Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy will Fail if it Does not Take on Corruption

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy will Fail if it Does not Take on Corruption

Tonight at 9pm EST President Trump announced his new Afghanistan strategy, Global Witness’ Stephen Carter highlights what is needed for a real change in direction:

“The United States is Afghanistan’s key partner and has real potential to help break the cycle of violence there. But its continued presence will change nothing unless the US and the Afghan government also tackle the root causes of instability. That means fighting the corruption that allows insurgents and strongmen to reap the benefits of the country’s resources, and maintain their grip on power. ‘Nation-building’ in that sense is vital to what President Trump called ‘principled realism’ – not separate from it.

“Corruption is at the heart of insecurity in Afghanistan. It deeply undermines the effectiveness of Afghan forces and the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and is a huge obstacle to any realistic path to stability. Despite successive American military and political leaders acknowledging this challenge, in practice they have rarely treated it as a priority: it is ironic that it is now seen as impossible. If President Trump wants to turn Afghanistan around, there needs to be a real change in the way the US and the Afghan government’s approach governance issues, putting them on a par with military concerns and using levers of support and influence much more effectively.

“The Afghan mining sector is one obvious place to start. It is the second largest source of funding for the Taliban and a major driver of corruption and conflict. Global Witness’ own research, for example, shows how competition over illegal mining in Badakhshan has undermined the stability of an entire province and made it a hotbed of the insurgency. Despite this, basic transparency measures have yet to be put into effect, the Mining Law is missing key safeguards against corruption and conflict, and the Afghan government has struggled to produce basic information on contracts and production. The US has done relatively little to press for stronger action, even though the sector is central to hopes of building up Afghanistan’s economy – and for its ability to fund their own security forces and secure their territory without endless expenditure of American lives and money.

“Under President Ghani and CEO Abdullah the Afghan government has shown itself willing to contemplate serious reforms and to agree anti-corruption benchmarks, even if implementation has so far been slow. America has a partner in Afghanistan, but they need to seize the chance to work with them, and push hard for serious action. The call for ‘real reforms’ is welcome, but it has been made before, and is lacking specifics. President Trump’s Afghan strategy will stand or fall on how well he turns those words into action.” said Carter.

The Re-Branding of Blackwater

Xe Marks The Spot by Debbie Millman

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In 2007, Blackwater Worldwide, the world’s largest private security company, made the wrong kind of headlines when Blackwater contractors allegedly shot and killed 17 Iraqis in a crowded square in Baghdad. This resulted in protests, congressional inquiries and the Iraqi government refusing to allow the organization to operate in the country. And now, in an effort to improve public perception, Blackwater has changed its name to Xe (pronounced ZEE).

Organizations that change their name usually do so to “better define” what they do, or to “clarify” a shift in services, and this is often in tandem with a repositioning of services or a shift in core competencies. Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, explained that the company was changing its name because “the idea is to define the company as what it is today and not what it used to be.”

 

The Blackwater name has being expunged from all of its business units: Blackwater Airships (which offers surveillance services for intelligence gathering) has become Guardian Flight Systems. Blackwater Target Systems (the unit that develops and builds targets) is now being called GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center has been named the U.S. Training Center.

 

Not everyone agrees with Tyrrell. RJ Hillhouse, a national security expert and author of the blog called The Spy Who Billed Me, said the company is “obviously trying to distance itself from their image as reckless cowboys that’s etched into the world’s mind from the…shooting.” With a new name, “there are a lot of people who probably won’t connect the dots,” she said. “In a year or two, people won’t remember that’s Blackwater.”

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When asked about the name change, Robert Passikoff, president of the New York marketing research firm Brand Keys, Inc. offered this: “There’s an old saying about brands: ‘When you can’t change the product, you change the packaging,’” he said. “It’s common for companies to rename in an effort to distance themselves from bad publicity, but in Blackwater’s case, things have gotten so bad that the company had little choice but dump the brand.”

 

Tyrrell disagrees. She countered that Blackwater’s past was only one of several factors involved in the decision. “The company leaders came up with and considered several new names,” she said. “Xe had the best potential for brand identity but has no special meaning,” she added.

 

No special meaning indeed. The same can be said for the identity, which is a bizarre cross between the old Xerox brandmark and the logo for Xena: Warrior Princess. As a result, the only X this rebrand deserves is for a new identity that has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

 

Debbie Millman is a board member of the National AIGA, and teaches at the School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology. She is also an author on the design blog Speak Up, a regular contributor to Print Magazine and she hosts a weekly internet radio talk show on the Voice America Business network titled Design Matters. This article originally appeared on the Brand New blog.