Happy Whatever

by Joshua Foust on 12/27/2008

Happy whatever-you-celebrate. I spent some time with my family doing the Christmas thing, which was good since I hadn’t seen them in a year. It also meant (in case you hadn’t noticed) that I backed waaaaay off on the blogging thing. I needed the break. A lot happened over a few days, though:

  • The Christian Science Monitor profiled the goings-on of the Nuristan PRT at Bargimatal in upper reaches of northeast Nuristan, but seems to consider that a representative snapshot of the problems PRTs and the reconstruction in general face. Like all the news stories pretending the Korengal Valley is like all of Afghanistan, things in Nuristan are especially difficult, and the rest of the country is actually not as tough to deal with.
  • NATO seems to be balking at the renewed push for opium eradication and trafficker targeting. This is good—there is an entire rural economy, including credit and futures markets, tied to the opium trade. Even just going after traffickers, without an enormous effort to replace those informal financial systems, will lead to disaster.
  • Superstar NYT reporter Dexter Filkins highlights something I’ve been trying to argue for well over a year: “arming the tribes” is a really really bad idea. He also quotes MP Salih Mohammad Registani, whom I must say has the best last name evar. Registan is not just a beautiful mosque in Samarkand; it is also the name of the massive desert in the south of Kandahar.
  • Spencer Ackerman does us a major in discussing Filkins’ piece by saying, “the Afghan population wants security. It does not want more militias.” Bingo!
  • Along with NATO’s skepticism about CN, there is SOF’s skepticism of the looming Afghan “surge.” The gist? SOF aren’t used appropriately now; sending many thousands more will only compound the problem. This argument can be expanded to include the entire Coalition—if they’re not being used effectively now, sending many more won’t address the fundamental problems plaguing the counterinsurgency despite the dire manpower crisis.
  • Lastly, I think Anand Gopal should stick to his opinion pieces for Tom Dispatch and the Nation, since his actual reporting can be really slanted and misleading. He notes the allegations of voter fraud, but tried to frame it in the context of the Taliban threatening anyone who votes. The two do not go together—the previous round of elections were rife with provable fraud, yet the election wasn’t seen generally as illegitimate (rather, many analysts saw it as a great first try). Taliban threats are another matter entirely, though they were also present at the last election. I don’t get the point of his not-very-neutral story.

Not sure there’s a lot to add to this stuff, but if I (or any of you!) think of something, let me know.

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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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