Essential Reading on Afghanistan

by Joshua Foust on 1/22/2009 · 4 comments

I hope you guys don’t think I rail endlessly on the media/pundit coverage of Afghanistan (though I do so a lot). There are some really smart, really competent people doing extraordinary work. One of them is the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins:

Then there is Nimroz Province, all of it, which borders Iran. No troops there. And the Ghorak district northwest of Kandahar, which officers refer to as the “jet stream” for the Taliban fighters who flow through.

Ditto the districts of Shah Wali Kot, Kharkrez and Nesh, where the presence of NATO troops is minimal or nil.

“We don’t have enough forces to secure the population,” General Nicholson said…

It is perhaps in Kandahar, one of the provincial capitals, where the lack of troops is most evident. About 3,000 Canadian soldiers are assigned to secure the city, home to about 500,000 people. In a recent visit, this reporter traveled the city for five days and did not see a single Canadian soldier on the streets…

Across much of the countryside, the Taliban appear to hold the upper hand, not necessarily because they are popular, but because they are unopposed. Hediatullah Hediat, for instance, is a businessman from Musa Qala, a city in Helmand Province that was occupied by the Taliban for much of 2007 until the insurgents were expelled by British troops at the end of that year. (The British have about 8,000 troops in Helmand Province.) The British, Mr. Hediat said, control the center of Musa Qala and nothing more.

I won’t excerpt more, because this is, simply, brilliant reporting. Filkins is one of those rare journalists capable of accurately recounting the seriousness and scope of a problem without resorting to shallow trops, hyperbole, of self-aggrandizing. Even more importantly, he contextualizes his reports properly, placing them in the proper time and space and social environment so they’ll make sense.

I’m gushing, I’m sorry. But finding good reporting on Afghanistan is a rare thing (I can probably only name three contemporary reporters whose reports I fully trust), so I don’t feel too bad about praising it when I find it.

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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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Alex Strick van Linschoten January 23, 2009 at 7:36 pm

And who are those three reporters?

Asia, beyond the Oxus January 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I was surprised how could some armed terrorist eliberate hundreds of prisoners from Kandahar prison. That’s sad…

Marco January 30, 2009 at 10:49 am

Dexter Filkins likely didn’t see any Canadian soldiers in Kandahar City because, apart from the 125-odd Canadians at Camp Nathan Smith and sundry support personnel at KAF, all the rest are out in the countryside either to the West (Zhari-Panjwai) or the North (Arghandab). The idea is to stop the Taliban from pushing into Kandahar en masse. Better to stop the barbarians before they get to the gates.

Asia, beyond the Oxus January 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Problem is that the terrorists was already able to infiltrate in the city

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