For Afghanistan to stabilize, it doesn't just need new buildings and better police forces. It must have educated citizens who can fairly run government, implement laws, and work in the courts. Based on our work with Afghan law students, we have hope for the future.
Recent headlines suggest that Afghanistan is headed for collapse – the result of US troop withdrawals, Taliban attacks in Kabul, and the Parliament in constitutional crisis. While the challenges that Afghanistan faces are unarguably difficult, the defining question is whether Afghans can and will stand up for themselves.
One common gauge of progress is the strength of the Afghan police and military. Yet as we know, a fighting force that provides physical security is only one part of the equation. What about the effectiveness and integrity of government ministers and parliamentarians, judges, lawyers, business executives, and others in positions of authority? These people are pillars of democracy, and their performance so far has been disappointing – with corruption, incompetence, and bitter infighting all too common.
Now, however, a wave of students – who were mere children when the US first invaded the country in 2001 – is graduating from Afghanistan’s universities. Can they be bulwarks of successful democracy? Our experiences suggest that this next generation of leaders provides cause for hope for Afghanistan’s future.
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