“The Afghan Peace Process” was the topic for the evening when Islam scholar and retired Army major Jason Howk once again visited the Society of Skeptics. Mr. Howk is a regular Skeptics presenter, who has shared his expertise on foreign policy, Islam, the Qur’an and Afghanistan with the Blair community over the past several years. To watch his presentation, please click below:
Mr. Howk began his military service as an enlisted paratrooper; upon earning his commission in 2000, he served the balance of his career as an engineer officer and foreign area officer. During two tours in Afghanistan, as aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry (2002-2003), aide-de-camp to Gen. Stanley McChrystal and military assistant to Sir Graeme Lamb (2009-2010), he was involved in building the Afghan national army, guiding the Afghan Security Sector Reform program and developing the Afghan Peace, Reintegration and Reconciliation program. As a South Asia foreign area officer from 2011 to 2013, he led high-level government and civilian teams focused on the Afghan and Pakistan regions.
Mr. Howk’s work in 2009 to help build a team that would assist the Afghan government in developing a plan to end the war by diplomacy rather than an overwhelming military victory is the genesis of his upcoming Skeptics presentation. “This year, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed to start direct peace negotiations,” he explained. “I will discuss how we got here with the Blair community and four likely outcomes of the talks.”
By the end of the evening, Mr. Howk hopes the audience has gained an appreciation for the length of time it takes for diplomatic efforts to unfold, as well as a better understanding of the way in which negotiations will likely evolve and what is at stake. Finally, he hopes to convey America’s role in changing the way this war would end and convincing the world to support the diplomatic effort.
Mr. Howk holds a master’s degree in Middle East and South Asia security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School and studied Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Arabic at the Defense Language Institute. A Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies and former term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, he has authored numerous scholarly and professional articles, and his books include Lions in the Path of Stability and Security: Oman’s Response to Pressing Issues in the Middle East and The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation. He is currently co-authoring a study on the requirements for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces after a peace process takes hold.
For Blair community members who would like to get a “leg up” on his September 15 presentation, Mr. Howk recommends reading “The Long Pathway to Peace in Afghanistan” and “Afghan Peace Talks: 4 Possible Outcomes,” articles that he penned earlier this year. “I love speaking and guest teaching at Blair,” he concluded. “Students and faculty are curious about global events, and they ask great questions that show they have been studying the issues.”
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.