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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Karzai's feet to the fire

In response to the On Leadership question: What's the best way for U.S. forces to nurture leadership among Afghan forces? Is it possible to teach leadership across cultures? Are officials in Hamid Karzai's government too corrupt to exercise real leadership?

The main point the U.S. needs to make is that our troops are in Afghanistan as friends and helpers, not as conquerors. For one thing, outside forces have failed miserably in their attempts to conquer this land of unforgiving terrain and countless tribes. Moreover, the Afghan people are not known for submitting easily to external pressure.

But we're not talking about conquering anyone or getting people to submit. The goal is to demonstrate to the Afghan people that we care deeply about them, their freedom, and their security. The power in any country comes from the people, and if the citizens of Afghanistan suspect us of bad motives, then we will lose their trust and forfeit the opportunity to provide lessons in leadership.

We can show our good intentions by taking the proper approach with the Karzai government. That means we should work with the government but not to the extent that it looks like we're helping prop up a regime that doesn't have the people's trust. In our recent history, the U.S. has had a bad habit of betting on the wrong horse, whether in the Philippines or Panama or Iran. Even Saddam Hussein was once our friend.

We're fighting that history all the time. So, with Karzai, we should stress that we will hold him and his government accountable in his dealings with the Afghan people and with us. Certainly our commitment in U.S. troops and treasure entitles us to ask some pointed questions of the government in Kabul from time to time.

Leaders always demand accountability, integrity, and competence, and holding Karzai's feet to the fire, so to speak, is one of the best ways we can teach leadership while we're in Afghanistan. But at the end of the day, it's the Afghans' country, and they'll have to manage it. We're there to help them reach that goal, and when our help is no longer required, then it will be time for us to leave.

By Yash Gupta

 |  December 7, 2009; 2:14 PM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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