Don’t Forget the East

by Joshua Foust on 11/14/2008

The Captain’s Journal kindly linked to a post of mine, discussing the problems involving the new Kajakai dam turbine. While that issue is important—I remain concerned that we’re spending a lot of resources and people protecting an easily-destroyed symbol rather than doing something more tangible to improve the local environment like keeping the Taliban out—it is also important to harp, again, on how puzzling it is that the South gets all the attention. While things are bad there, the East is just as bad—and has been this bad for far longer.

A case in point is the latest convoy attack. Attacking the convoys ferrying supplies from Karachi to Coalition bases has been a common occurrence, whether fuel trucks at Torkham or food trucks at Spin Boldak. But this latest attack is remarkably not only for its violence and high body count, but for where it took place.

The strike was in the Bati Kot district of eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.

An Associated Press photographer said that an American military vehicle, two civilian vehicles and two rickshaws were destroyed.

Cmdr. Jeff Bender of the Navy, an American military spokesman in Kabul, said the civilian death count, initially put at 10, had risen to 18.

This isn’t a total surprise—there are routinely attacks on U.S. convoys in the district—but this has received scant attention.

The East matters—it not only contains a big chunk of our significant resupply routes (remember the adage about who studies logistics), it also contains a big chunk of Taliban infiltration points. It is relatively easy to sneak across the Hindu Kush, thanks to the innumerable passes and valleys we cannot possibly hope to secure with current manpower. It is relatively hard to sneak in across the open desert, where movements of people can be spotted from the air with ease. Yet, despite the East mattering so much that it forms the centerpiece of reporting on how bad Afghanistan has become (unfortunately limited to a unique situation in the Korengal Valley), the vast majority of media focus is Kabul and the South.

Bonus Funsies: Video of the Taliban hijacking a convoy in the Khyber Pass.

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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 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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