a raucous session that brought lawmakers to blows this month, the Afghan parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the country’s top security officials: the ministers of defense and interior. With Afghanistan struggling to take on more challenging pieces of its own defense burden from international troops, the decision came as an ill-timed surprise. Just as surprising was President Hamid Karzai’s quick agreement that the two should go.

It is always hazardous to claim to see through the complexities of Afghan politics, but the ousters were clearly rooted, at least in part, in a fierce struggle for positioning in a post-America Afghanistan that may well implode.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egypt’s progress toward democracy over the last 15 months has been raucous, colorful and inevitably complicated. Its dismantling has been dizzyingly swift.

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved the parliament, saying electoral rules had been broken. Then the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces exempted itself from civilian oversight and claimed a decisive role in lawmaking and in the drafting of Egypt’s constitution. It also assigned a general to “advise” Egypt’s new president.

In the face of this power grab, for the sake of U.S. credibility as well as our long-term interests, the U.S. should suspend some or all of its military aid to Egypt.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the year since the Arab Spring, attention has been riveted on one issue above all others: the place of religious practice in public life. In Tunisia, where the movement began, full-face and body veils, now often worn complete with gloves, are increasingly visible on the streets — an exotic sight for locals and foreigners alike. And the secular opposition seems increasingly strident in its conviction that the Islamist government is driving the country the way of Iran.

But it wasn’t religion that set off the Jasmine Revolution; it was acute economic injustice and the pervasive and structured corruption that helped produce it.…  Seguir leyendo »

How should we measure success in Afghanistan? It’s a crucial question, but there isn’t much agreement on an answer.

In mid-January, this newspaper ran a story on the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan, a classified assessment drafted by analysts at more than a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies. According to The Times, the report “warns that security gains from an increase in troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan.”

Those with direct responsibility for the war — top military commanders and the U.S. ambassador to Kabul — reportedly contested the report’s findings in a written dissent.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I have to go interact with them for a few minutes,” remarks Noomane Fehri, a newly elected member of the Tunisian parliament. We’re standing outside the parliament building watching a knot of demonstrators on the other side of an iron gate.

Fehri is earnest and passionate, a former London-based management consultant who, like a number of his peers, dropped his life when the Jasmine Revolution broke out last winter, and rushed home to help build a democracy in his native Tunisia.

This small country has often punched above its weight. Most recently, the popular uprising here that began exactly a year ago sparked the most consequential wave of political transformations since the fall of the Berlin Wall.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the latest international conference on Afghanistan, held this month in Istanbul, participants affirmed their resolve to “combat the financing, harboring, training, and equipping” of terrorism. The words were directed largely at Pakistan and what is increasingly recognized as that country’s deliberate and long-standing policy of utilizing violent extremism to advance its security interests.

Yet now the U.S. government seems poised to reward this policy by asking its architects, the Pakistani military and its intelligence agency, to broker Afghanistan peace negotiations with the very insurgents they fostered.

For much of the past decade, I have lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where I was able to observe firsthand the activities of the Pakistani military in support of the resurgent Taliban.…  Seguir leyendo »