The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban
with Sarah Chayes

September 9th 2006

On September 9th, DC International Connection will be honored to welcome Sarah Chayes to talk about the reality of life in Afghanistan since the Taliban was overthrown. Her new book "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban" (on sale 17 Aug 2006 from The Penguin Press) is a newsbreaking eyewitness account of the return to the violence and corruption of warlordism in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban defeat.

As the United States starts the rebuilding of Iraq, there are those who argue that US military action remains an efficient tool for defeating religious extremism and promoting democracy. The history of events in Afghanistan in the years following the defeat of the Taliban provides compelling evidence that this is not the case; that in fact, rebuilding a country requires far more complex solutions than simply removing the original source of corruption.

In a piece written in 2003, Sarah Chayes described how the failure of the West to provide stability in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban was nurturing a prolonged disillusionment with the US presence there: "The problem is that the United States is seen as having brought back, and as continuing to support, the warlords the Taliban chased out. The oppression and arbitrary rule Kandaharis are suffering has forced them just about to the breaking point." Her new book candidly describes both the corruption she encountered in the last four years and the efforts of the many well-intentioned, even heroic Afghanis who struggled to make a new country. Her deep interest in the Afghan people and their history is evident in her rich portraits of individuals and events.

Join us on September 9th for this rare opportunity to get an eyewitness perspective on the current situation in Afghanistan. If you plan to attend, please reply to the Evite or buy your tickets in advance from this page. Those who want to get free admission by contributing to the potluck dinner must reply to the Evite stating what type of dish they will bring, and must arrive no later than 7.30pm. Members who want to receive free admission in return for working one of the volunteer shifts must also reply to the Evite, and must arrange the volunteer shift in advance by emailing Tony at [email protected] or calling 703-475-8328.

More About Sarah Chayes
and Afghanistan

Gallery of Sarah Chayes' photos of Afghanistan.

On June 29, 2006, Sarah Chayes called in to WNYC's Underreported from Kandahar with an update on Afghanistan. Listen to her report or Download it in MP3 format.

Her recent article for The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Afghanistan: The night fairies.

With A Little Help From Our Friends , from the New York Times, May 26 2005

Afghanistan's Future, Lost in the Shuffle , from the New York Times, July 1 2003

Notes From The Field , February 2003

A 2003 PBS FRONTLINE/World interview with Sarah Chayes.

Her 2002 article on why US involvement in the reconstruction process is essential.

Sarah Chayes on leaving journalism for development and advocacy , in the Columbia Journalism Review

A March 2006 piece about Sarah Chayes and Arghand from the British newspaper "The Guardian".

An informal piece at from March 2006 about her current activities in Afghanistan.

The documentary she made with filmmaker Brian Knappenberger.

Sarah Chayes is the founder of Arghand, which sells hand-crafted products from Kandahar. The Arghand Cooperative produces its own almond, pomegranate seed, cumin and anise seed oils, as well as rose and other essential oils, then uses them to make hand-milled soaps and bath/massage oils. In doing so, it gives local Afghan farmers an incentive to grow traditional fruit, flower and herb crops instead of opium poppies.

Sarah Chayes' book "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban"Sarah Chayes new book 'The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban'

A National Public Radio reporter covering the last stand of the Taliban in their home base of Kandahar in Afghanistan's southern borderland, Sarah Chayes became deeply immersed in the unfolding drama of the attempt to rebuild a broken nation at the crossroads of the world's destiny. Her NPR tour up in early 2002, she left reporting to help turn the country's fortunes, accepting a job running a nonprofit founded by President Hamid Karzai's brother. With remarkable access to leading players in the postwar government, Chayes witnessed a tragic story unfold-the perverse turn of events whereby the U.S. government and armed forces allowed and abetted the return to power of corrupt militia commanders to the country, as well as the reinfiltration of bands of Taliban forces supported by U.S. ally Pakistan. In this gripping and dramatic account of her four years on the ground, working with Afghanis in the battle to restore their country to order and establish democracy, Chayes opens Americans' eyes to the sobering realities of this vital front in the war on terror.

Sarah Chayes has produced a passionate, involving, important work of journalism, informed by her independent travels in...Afghanistan.
- Steve Coll, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars

Sarah Chayes has written what will undoubtedly be the definitive account of the fall of the Taliban.
- Sebastian Junger

She forged unparalleled relationships with the Karzai family, tribal leaders, U.S. military and diplomatic brass, and such leading figures in the Kandahar government as the imposing and highly effective chief of police-an incorruptible supporter of the Karzai regime whose brutal assassination in June 2005 serves as the opening of the book. Chayes lived in an Afghan home, gaining rich insights into the country's culture and politics and researching the history of Afghanistan's legendary resistance to foreign interference. She takes us into meetings with Hamid Karzai and the corrupt Kandahar governor, Gul Agha Shirzai, into the homes of tribal elders and onto the U.S. military base. Unveiling the complexities and traumas of Afghanistan's postwar struggles, she reveals how the tribal strongmen who have regained power-after years of being displaced by the Taliban-have visited a renewed plague of corruption and violence on the Afghan people, under the complicit eyes of U.S. forces and officials.

The story Chayes tells is a powerful, disturbing revelation of misguided U.S. policy and of the deeply entrenched traditions of tribal warlordism that have ruled Afghanistan through the centuries.

Sarah ChayesThe Author and Speaker:

From 1997 to 2002, Sarah Chayes served as an overseas correspondent for NPR, reporting from Paris and the Balkans, as well as covering conflicts in Algeria. When war broke out in Afghanistan in 2001, NPR sent her to report from Quetta, Pakistan, and then from inside Afghanistan, based in the southern city of Kandahar, as the Taliban fell. In 2002, she left NPR to take a position running a nongovernmental aid organization, Afghans for Civil Society, founded by Qayum Karzai. Now she has launched her own artisanal agribusiness, called Arghand, a venture that encourages local Afghan farmers to produce flowers, fruits, and herbs instead of opium poppies, by buying their products and producing soaps and other scented products from them for export. Her work as a correspondent for NPR during the Kosovo crisis earned her, together with other members of the NPR team, the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards.

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