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When US troops leave Afghanistan, an American university will remain

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When the US government officially withdraws its combat troops from Afghanistan and points at silver linings in those dark clouds, what will America’s legacy be in the minds of Afghans?

Will it be peace and prosperity, or drone strikes and night letters?

Will it be democratic governance or rampant corruption?

For Michael Smith, an important legacy of the decade-long engagement in Afghanistan will be the American University of Afghanistan, which opened its doors in 2006, has graduated some 42 students, and now has a fulltime student population of 900.

Like its sister organization, the American University of Beirut, the American University of Afghanistan is built to stay, says Mr. Smith, who is the American University of Afghanistan’s president.

“It’s important not to mix up the withdrawal of American troops with the withdrawal of American support for Afghanistan,” says Smith, during a meeting this week at the Monitor. “It does make sense to withdraw troops, because there are diminishing returns from their staying in the country.”

But when it comes to America’s investment in Afghan democratic institutions, infrastructure, and in education, he adds, “given the investment the US has made in Afghanistan, it doesn’t make sense to walk away from that.”

Make no mistake: The next few years are not going to be easy ones for any institution in Afghanistan that bears the name “American.”


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