And the No Duh Award of the day…

by Joshua Foust on 4/24/2008

…Goes to Laura King of the L.A. Times for letting us know that regular “Afghans” (who, she reminds us, are “stoic”) don’t much care to have their cellphone towers destroyed by the Taliban.

ORLY? I didn’t know those brown people valued their mobiles so much, just like us regular Americans. Ugh. Is this what passes for reporting these days? It takes until paragraph 18 for the real story to emerge:

The Taliban, though, may be reconsidering its highly unpopular campaign. Commanders have been quoted as saying they are aware of the angry public backlash and may allow the resumption of normal service.

This was an obvious consequence. I never focused on the cellphone story because it was so clearly a bluff—the Taliban would see its own operations seriously curtailed if a significant number of cell towers were destroyed. So they would just take down one or two here and there, creating just enough of a ruckus to gain a great deal of attention and create enough fuss without putting in danger the very same infrastructure on which they rely. Meanwhile, the threat of blowing up a tower serves as a handy extortion tool as opium prices drop.

Now we see a second-order effect: the locals got pissed at the insurgents for going too far. This is inevitable as the Taliban, just like NATO, searches for its “happy center” where the ops tempo accomplishes the mission without jeopardizing it. This involves a certain intensity of conflict and disruption that is just enough to turn the population away from the government without causing so much damage the population becomes alienated from the cause. This time, they toed over the line, and it’s reasonable to expect a certain amount of decrease in Taliban activity as they adjust their tactics.

But you wouldn’t know this reading the L.A. Times.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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