Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes works in Afghanistan

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Sarah Chayes, who covered the fall of the Taliban for National Public Radio, found Afghanistan's plight so disturbing that she left journalism to start an aid organization in Kandahar. “Why not stop reporting, and really help people?” asked one of her interview subjects. Sarah decided to do just that, and under the guidance of the President of Afhanistan’s brother, Quyam Karzai, Sarah set out to rebuild one remote village- thirteen simple houses. In less than two years, flanked by a team of dedicated Afghans, she has been responsible for rebuilding homes and schools, creating employment for about 300 people and launching today's most popular local radio station in Kandahar.

Sarah Chayes, who covered the fall of the Taliban for National Public Radio, found Afghanistan's plight so disturbing that she left journalism to start an aid organization in Kandahar. “Why not stop reporting, and really help people?” asked one of her interview subjects. Sarah decided to do just that, and under the guidance of the President of Afhanistan’s brother, Quyam Karzai, Sarah set out to rebuild one remote village- thirteen simple houses. In less than two years, flanked by a team of dedicated Afghans, she has been responsible for rebuilding homes and schools, creating employment for about 300 people and launching today's most popular local radio station in Kandahar.

From her experience in the Peace Corps, she'd learned to integrate with the locals, so when she ended up in Kandahar, she went to live with an Afghan family. "There were 22 of us in there, counting a dozen kids, not counting the cow and her calf and two oversized brown Turkish sheep," she writes. "We had no running water, but we did have our own well and reliable electricity. I spent the nights with my driver and my youngest host-brother, in the public part of the compound." The big advantage of her strategy was that she soon became accepted, enjoying privileges denied to other foreigners. She learned the Afghans' way of life - their tribal laws and their mendacity - and watched with growing disbelief as the invasion was mishandled.

"Basically, I took what our governments said on face value," says Sarah. "There were two stated agendas. The first was the democracy, the nation-building thing, that we're going to help Afghan institutions into a healthy democracy. The other one was that we were going to hunt down al Qaida, but that was in contradiction with the first agenda because the way we did it was like cowboys." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war


Contents

2001

2001: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes Reports on Life in the Trenches

"The foreign press corps in Kosovo didn't do our job; we sat on the border," NPR's Sarah Chayes told our group of 11 graduate students about to begin 10-week residencies abroad at various sites, including the Associated Press in Jerusalem. Chayes, an American, did freelance radio pieces for six years before NPR hired her to be their sole Paris-based correspondent three years ago. She said she can't imagine doing anything else, but journalism wasn't her first career choice. "I really wanted to work in the public prosecutor's office in Kansas City," she said. It's lonely to be a bureau of one, Chayes said. She has zero personal life. "There is no conceivable way I can have kids," she said. "I have tended to avoid journalists because I was afraid of the homogeneity of perspective," she added. Still, on the occasions she collaborated with a print reporter, she said she felt an intellectual explosion. Chayes told the broadcast students to avoid the tendency to structure a story before they've shot it. "Don't prepare," she said. "You should learn something when you go out reporting."� Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Inside Medill News. "Chayes Reports On Life In The Trenches" March 27, 2001.


2001: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes spends A Night in the Taliban Kitchen

What is crucial to understand is that this place had been utter mayhem in the time between the Soviet withdrawal and the rise of the Taliban. There were 30 check points between Kandahar and the border, manned by robber barons. Bus passengers were shaken down, truck drivers had to pay exorbitant tolls, people were hauled off and murdered or raped. At least part of the Taliban’s rise had to do with imposing some law and order in the name of the only ethics going around here: Islam. Unfortunately, most say, over time the Taliban turned, getting increasingly repressive, arrogant and grasping. The Taliban press conference, which took place on the second day, was interesting, even if much of what was said was disingenuous (“Forget about Sept. 11; that doesn’t have anything to do with this.”) I was impressed by the Taliban spokesman, a poised 25-year-old who answered even provocative questions in measured tones. At one point, an official admonished me that two questions was enough. However, when I saw the guys getting five and six, I waded back in, to looks of frank, but smiling, astonishment from the Talibs, who I am sure had never seen a woman participate in a public event before. But the stunner was this: When word got out I was fasting for Ramadan, our Taliban hosts positively fell in love with me. Najibullah, the security chief, invited me to break fast with him. A scraggly-beard young Talib in his group gave me his fountain pen. Another solemnly brought me an apple during the night as I sat under the one electric light writing my story, which I filed by the light of a kerosene lamp, huddled shivering between two tents of snoring colleagues. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Andover Bulletin Online. "A Night In The Taliban Kitchen" December 1, 2001.


2002

2002: Morroco RPCV Sarah Chayes starts aid organization in Afghanistan

Sarah Chayes, who covered the fall of the Taliban for National Public Radio, found Afghanistan's plight so disturbing that she left journalism to start an aid organization in Kandahar. Now, a year after the U.S. war began, Chayes regularly encounters obstacles that plague the nation as it teeters between recovery and civil war: Traumatized survivors, anemic foreign aid, rampant corruption, widespread insecurity and most of all, greedy warlords consolidating power. Denied foundation stones to rebuild bomb-damaged homes recently, she found that Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai had cornered the market by seizing the local quarry. Chayes talked her way past armed guards to see the U.S.-backed kingpin, a bear of a man who announced she was in luck: He was opening a cement factory. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Oregon Live. "Year After War Began, Afghans Still Suffering" October 7, 2002.


