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Apr. 24 2009 - 11:45 am | 17 views | 2 recommendations | 1 comment

Random Thoughts and Observations from Afghanistan

After a few days back in Kabul, a few thoughts:

1. The cricket team is quite popular, at least judging from the few hundred folks who turned out to greet them at the airport when they returned from a tournament in South Africa. This I know because we were on the same flight in from Dubai.

2. “I am doing fine, yeah, fine, but everything else is fucked.” The words of an old friend, when we meet.

3. Many, many more walls, blast barriers mostly in front of buildings that have been attacked in the not too distant past–the Interior Ministry, for instance, and the Indian Embassy–and barricades at the beginning of streets, especially if big shots live on those streets, or people who consider themselves big shots and have enough pull to put up a barrier on the end of their block.

4. Absolutely no faith in this government, and a lingering sense of confusion about what exactly the US and the international community is doing here. Thoughts along the lines of, “the west could defeat the Taliban, but they do not, so they must want the Taliban here.” Dovetails with widespread speculation about who will run against Karzai in the August elections. This coincides with widespread dissatisfaction with Karzai, his administration, the perceived profiteering of his brothers–in construction, property, and other less savory facets of the economy–but little sense of who could prove a viable rival at the ballot.

5. Much more construction, even from my last trip less than two years ago, markets, office buildings, wedding halls, etc., much of which was nearly unimaginable the first time I came here in 2002.

6. From a conversation with Mullah Rockety, an old mujahadin who later allied with the Taliban, then left their fold, and now serves in Parliament: “If I had known in 2001 that this would be the situation now, I would have buried myself alive.” Rockety was involved in past efforts to explore possibilities of bringing some current members of the Taliban into the fold. There was a chance a few years ago, he said, but that chance is gone. They–members of the various groups that are under the umbrella of “Taliban”–don’t trust the government at all, feel like fighting is their only choice, and wouldn’t see any reason to talk now given the successes they’ve had in Afghanistan and the strides made by their mates on the other side of the border, in Pakistan.

7. Lovely weather this time of year.

8. A sense, from Afghans and foreigners alike, include some diplomatic types, that so many opportunities were wasted, that the Obama people are off to a decent start, but there is a great deal of catch up to be played.


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  1. collapse expand

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Every time I read anything about Afghanistan these days I just have to sigh for a moment. I’m glad that there is a sense that President Obama is off to a good start. I’m hoping we can on some level get this right, just not sure what that level is, and it really is a shame we didn’t deal with the Talliban as we should have when we had them in our sights. Just another Bush fuck up, it’s a long long list.

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    Wasn't entirely intentional, but before returning to New York last year, I spent the previous seven in Asia, living and working throughout the continent and the Middle East as a staff writer and correspondent for Time and then later freelancing for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, New York, Slate, and Conde Nast Traveler, among others. I think I had a good view--closer than might have been wise at some points--at the post 9-11 world and the impact of globalization, terror, war, and the foreign policies of various nations. Hindsight shows that much of the script for the last decade was written in places that got little notice. Likewise, there are things happening in other places now that may well influence what happens in the future. Those places, for the most part, will be the subject of Brush Fires. Thanks for tuning in.

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    Story newly out in Fortune Magazine, a profile of Afghanistan’s Minister of Counternarcotics, what his office, and the fact that he’s in it, tells us about the Afghan government and the challenges ahead for the Obama administration there. Accompanied by photos and video by Ben Lowy.

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