Quote of the Day

by Joshua Foust on 3/19/2010 · 3 comments

But despite encouraging signs, Helmand province is still, largely, a war zone, and the government and coalition forces have to do more than pave roads and undercut the poppy trade to change that. Despite the governor’s claims that his forces have “influence” over up to 90 percent of the province, wide swaths of Helmand are still firmly under Taliban control — districts like Washir, Dishu, Baghran, and Sangin, where the insurgents can recover, regroup, and plan their next steps.

Meanwhile, Musa Qala, a hotly disputed district that changed hands three times in just over a year, from October 2006 to December 2007, is still up for grabs, though the government asserts that it is completely under control. A combined British, U.S., and Afghan force took it back from the Taliban in December 2007, promising aid and development. Now, more than two years later, Afghan government forces grumble privately that they control no more than a 400-square-meter plot in the district center. Promises fell through, commitments failed, and the Taliban were able to reassert their influence over most of the district.

—Jean MacKenzie, throwing all sorts of cold water on the pervasive victory narrative surrounding Helmand. Just two months ago, ISAF—through its willing accomplices in the press—had described Marjeh as “the Taliban’s last stronghold.” Obviously, we doubted that characterization; it’s good to see others who haven’t bought the snake oil.

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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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DE Teodoru March 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Mr. Foust, you are sunshine peering through dark clouds. Be careful that McChrystal’s sharpshooters don’t deem you “hot meat.”

DE Teodoru March 20, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Hey, about your “ChinaLoveMatch.net” sponsor…Jeees, do any of these desperate old guys know what they’re getting into? Are “liberated” American women that bad? Do you think Chinese ladies, once married, are any better? Dream on…you’ll have to be a diplomat like Holbrooke to navigate those rapids. After a while the language barrier no longer protects you….the eyes tell you what to do!

Dafydd March 22, 2010 at 5:46 am

Seems to me that poppy production has fallen, but there is absolutely no sign at all that the trade in opium has been undercut. Price would be rising rapidly if it had.

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