2002: Former National Public Radio correspondent Sarah Chayes went to Afghanistan in October 2001 to report on the war. When the fighting - and the news assignment - was over, she sensed her responsibility was just beginning. Feeling a growing need to stop talking about conflict and start doing something about it, she stayed to serve as field director of Afghans for Civil Society, a non-profit group in Baltimore

By September, we'd held several shuras - or council meetings - with the villagers. Top of the repair list were houses rendered truly uninhabitable by the bombing - we weren't doing cracked ceilings. The villagers wanted to start with the mosque and the house of a crotchety, feisty elder called Hajji Baba. Least popular was our decision to build standard houses for everyone: three rooms, a veranda, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The decision was a result of the impossibility of getting good-faith descriptions of the houses that had been destroyed. At first, I was hurt and offended by the villagers' attitude. Abdullah has remained so. He's run rebuilding projects for 20 years and has seen boundless permutations of ingratitude, theft, and corruption. He's bitter about those of his people he feels dishonor the rest. Akokolacha's residents disgust him, and he shows it. I'd been describing Afghanistan to friends as a society suffering from collective posttraumatic shock. Now I was seeing the reality behind the metaphor. For a quarter century, Akokolacha inhabitants have been deprived of a future, of the wherewithal to think ahead, to husband resources for later wise investment. Their destiny - appalling suffering or sudden bounty handed out for no apparent reason - has come down upon them arbitrarily, usually at the hand of outsiders. So what matters is right now. And the villagers were trying to leverage as much as they could get right now. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Christian Science Monitor. "Rebuilding Akokolacha" December 10, 2002.


2002: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes says America must get more involved - not less - in Afghanistan

I'd been describing Afghanistan to friends as a society suffering from collective posttraumatic shock. Now I was seeing the reality behind the metaphor. For a quarter century, Akokolacha inhabitants have been deprived of a future, of the wherewithal to think ahead, to husband resources for later wise investment. Their destiny - appalling suffering or sudden bounty handed out for no apparent reason - has come down upon them arbitrarily, usually at the hand of outsiders. So what matters is right now. And the villagers were trying to leverage as much as they could get right now. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Christian Science Monitor. "Rebuilding Akokolacha" December 10, 2002.


2003

2003: Life after War: Under the guidance of the President of Afhanistan’s brother, Quyam Karzai, Sarah Chayes set out to rebuild one remote village- thirteen simple houses

Having built a distinguished career reporting from several war zones around the world for NPR, Sara Chayes faced an unexpected challenge while covering the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Why not stop reporting, and really help people?” asked one of her interview subjects. Sarah decided to do just that, and began the incredible odyssey that is described in this film, and is still in progress. Under the guidance of the President of Afhanistan’s brother, Quyam Karzai, Sarah set out to rebuild one remote village- thirteen simple houses. As America starts the rebuilding of Iraq, while continuing to shoulder some responsibility for Afghanistan, Life after War reminds us that rebuilding a village, much less a country is a complicated, humbling, nonlinear process. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Maryland Film Festival. "Life After War" May 2, 2003.


2003: Interview with Sarah Chayes: Danger, Determination and Destiny

Afghanistan is a compelling place ... . As for me, though I've been called a war reporter, I'm not drawn to conflict; I am drawn to what happens afterward, to the chaos and promise of societies recovering from war. In fact, the only moment I had a twinge of regret that I wasn't covering the Iraq war was the day Baghdad fell. I'm also rather spartan in my habits and tastes, and I think it's the ruggedness of this land and its people, their tenaciousness, their refusal to bend -- sometimes to a fault -- that draws me. And in contrast to other places I'd been, notably the Balkans, I felt strongly there were a few people acting in the true interests of their country. I felt I just had to throw my lot in with them. Chayes walks through Akokolacha seeking Haji Baba, for whom they were building a new home. How dangerous is it for you in Kandahar these days? We read reports of resurgent Taliban attacks, and a U.S. envoy warned recently that the Taliban may be planning larger attacks. Four people working for a Danish relief group were killed in Ghazni in central Afghanistan, and two members of the Afghan Red Crescent were killed in the same area along the Kabul-to-Kandahar road on which we see you driving in the beginning of the film. Is the security situation deteriorating? I don't think it's immediately dangerous for me in Kandahar: I'm well known around town, and I'm known to enjoy powerful backing. I am connected with the Karzais [the president's family], and I'm seen, if not as "an American," at least as connected with the Americans in some way. What's important to understand about this culture is that security is not based so much on protection -- on how many guards I might have -- as on the certainty of retaliation should anyone try something. For the moment, I enjoy that kind of deterrence. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: PBS. "Interview With Sarah Chayes: Danger, Determination And Destiny" October 1, 2003.


