Speaker 1: Welcome to the Rumi Forum, we are delighted that you all could join us this afternoon and we have with us today very special guest, very esteemed conflict resolution professional, J. Alexander There is the director for the Afghanistan and Pakistan project of US institute  of Peace and chair of the institutes Afghan and Pakistan working groups.  There he leads the US IP efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan where he has lived and worked one and off since 1993.  He is the co-author and the editor of the future of Afghanistan which is a US IP publication 2009 and he was a member of the Afghanistan study group co-chaired by general James Jones and Ambassador Tom Pickering.  He apparently co-authored the final report and is the member of the Pakistan policy working group and co-author of the its 2008 report, The Next Chapter, The Us In Pakistan. He has been with the US Institute for Peace since 2005 when he joined as senior advisor in the rule of law center of innovation.  He has built up the institutes rule of law programming in Afghanistan including its pioneering work in establishing relations between the Afghanistan state and non-state judicial systems.

He was the director for the project on constitutional making, peace building and national reconciliation and the expert group lead for the genocide prevention task force.  He has a very long illustrious bio and he saw, he [???] go through in too much depth, but I encourage you to go to the Rumi Forum websites so that you can read it online and also probably the US IP website.  We are delighted that he is here to talk to us on the recent Afghanistan elections and the rumors or mumblings of fraud in the Afghan elections in particularly with the view toward whether or not we are properly analyzing the transparency and auditability and verifiability of the elections over there in a way that you are satisfied that the elections had integrity.  So if you can just address first of all, how you got to Afghanistan and this sort of tells us briefly of your professional trajectory toward Pakistan and Afghanistan and if you could just sort of let us know, you know, what led you over there and then what you were doing briefly there and then with a specific focus and emphasis on whether or not the elections in your view were constant with our notions of rule of law.

Speaker 2: Thank you for having me here and it is a pleasure to be here and I am particularly pleased, of course Rumi is a poet that any Afghan school child if you ask them can often cite verse, I am amazed in fact that how people not only Afghans, but people in the region can cite poetry and do at almost any occasion and event.  And I will come to how I got to Afghanistan in a minute, but I think that the first thing that I want to say is that as we have the world and the United States government, the congress focusing on Afghanistan it is almost exclusively a bad new story in our mind.  Everything is about concern, about violence and terrorism, but of course Afghanistan has a very long history and I think it is very important for people to have a context of Afghanistan in the region because Afghanistan is not just as one congress woman who I won’t name said in the hearing the other day that she had visited Afghanistan and she thought it was a hell hole and in fact Afghanistan has an amazing history.  It has a history of arts and culture and even living to this day it has a history, it is a country of roughly 25 million people, most of whom any of us would be lucky to have a relationship with.  And so, it is very important when we talk about these issues of war and peace and what should be done to realize that Afghanistan is not some horrible Godforsaken place it is a wonderful country with a long history and eventually they will come out of this phase with or without our help and I do believe that Afghanistan’s interests and our interests are closely intertwined and that it is very important for us to have positive engagement with Afghanistan, but I think that the way that the country and the people get characterized in the media can be very problematic to a positive understanding.

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