Alumnus returns to UVU

In one of the first lectures of 2012, guest speaker Najib Niazi, former UVU student, gave an invaluable look at the current situation in his native Afghanistan. Eager to share his experiences, Niazi returned from Afghanistan from his position with the U.S. State Department as an adviser and interpreter only ten days prior to the event that was held in the Library on Aug. 30.

Attendees who remembered him from his days at UVU warmly greeted Niazi as the event was about to begin. The lecture, brought by journalism professor Scott Carrier, began with a brief introduction of how he met Niazi while covering a story for Harper’s Magazine. Within a short time of Carrier’s arrival, Niazi became his interpreter and eventually the first-ever student from Afghanistan to study at UVU.

Following this introduction, Carrier interviewed Niazi, starting with his assessment of the role of U.S. military in counterinsurgency tactics and its effectiveness in impacting the hearts and minds of the native people. These efforts included building infrastructure, such as bridges. Niazi reacted positively to its overall efficacy, describing its acceptance by the native people to be a 60:40 ratio. Niazi said 60 percent of the population in Afghanistan accept U.S. efforts compared to the 40 percent that do not.

According to Niazi, comparative U.S. counterinsurgency tactics have been the most creative and successful in terms of preserving the most lives. Niazi said improvement is made when U.S. troops appear less like invaders and more like people with “a common enemy.”

Carrier asked Niazi if he thinks counterinsurgency tactics are working, and Niazi replied, “It works in more liberal places more likely to [accept] changes, well-thought ideas and appreciating the gesture of good and a process of peace.”

Carrying out these tactics has proved more complex than simply going up to an Afghan and shaking his hand, Niazi said.

“Although U.S. troops have been very successful in [developing] an Afghan army, the problem was we couldn’t recruit a mass amount we would need protect its own civilian population should the Taliban attack,” Niazi said.

He also spoke of further complications such as a basic lack of identification like birth certificates and social security numbers that make accountability of Afghan soldiers hard to maintain.

Following this response from Niazi, Carrier asked why anyone would want to be on the Taliban’s side in Afghanistan. Niazi replied, “The one thing most people don’t realize is it seems like the Taliban is a force there that is present there, that they’re fighting everyday. That’s not the case.”

By Niazi’s estimations there are probably very few Taliban that are very effective.

Niazi said, “I believe education is the solution to everything that we go through.” He said education is the very thing that enabled a boy who, at “the age of twelve, dropped out of school to sell gum and cigarettes” to return to Afghanistan. He said he has always wanted serve both countries.

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