2003: From Radio Reporter to Relief Worker, Sarah Chayes Wanted to Make a Difference

Chayes lives with other relief workers in a compound, where she grows her own vegetables. She also has two cows, which means fresh milk. She even has a generator, which means a hot shower — when it works. She is now the field director at Afghans for a Civil Society and was profiled in a film made by an American, Brian Knappenberger, to raise awareness about Afghan society. The filmmaker showed Chayes during a typical day, trying to convince some local officials that she needed foundation stone to rebuild houses. When the Taliban were driven out of this region almost two years ago, the United Nations and various relief agencies came in to help, but it is a struggle. There is no government to speak of in many towns and provincial warlords cause further destruction as they fight each other. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: ABC News. "Rebuilding Afghanistan" December 5, 2003.


2003: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes discovers the exhilarating power speaking the truth as she sees it

"Wouldn't you come back and help us?" The gentle question, almost an afterthought, struck me like the bolt from a crossbow. It was after dinner with one of my favorite, if sparingly used, sources during the post-9/11 conflict in Afghanistan. Aziz Khan Karzai, uncle of President Hamid Karzai, is a spry gentleman, full of good humor and energy, whose mischievous glance camouflages a penetrating regard upon the situation of his country – stripped of illusions. This was in January 2002. I had completed a long rotation for National Public Radio, reporting from Pakistan and Afghanistan. For once I was wrapping up with some kind of dignity, making the rounds and drinking a last cup of tea with friends and contacts. Aziz Khan had invited me for dinner the night before I flew out. We talked about the steep road that lay ahead for fledgling Afghanistan. After dinner, I got up to leave, and then came his question: "Wouldn't you come back and help us?" My ears heard with surprise what my mouth said without hesitation. "Yes." Surely it's not just me. Surely all of us struggle with the value of what we do as journalists – with the impact (or lack of it) of our work on the lives of the people we report about, or on any people for that matter; on the quality of public policy in our field; in short, with whether we, as journalists, help. Surely all of us come to some sort of accommodation – more or less self-deluding – with this problem. Over time, freelancing in Paris, I had come to my own: that given the paucity of foreign news in the U.S. media, just being a foreign correspondent was a kind of subversion. If by the end of my career, I told myself, I had convinced some Americans that the United States is not the only country in the world, I would have achieved something. Reporting for NPR, long a goal for me, further hushed my concerns. But after an exciting period covering the Balkans, beginning with Kosovo, I began to feel the old doubts return. A succession of food stories in early 2001 – the mad cow crisis, a vegetarian three-star restaurant, an effort by Mondavi to buy out a Languedoc vineyard, etc. – gave voice to an indictment: "What am I doing? Spending my time entertaining well-to-do Americans with the foibles of well-to-do Europeans." I began groping for alternatives. Then came Sept. 11. What else would one want to be at that moment than an American foreign correspondent with some experience of the Muslim world? And yet it proved a difficult juncture to be an American journalist. "The worst period in my entire career," a dear friend confided as we were comparing notes afterwards. He sent me a list of story ideas his editors had turned down. "They simply didn't want any reporting," he explained. "They told us the story lines, and asked us to substantiate them." CNN correspondents received written instructions on how to frame stories of Afghan suffering. A BBC reporter told me in our Quetta hotel the weekend before Kabul fell how he had had to browbeat his desk editors to persuade them that Kandahar was still standing. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Alternet. "Breaking Ranks In Afghanistan" December 11, 2003.


2003: Breaking Ranks in Afghanistan By Sarah Chayes

So by March of 2002, I found myself field director (an invented title) of Afghans for Civil Society, an organization founded by Qayum Karzai, the president's older brother, in 1998, but non-existent inside Afghanistan up to that time. The job amounted to inventing an NGO. We did so with blissful disregard for the usual rules. The firewalls most NGOs erect between development work and political advocacy haven't existed at ACS. And that's why, for me, it works. It's no use deluding oneself. I am not a medic, nor an engineer, nor do I possess any other concrete skill "useful" to people. This incapacity is what held me up when I toyed with the idea of leaving journalism before. What I know how to do, what I do almost compulsively, is look at things, analyze them, and talk about them. Consequently, please understand: I am not attending the bedsides of Afghan mine victims or shepherding a flock of children at an orphanage. Of course, ACS does run development projects. We rebuilt a village, for example: ten houses and a mosque, bombed to rubble during that final intense battle for the airfield outside Kandahar when the Taliban regime was in its death throes. I visited the building site every day, cajoling children to help clear the debris by making truck noises with them and loading their outstretched arms. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: AlterNet. "Breaking Ranks In Afghanistan" December 11, 2003.


