Widely portrayed as the 'success of the war on terror', Afghanistan is now in crisis. Increasingly detached from the people it is meant to serve, and unable to manage the massive amounts of aid that it has sought, the administration in Kabul struggles to govern even the diminishing areas of the country over which it has some sway. Whatever political progress that has been possible now takes place against a backdrop of mounting casualties among innocent Afghan civilians and NATO troops. Many Afghans feel themselves to be trapped, hostage between two forces, both of which claim to be their liberators. Perceived by some to be part of a wider struggle that extends to Iraq and Palestine, NATO's campaign in the south seems 'unwinnable'. Now, more than ever, it is important to understand Afghanistan and examine the recent experience of international engagement, and the myths and half-truths that abound.
Drawing on long experience of living and working in Afghanistan, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie examine what the changes of recent years have meant in terms of Afghans' sense of their own identity and hopes for the future. They argue that lasting peace and stability will only be brought about through a form of engagement that respects the rights of Afghans to determine their own political future, while delivering on the responsibilities that come with military intervention.