Sonali and Jim Speak on Austin Campus

On Wednesday October 4th, Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls addressed a crowd of over 100 people on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, as part of their on-going book tour. The event was spearheaded by Robert Jensen, a Professor of Journalism at UT, and Third Coast Activist. The campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, covered the story. Sonali graduated from UT in 1996.

Alumna discusses U.S. presence in Afghanistan
Speakers claim United States failed to deliver on promises in ‘world’s largest forgotten tragedy’
Sonali speaking in TexasChristina Garcia
Posted: 10/5/06

Amnesty International has called Afghanistan “the world’s largest forgotten tragedy.”

Afghanistan is being remembered in the culmination of six years’ worth of research in a new book by UT alumna Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls. More than 45,000 troops are stationed in the country, Ingalls said.

Kolhatkar and Ingalls visited UT Wednesday evening to discuss the effectiveness of U.S. presence in Afghanistan and their new book, “Bleeding Afghanistan,” as part of the College of Communication’s Senior Fellows Program Lecture Series. The authors are co-directors of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a non-profit organization supporting health and education programs for Afghan women, according to its Web site.

The pair said the U.S. entered the war promising to end terrorism, bring about democracy, and improve conditions for women in Afghanistan and the U.S. has not delivered.

Kolhatkar said she interviewed “a really broad cross section of Afghans” and realized the U.S. had squandered the good will of the Afghani people by not coming through with infrastructure rebuilding and aid.

Ingalls said the recent southern Afghan insurgency was not caused by original members of the Taliban, but Afghanis fighting against foreign involvement.

“A lot of people involved in the insurgency, are people who’ve decided they need to rise up and fight foreign invaders,” he said of the insurgency which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates has displaced over 15,000 Afghan families.

Ingalls said the Afghan people see foreign forces as another kind of warlord.

The Afghan people are caught between groups representing imperialism and religious fundamentalism and will support whichever one will provide them with safety against the other, Kolhatkar said.

“Whichever comes through and promises them social services and safety, they’re going to back,” Kolhatkar said.

Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch, said promises to Afghan women are not being kept.

“There’s a huge sense of disappointment and frustration among Afghan women we’ve talked to,” she said.

Wednesday night’s lecture was co-hosted by Monkey Wrench Books and Third Coast Activist Resource Center. © Copyright 2006 The Daily Texan

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