2004

2004: Sarah Chayes to kick off Lecture Series

Chayes will speak at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 8 at VCU’s Grace St. Theatre, 934 W. Grace Street. Chayes joined NPR as a foreign correspondent in 1997, and reported from Paris, Algeria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Serbia and Bosnia. Her work also brought her to Afghanistan, where she covered the fall of the Taliban. Afterwards, Chayes left NPR and journalism to focus on Afghans for Civil Society, a non-governmental, non-profit aid organization in Kandahar. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: VCU. "Hans Blix, Sarah Chayes To Kickoff Vcu Lecture Series" March 24, 2004.


2004: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes continues work in Afghanistan

Chayes, visiting the United States as she occasionally does, will give a talk at Stanford University to describe her work, and the reality of a place too often covered in less than two minutes on the television news. She was saying goodbye to the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai when he asked if she would stay. "I was putting on my coat and it was like a flash," Chayes said during a telephone interview from New York. "It's not as if I hadn't been toying with the idea, but I'm not a doctor, I'm not an engineer, and I didn't want to be anybody's P.R. officer." With Karzai's request in front of her, she quit her job with National Public Radio and went to work for Afghans for a Civil Society, an organization working to rebuild the country and to build new relationships with the outside world. Chayes concentrated much of her effort in one village, negotiating and maneuvering through the complicated system of traditional political and social structure. Her new project is building a dairy cooperative, but her goal is to encourage grass-roots development that in turn will foster political change. With the dairy cooperative, "we're working them back to collective decision making, to have meetings with member farmers, to think about ways to invest, to think and plan ahead," she said. Success will mean an economic alternative to growing opium poppies. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Mercury News. "Journalist Turns To Afghan Aid" May 8, 2004.


2004: Sarah Chayes on Afghanistan @ Stanford University

Sarah Chayes, former NPR correspondent and field director of Afghans for Civil Society, spends each day working to improve conditions for ordinary Afghans in the heart of Taliban country. In less than two years, flanked by a team of dedicated Afghans, she has been responsible for rebuilding homes and schools, creating employment for about 300 people and launching today's most popular local radio station in Kandahar. Currently, her energy is devoted to developing a dairy cooperative that will include over 150 families. Her talk will examine some of the myths and hard truths about the reconstuctions of Afghanistan. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Muslim Wake up. "Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan @ Stanford University" May 20, 2004.


2004: Sarah Chayes says "It's hard for an American -- even as "embedded" an American as me -- to fully guage the joint effects of disillusionment and the Iraq prison scandal on Afghans' attitude toward the current regime and its US shepherds."

It's hard for an American -- even as "embedded" an American as me -- to fully guage the joint effects of disillusionment and the Iraq prison scandal on Afghans' attitude toward the current regime and its US shepherds. Fortunately, in a way, access to visual images -- television or press with pictures -- remains very limited in Afghanistan, so the full impact of events in Iraq was probably muted. On the other hand, there has been one clear consequence: ordinary Afghans will now be much less willing to cooperate with US forces in hunting down insurgent Taliban. Believing that Abu Ghraib represents the typical lot of prisoners in US hands (particularly since there were similar stories emanating from the army detention center here in Kandahar), almost no Afghan would turn another in to face it. So the impact on the "anti-terror campaign" at least, is negative. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Trust in Education. "Kandahar, May 29, 2004" May 29, 2004.


2004: Sarah Chayes has traded life on a rural dairy cooperative in Afghanistan for a temporary retreat in Paris to complete her book about the aftermath of war in the bombed-out country she has called home for more than two years

Chayes has written in detail on transom.org, the website for radio producers, about her work preparing to start up Afghan Independent Radio. A year after its launch, she told Current, “The radio has been absolutely a remarkable success. According to a recent listener poll, 74 percent of the people interviewed listened to it, compared to 52 percent for BBC. I think it’s really the first local independent radio in Afghanistan ever.” Though she had the skills to start a radio station, she said, she was ironically the one who dragged her feet the most. “Partly because I knew what it took to get radio on the air. The non-radio professionals were gung-ho.” Although grants from the Carr Foundation and others provided the equipment, the two-floor building with two soundproof studios was built from scratch, as was much of the furniture, Chayes said. Chayes emphasized basic journalism in training the staff. “We would do an interview, cut it, and comment on it, working on everything from the angle of the microphone to the substance of the interview,” she said. “While there is assistance in starting up broadcast media [in developing countries], the assistance is almost entirely technical—using the computers, the digital audio, minidisc machines, but there is very little training in journalism. How do you approach a story; how are you objective in a real way?” said Chayes. “We did a lot of work on that.” The radio station is now being considered a model for others to emulate, and when she returns, Chayes will continue her mentor role with it. Though she will continue to write and speak about her work, Chayes said she doubts that she will ever return to daily journalism, “where you parachute into a place, you don’t speak the language and grab an interpreter who has his own agenda. It leaves you very open to being deceived. ... It doesn’t give you time to subject the material to the scrutiny it needs.” Understanding the country and its culture has required her to climb an enormous learning curve, she said. “One of the more pleasurable aspects of my life now is that I can take the time to come to a real understanding of something.” Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Current. "Without A Parachute" September 20, 2004.


