Quick (Good) Reads on Afghanistan

by Joshua Foust on 3/5/2009

Christian has a great post on those wily Pashtuns and their “ways”:

But I don’t think the main question is whether the people will accept national level legal authority (they would gladly do so if it was actually in the spirit of the law and brought benefits to them), the question is “will local elites accept it?” The state is a threat to them, unless of course they are, as noted in the quote, “integrated” into its structures [and they do have an extended local entourage that needs to be “accommodated”] or provided other such generous benefits. But then they would need to be monitored closely so they don’t destroy the rule of law, as many local authority figures have as they were integrated into the state and then used the state to enrich themselves and put a more familiar local face to the oppression of local people.

Well, yes. I quibble with his take on Pashtunwali, but I think all people quibble with all takes on it, so that doesn’t mean anything. Next up is Harry Rud, who is no longer anywhere near the Hari Rud River in Ghor:

There are small US military bases dotted across [Kunar]. Helicopters to and fro with an annoying repetitiveness. They have a lot to do. The main valley is safe enough, but the mountains that surround it are pretty hot. The Pakistan border is but a stone’s throw away. Away from the main roads, it’s bandit country. Above the US base by the main town of Asadabad, a large white balloon innocently floats. An aerial surveillance platform type thing, there is either a guy up there with a telescope or a load of high-tech infra-red cameras and the like. I waved at whoever it was. It’s a pretty smart idea, and sweetly forbidding.

I wanna go to Kunar! Anyway, he has a photo of the aerostatic balloons a lot of bases use now for surveillance. Tim Lynch mentioned one in Ghazni a few months ago:

These aerostatic systems are impressive – some friends and I got to see how they work at FOB Lonestar right down the road from the Taj in Khogyani district. The technology is impressive, the capabilities unbelievable and the details best kept on the down low, but trust me this is one piece of technology worth every penny spent developing it.

Right. Well, I’m sure they’re great—a lot of people credit them with spotting IEDs in Iraq. Makes sense that they’d be all over Kunar, which is one of the most active insurgency areas in Afghanistan.

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– 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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