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Leadership, Assistance and Occupation: lessons from Afghanistan!

“If we don’t stand for our sovereignty, it won’t take long before that assistance turns into an occupation”, said Afghan President criticizing the US and others.

As a global leadership scholar, I am studying American soft power leadership and its practices on the global world in general and in Haiti in particular.

Shortly after the earthquake last January, I spent several days at the airport in Port-au-Prince where most rescue teams stayed for the first phase of the emergency response. Most of the rescues were from Afghanistan and I had the opportunity to talk about the situation of this country.

I just read a story published by the Wall Street Journal on Afghan Affairs. And what I read is close to the situation in Haiti with one difference: Haiti is not an open war zone on terrorism and ethnic fundamentalism.

But besides this main difference, some tags words will include both countries: aid, troops, election, corruption, occupation, sovereignty etc…

100,000 American troops are fighting a deadly war against the Taliban in Afghanistan whose government is propped up by billions of dollars in aid.

US President Barack Obama just visited his Afghan homologue President Hamid Karzai. Talks from both side were not soft.

Obama criticized Mr. Karzai on pervasive corruption in his government.

This looks the same with Obama meeting with Preval recently at the White House. I don’t know the content of their closed talks but shortly after his visit, the State Department released a report on corruption in Preval’s administration.

USA today published a story pointing at a Minister closed to Preval who is a stakeholder in a construction firm which has been granted several contracts in the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince.

Afghanistan and Haiti should have elections this year.

Karzai, on his side, is very hard on elections issues and the control of the Electoral Commission.

Parliamentary elections are slated for September in Afghanistan. And the control over the Electoral Commission is the main target.

The main challenge for the US and its allies in Afghanistan is the ability to use at the very same time both the hard power of the military intervention and the soft power of influence through leadership building capacity.

Soft power as defined by Joseph Nye of Harvard University is the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction. It is in contradistinction to ‘hard power‘, which is the use of coercion and payment.  Soft power should be based on trust, values and institutions.

Roosevelt Jean-Francois






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