2006

2006: Sarah Chayes writes: The night fairies

"Afghans, legendary for their tenacity in battle, have had their courage shattered by the gruesome bloodletting of recent decades. The odds were stacked so heavily against them, the weapons so mismatched, the perpetrators--Afghan and foreign alike--so insensitive to the strictures of honorable conflict, that courage became irrelevant. Afghans are now internally injured. They constitute an entire society suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. And so, it does not take much to intimidate them. A scattering of menacing handbills, some judiciously executed murders--outrageous enough in the choice of victims or venues, such as the night watchman who was hanged on the grounds of the middle school he protected just east of Kandahar--suffice to scare ordinary Afghans. They no longer have the psychological resources to take risks. And so, the arduous task of rebuilding one of the most isolated, war-shattered, and strategic countries in the world is now complicated not just by the danger to those delivering the aid, but also because the beneficiaries are growing afraid to be seen receiving the help. " Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. "Afghanistan: The Night Fairies" March 1, 2006.


2006: Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes finds her calling in Afghan hot spot

Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Boston Globe. "American Activist Finds Her Calling In Afghan Hot Spot" May 9, 2006.


2006: RPCV Sarah Chayes believes the United States is paying for a mistake in Afghanistan now so widely acknowledged it has become a cliche: intervening militarily with "no concept" of how to "create a working society after the intervention"

Chayes's book, "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban," represents a paradox of which its author is fully aware. She has used her years of non-journalistic experience to offer an intimate insider's tour through a complex universe Americans need to understand -- one in which warlordism, corruption and renewed Taliban activity have combined to undermine the "civil society" she was trying to nurture. Hers is the kind of fleshed-out portrait that even the best on-the-run journalism rarely provides. Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Washington Post. "A Voice In The Afghan Wilderness" September 19, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes says: "I don't think Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan"

"I think all of that is a smokescreen -- but that's my own opinion -- and the people who are troublesome to Afghanistan are in Quetta. They are not in caves. They are sitting around in apartments and driving cars that are often licensed with ISI plates in Quetta. So Waziristan is like a red herring." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Rediff. "'Osama Is Not In Pakistan'" October 6, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes on Life in Afghanistan After the Taliban and Why She Left NPR

"We said that -- we, the U.S. leading an international coalition -- said that we were there to not only dismantle the Taliban, but begin to lay the foundations of a respectful democratic country that would carry Afghanistan forward into the community of nations, as it were. But what happened was that our other motivations of the so-called war on terror ended up trumping those goals, so that instead of supporting thoughtful, educated leaders and helping bring them to power and helping develop that capacity for leadership, we basically recruited thugs, who were supposedly helping us in the war on terror and were meanwhile abusing, robbing their own citizens. And so, what you see now is just a terrible disaffection. It’s not an ideological opposition to the United States as a Western country. It’s just exasperation with the government that we ushered into power. " Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Democracy Now. "Amy Goodman: Sarah Chayes Joins Us Now. She’s A Former Npr Correspondent Who Covered The U.s. Invasion Of Afghanistan. She Left Journalism In 2002 To Run An Aid Organization In Kandahar Called Afghans For Civil Society. Sarah’s New Book Is Called The Punishment Of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After The Taliban. Welcome To Democracy Now!" October 10, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes says: "I think Pakistan has been using Al Qaeda figures as a way of buying off America"

"Osama bin Laden comes in 1996, and the Pakistani government was probably delighted to get some more money and some more seasoned fighters in Afghanistan. But then Osama bin Laden does 9/11, and the US comes and kicks the Taliban out of Afghanistan. In a way, it was Al Qaeda that ruined Pakistan's nice chess game. So why would they have any positive feelings about Al Qaeda? That is why he (Musharraf) has been turning Al Qaeda people once every two or three months." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Rediff. "'India Is Pak's Fundamental Concern'" October 10, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes says that Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf is just not doing enough to stem the flow of the Taliban into neighbouring Afghanistan

"There is no doubt about it. I wouldn't be speaking to you the way I am if I weren't sure of this. Oh, my God! In Kandahar, it is so visible. I went to the border a year or so ago, and I just sat on the border to watch who is coming through the main border crossing. And there were at least half-a-dozen Taliban who came through in less than 10 minutes. I have so many examples of people who cross into Pakistan and there are Talib. You can have a discussion with them in the taxicabs. It's not just that they have the turban on. They absolutely are the Talib, and even when they don't have the proper papers the frontier guards wave them through. " Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Rediff. "'India Should Just Shut Up'" October 12, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes named as the first recipient of its Ruth Salzman Adams Award

The Bulletin's Ruth Adams Award identifies emerging writers, filmmakers and video producers who have demonstrated the capacity to translate complex ideas and issues of peace and security into everyday language and images. The annual award provides $7,000 to $10,000 to one person for a project on a significant issue. Ruth Salzman Adams (1923-2005) served twice as the editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine. She was widely respected for shaping several generations of writers and researchers, according to Executive Director Kennette Benedict, who worked with Adams as a former official at the MacArthur Foundation. Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: EurekAlert . "Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists Taps Sarah Chayes" October 16, 2006.


