Some Quick Hits on Afghanistan

by Joshua Foust on 5/2/2009

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Qalat and got an earful. It’s about time—a friend told that several years ago, just as things were turning nasty there, the Qalat PRT fabricated a bunch of good news stories for Don Rumsfeld. Whether that was true or just sour grapes, it is nice to see senior officers being exposed to the problems we face and not just the happy news (which happens depressingly often).

CJ Chivers continues to write absolutely amazing stories about the fighting in Kunar. I am amazed that the USMC trusts such a task to guys in their early 20s, and even more amazed that they do so well. And it is HILARIOUS one of them booed The New York Times on record.

Tim Hoagland, who provided excellent coverage of the Musa Qala debacle 18 months ago, has a long, questioning piece about the wisdom of the new “kill all poppies” strategy now wending its way around the U.S. military. While he raises mostly good points, he still skirts around the most embarrassing questions: opium is the economy so how will that be replaced in such a short amount of time? Why will this work when it hasn’t elsewhere? How can you be “population centric” when you’re by definition attacking entire swaths of the population? Why not also focus on other sources of insurgent funding, like the Middle East?

A reporter with the trendy new 10th Mountain Spartans debunks the stupid Senlis Council/ICOS meme, “Taliban at the gates of Kabul” by, you know, actually describing how ludicrous that is to say instead of just accepting it because a think tank said it. It’s amazing what happens when people do their homework and choose not to hype something that isn’t happening any time soon.

Finally, what to make of this report claiming less than one in five Afghan officials knows it’s not legal to torture people? Well, for starters, it’s based on 92 non-random officials—hardly a representative sample. For another, it is one thing to torture; it is another to claim you didn’t realize it was wrong. $20 says most of the guys who said they thought it okay were just trying to play dumb to avoid answering any more uncomfortable questions about their conduct.


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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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