U.S. Regrets 'Every Civilian Casualty' in Afghanistan

As part of the "Where Things Stand" coverage, ABC News recently sat down with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, William Wood. Wood was brought to Afghanistan in April 2007, from Colombia, where he'd been closely involved with an aggressive military campaign against the world's largest supply of cocaine. Today, he not only faces the challenge of the world's largest supply of heroin, but a country that has never been more violent and a population never more skeptical of the United States, or its own government.

ABC News Interviews Ambassador William Wood

When Richard Holbrooke was appointed the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said that, "Nobody would say the war was going well." Is the war going well?

Parts of what is going on in Afghanistan is very good news. As you know, more than three-and-a-half million new voters have registered for the new elections. This is substantially more than anyone expected. And, in addition to the support it provides for the elections, I think it is the best possible index for the hope that remains in the people. Even in spite of some disappointments. This is a population that wants good government, it wants to be asked about its government, it wants to play a role in the decisions of its government, and elections are a source of energy and optimism.

Our ABC news poll shows that people here still have some hope and a lot of expectations. But it found widespread disappointment. What has the United States done wrong?

I think expectations may have been too high. After the Taliban was ousted from 2002 to 2004, the international community was bent on what was referred to as a light footprint. This is what the U.N. wanted, it's what the Untied States wanted, it's what the Europeans wanted. Having cleansed Afghanistan of the Taliban, we just wanted to provide development, humanitarian assistance and let Afghans sort out their system for themselves. And they accomplished enormous things. They wrote a constitution, they held elections under the constitution, they installed a president and a parliament. And all of that was enormously good.

At the same time, the Taliban was reconstituting in Pakistan, drug production was soaring, the old illegitimate warlords were consolidating power. It wasn't until about 2004 that we realized -- all of us, Afghans and internationals -- that the good news was being counterbalanced by some bad news.

It wasn't really until 2006, the summer of 2006, that we all recognized that what we had hoped was a comparatively benign security environment was really under serious threat. You may remember the discussions of the concern about the spring of 2007 Taliban offensive. Well, the international community stepped up. The United States increased its deployment, increased our security assistance, and that offensive was defeated.

It's really only since 2007 when there have been large foreign military deployments in Afghanistan. And I think we're still working through some of the kinks in that system. But I think everyone today in 2009 realizes this isn't going to be as easy or straightforward as we'd all hoped in 2002.

And do you think the bad guys have gotten worse?

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...