2006: Sarah Chayes says: "It was a major blunder to start Iraq when Afghanistan was so fresh. Its a blunder because we -- the United States--just don't have the human resources"

"The American government, is in a way, over its head and it doesn't understand that you need to have a really textured, rich, intimate, long-standing local knowledge of places like this before you start running around creating governments. And, the idea that you can have that kind of knowledge of a place like Afghanistan and a place like Iraq at the same time is ridiculous, with nobody who speaks the language, with foreign service officers rotating in and out every few months, and the same with the military. It's a style of arrogance that to me goes even beyond colonial arrogance. At least during the colonial period, people came out and learnt the language, stayed a long time, they lived with the local population even if in a very hierarchical fashion. It was actually a lot less arrogant than what we are doing now. " Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Rediff. "'The Us Is Really Stupid'" October 16, 2006.


2006: Jeffrey Simpson writes: We can only hope, perhaps against hope, that Sarah Chayes is wrong

If her description and analysis of what has been happening is correct, then the Canadians stationed in Kandahar province are operating at least partly under false assumptions. Forty-two Canadian soldiers have died there, two on the weekend. Others have been wounded, their lives scarred forever. Afghanistan is now Canada's largest recipient of foreign aid. Parliament has approved a two-year extension of Canada's mission there. And the government insists that Canada will "finish the mission" and "get the job done." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Globe and Mail. "Pay Attention To This Voice In The Afghan Wilderness" October 17, 2006.


2007

2007: As a female journalist in Afghanistan, Sarah Chayes embraced the culture - including dressing as an Afghan man - to win a host of powerful friends

From her experience in the Peace Corps, she'd learned to integrate with the locals, so when she ended up in Kandahar, she went to live with an Afghan family. "There were 22 of us in there, counting a dozen kids, not counting the cow and her calf and two oversized brown Turkish sheep," she writes. "We had no running water, but we did have our own well and reliable electricity. I spent the nights with my driver and my youngest host-brother, in the public part of the compound." The big advantage of her strategy was that she soon became accepted, enjoying privileges denied to other foreigners. She learned the Afghans' way of life - their tribal laws and their mendacity - and watched with growing disbelief as the invasion was mishandled. "Basically, I took what our governments said on face value," says Sarah. "There were two stated agendas. The first was the democracy, the nation-building thing, that we're going to help Afghan institutions into a healthy democracy. The other one was that we were going to hunt down al Qaida, but that was in contradiction with the first agenda because the way we did it was like cowboys." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Northern Echo. "Into The Soul Of Afghanistan" April 13, 2007.


2007: Hugh Thomson reviews The Punishment Of Virtue, by Sarah Chayes

Sarah Chayes's account is a welcome antidote to such tales of derring-do. An American journalist, she stayed on in Afghanistan to help rebuild the country after the allied invasion and has witnessed the lack of any clear US policy - and has spotted the reasons. She notices that staff are rotated after a few months on a "hardship station", with a resulting lack of continuity or purpose. The military have no good Pashtu translators, or even a clear sense of the clan divisions in a country where tribal loyalty is so important. The result? "The sails are always luffing," and America remains irresolute in the face of the warlords it relies on, and of the self-fulfilling presumption that the country is inherently ungovernable. Chayes' message is that the allies face an extraordinarily resolute enemy in the Taliban and need to be equally clear-sighted. Far from being ungovernable, the Afghans have a long tradition of local democracy; it should be built on, rather than relying on the thugs and warlords who killed her friend. This passionate and engaged dispatch from the field is in the best tradition of grassroots reporting; it is, quite simply, the best book on Afghanistan since the invasion. Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Independent. "The Punishment Of Virtue, By Sarah Chayes" April 24, 2007.


2007: Sarah Chayes writes: NATO didn't lose Afghanistan

"In 2003, NATO moved peacekeeping forces into Kabul and parts of northern Afghanistan. But not until 2005, when it was clear that the United States was bogged down in Iraq and lacked sufficient resources to fight on two fronts, did Washington belatedly turn to NATO to take the Afghan south off its hands. And then it misrepresented the situation its allies would find there. NATO was told, in effect, that it would simply need to maintain the order the United States had established and to help with reconstruction and security. In fact, as was clear from the ground, the situation had been deteriorating since late 2002. By 2004, resurgent Taliban were making a concerted push to enter the country from Pakistan, and intensive combat between American forces and Taliban fighters was taking place north of Kandahar." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: International Herald Tribune. "Nato Didn't Lose Afghanistan" July 10, 2007.


2007: Sarah Chayes says the Taliban have scored a major victory near Kandahar

However, no matter what the outcome in Arghandab, the Taliban have scored a major victory, said Sarah Chayes, an American writer and humanitarian who has a home in Kandahar. "What I think is key to note is the symbolic, emotional weight of the Taliban being in Arghandab," Chayes said. "Even if the government and ISAF drive them back out in short order, which looks like it's going to happen, they have scored major (psychological operations) points." The significance of Arghandab district is difficult to overstate, she said. "It's like a bulwark of the city. It's where the mujahedeen were based when they were fighting the Soviets, and no one could dislodge them from there," Chayes said. "This whole thing has cast a terrible pall on everyone's mood. Everyone in Arghandab now has to doubt his own neighbor. (It's) a district that used to be a carefree garden." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: CanWest News Service. "Nato Forces Push Taliban Away From Kandahar City" November 1, 2007.


2007: Sarah Chayes writes: A Mullah Dies, and War Comes Knocking

What had in fact transpired, in my view, was a deft, successful psychological operations action by the Taliban. Their attack on Arghandab was designed to communicate, and it did -- eloquently. It said that they are here. It said that, despite the likelihood that they would attack after the death of Mullah Naqib, no obstacle was thrown up to oppose them, and they were able to walk into the district. The targeting of the mullah's house was a deliberate affront. It said: "You see, o men of no honor? You can't even protect his house. You are nothing now." The sum of these messages was aimed at the ordinary people who are the prize in any insurgency: Our encroachment is inevitable, the Taliban said. You should align yourselves with the inevitable. In the end, after three days of fighting, the Taliban were not crushed in the jaws of a closing trap, as we had been led to expect. They executed a disciplined, fighting withdrawal -- one of the most difficult maneuvers on a battlefield. Even their retreat emphasized their message. Now, Kandaharis fear, they will quietly capitalize on this psy-ops victory. They will visit the villages and the mosques in tiny groups. They will instill their poison, a savant dose of seduction ("Brother, we have nothing against you; you are a Muslim, and we love you. Our fight is with the infidels. Let us pass") and terror: a "collaborator" tracked down and cut into pieces, a suicide bomber at a normally tranquil village crossroads. They will work to turn the people toward the inevitable. All of this is a pattern familiar from other districts. What troubles me more is evidence that the battle for Arghandab may have been a piece of psy-ops mounted by a different set of actors, aimed at a different audience, against a backdrop of diplomatic initiatives that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago. There is suddenly this backbeat -- persistent references in the media, unchallenged pronouncements by Karzai -- that the only way to end the "insurgency" is to negotiate, to invite the Taliban back to share power. This is a seductive refrain. After all, wasn't the IRA brought to the table? Didn't Yasser Arafat win a Nobel Peace Prize? Isn't it true that insurgencies are never defeated, that they are always accommodated in the end through negotiations? Except these Taliban are not home-grown insurgents. These Taliban, I have become convinced by evidence gathered over the past six years, were reconstituted into a force for mischief by the military establishment -- in other words, it seems to me, the government -- of Pakistan, as a proxy fighting force to advance Pakistan's long-cherished agenda: to control all or part of Afghanistan, directly or indirectly. Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Washington Post. "A Mullah Dies, And War Comes Knocking" November 18, 2007.


2007: Sarah Chayes writes: Scents & Sensibility

"This is what we do: Eleven Afghan men and women and I scour this harried land for its (licit) bounties and turn them into beauty products. Our soaps, colored with local vegetable dyes and hand-molded and smoothed till they look like lumps of marble, and our oils, elixirs for polishing the skin, sell in boutiques that cater to the pampered in New York, Montreal, and San Francisco. The scale of the effort—we sell about $2,500 worth of soap per month—is tiny. Still, our business, the Arghand Cooperative, represents what reports and think tanks say places like Afghanistan need: sustainable economic development. And it is almost entirely the product of private enthusiasm and generosity. From the institutional donors whose job I naively thought was to foster initiatives like ours, we have reaped much travail but almost no support. " Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Atlantic. "Scents & Sensibility" December 1, 2007.


2008

2008: Sarah Chayes writes: Benazir Bhutto's decision to anoint her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as her successor tarnishes her memory

"Yet, in passing the mantle of the party she led on to her son - as if it were a family heirloom for her to dispose of as she wishes - Bhutto acted in contradiction to the very principles of democracy she claimed to incarnate. Saluted in the West for her sparkling vitality and genuine courage, the decision to anoint her son as her successor tarnishes that memory. It hamstrings the forces still struggling to establish open, civilian rule in Pakistan, and provides arguments to those in the region who believe that the very word "democracy" is just a cynical charade." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: Boston Globe. "Democracy Led Astray" January 10, 2008.


2008: Sarah Chayes continues work in Kandahar despite deteriorating security

"I was very happy to see NATO come [to Kandahar], but disappointed that NATO hasn’t altered their policy of using corrupt Afghan officials," she said. "They have given a blank cheque to the local government authorities and you simply can’t do that. Fighting corruption is a daily process. You can’t just remove a few officials and consider the task complete." According to Chayes, the ongoing process of NATO soldiers killing insurgents is negated by the fact that the unchecked corruption of the local government is creating an even greater number of volunteers taking up arms to join the resistance. She said the solution for this is for NATO to take firm control of the Afghan administration that they are fighting to prop up. "These corrupt Afghan officials will respond to foreign pressure because they know they are in power thanks to NATO," said Chayes. "If NATO wasn’t here the Karzai regime wouldn’t last five days or five minutes because the people are so upset." Apparently, the comments former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier made about the Kandahar governor being corrupt and in need of replacement were greeted with glee by the local citizens. Following the public exchange and Bernier’s subsequent withdrawal of his statements, Canadian officials told Chayes privately they wanted to discipline the governor, but the Americans would not allow Canada the latitude to do so. This notion clearly upset Chayes. "If the Afghan government is a criminal enterprise and Canada’s stated mission is to support the government of Afghanistan, then what the hell are you achieving?" she asked. "Is NATO here to make five people happy or to make the whole province happy?" Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: The Trentonian. "Brave American No Fool About Life In Kandahar" June 29, 2008.

2008: Sarah Chayes teaches Marines about Afghanistan

Chayes spoke in detail about the interactions between local governments, the local community and even the American military presence in Afghanistan. She explained how each affects the other and how each group perceives current conditions, adding that popularity in Afghanistan is largely determined by how people treat each other. "You need to focus on what's going on in the community," Chayes said. By contributing to the community, an individual can gain support from the people, she added. Chayes spoke about Afghan social groups Marines may encounter while deployed to Afghanistan, and how the war is fought on a "different kind of battlefield." "Not only is it a war in the traditional sense, but it's about how interaction with the population affects the success of operations." Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes has made a home in Kandahar, Afghanistan, became fluent in Pashto, one of the main Afghan languages, and devoted her energies to rebuilding a country gutted by two decades of war. Click this link to read more.

  • Original Source: U.S. Marine Corps Bases Japan. "Author Teaches Marines About Afghanistan" July 11, 2008.


References

  1. Inside Medill News. "Chayes Reports On Life In The Trenches" March 27, 2001.
  2. Andover Bulletin Online. "A Night In The Taliban Kitchen" December 1, 2001.
  3. Oregon Live. "Year After War Began, Afghans Still Suffering" October 7, 2002.
  4. Christian Science Monitor. "Rebuilding Akokolacha" December 10, 2002.
  5. Christian Science Monitor. "Rebuilding Akokolacha" December 10, 2002.
  6. Maryland Film Festival. "Life After War" May 2, 2003.
  7. PBS. "Interview With Sarah Chayes: Danger, Determination And Destiny" October 1, 2003.
  8. ABC News. "Rebuilding Afghanistan" December 5, 2003.
  9. Alternet. "Breaking Ranks In Afghanistan" December 11, 2003.
  10. AlterNet. "Breaking Ranks In Afghanistan" December 11, 2003.
  11. VCU. "Hans Blix, Sarah Chayes To Kickoff Vcu Lecture Series" March 24, 2004.
  12. Mercury News. "Journalist Turns To Afghan Aid" May 8, 2004.
  13. Muslim Wake up. "Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan @ Stanford University" May 20, 2004.
  14. Trust in Education. "Kandahar, May 29, 2004" May 29, 2004.
  15. Current. "Without A Parachute" September 20, 2004.
  16. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. "Afghanistan: The Night Fairies" March 1, 2006.
  17. Boston Globe. "American Activist Finds Her Calling In Afghan Hot Spot" May 9, 2006.
  18. Washington Post. "A Voice In The Afghan Wilderness" September 19, 2006.
  19. Rediff. "'Osama Is Not In Pakistan'" October 6, 2006.
  20. Democracy Now. "Amy Goodman: Sarah Chayes Joins Us Now. She’s A Former Npr Correspondent Who Covered The U.s. Invasion Of Afghanistan. She Left Journalism In 2002 To Run An Aid Organization In Kandahar Called Afghans For Civil Society. Sarah’s New Book Is Called The Punishment Of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After The Taliban. Welcome To Democracy Now!" October 10, 2006.
  21. Rediff. "'India Is Pak's Fundamental Concern'" October 10, 2006.
  22. Rediff. "'India Should Just Shut Up'" October 12, 2006.
  23. EurekAlert . "Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists Taps Sarah Chayes" October 16, 2006.
  24. Rediff. "'The Us Is Really Stupid'" October 16, 2006.
  25. Globe and Mail. "Pay Attention To This Voice In The Afghan Wilderness" October 17, 2006.
  26. The Northern Echo. "Into The Soul Of Afghanistan" April 13, 2007.
  27. The Independent. "The Punishment Of Virtue, By Sarah Chayes" April 24, 2007.
  28. International Herald Tribune. "Nato Didn't Lose Afghanistan" July 10, 2007.
  29. CanWest News Service. "Nato Forces Push Taliban Away From Kandahar City" November 1, 2007.
  30. Washington Post. "A Mullah Dies, And War Comes Knocking" November 18, 2007.
  31. The Atlantic. "Scents & Sensibility" December 1, 2007.
  32. Boston Globe. "Democracy Led Astray" January 10, 2008.
  33. The Trentonian. "Brave American No Fool About Life In Kandahar" June 29, 2008.
  34. U.S. Marine Corps Bases Japan. "Author Teaches Marines About Afghanistan" July 11, 2008.
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