Afghanistan - Did we Mess this up Again?

So, just started reading "The Forever War" by Dexter Filkins (NYT foreign correspondent), and after the first part, I fear we've screwed up in Afghanistan again.


  1. At one point, Filkins recounts a story in which American bombs killed 50 civilians in an attempt to kill bin Laden; after failing, we sent a chopper in to take pictures as those who lost entire families stood there in sorrow and disbelief. Why couldn't the officers involved convey some measure of sorrow and provide some support? That alone could have prevented 10 more young Afghans from becoming terrorists, no?

    I'm very excited to hear the stories Filkins has to recount about his time in Iraq, and would probably recommend this book after only reading 15%.

  2. How recently was it published?

    As you know there were just elections, and this Time article about the aftermath makes it sounds as if there are still VERY strong ethnic tensions in the country.

    Another recent Time article discussed how nation building may be the only way to counter insurgents in Afghanistan. I take that to mean the kind of common sense humanitarian efforts like you mention above, as well as better infrstructure, support for health, education, etc. Is this a hypothesis supported by Filkins in the book?

  3. The book was published last year, but his stories on Afghanistan covered up until 2003 (he then moved to Iraq), so the story I referenced is an old one, but still is valid, in my opinion.

    And yes, I agree that we need to focus on nation building as the best method of countering terrorism. I believe an educated individual would choose life and prosperity over "martyrdom" if given the chance. However, I think we need to strongly focus on getting Iraq/Afghanistan (any country that we help) to help themselves build a nation. Our form of democracy isn't going to work there, as it's individual to how we came about in this world. Just as Britain's form of democracy wouldn't necessarily work here.

    A later chapter in the book talks about how we set up the Iraqi Highway Patrol after 6 months in Iraq. Those in charge honestly felt this was a necessary step in the path to Iraq's freedom/democratization. I read that and laughed aloud (literally); you really think the an IHP will be successful when they don't have consistent water and electricity in the country? Give me a break.

    I say to set up the country for success, you have to stabilize the region, then slowly begin transferring power by allowing the Iraqis to choose what makes the most sense for them in that given moment (we, of course, should make sure that they're not choosing IEDs, etc.). The more they're in charge of what comes next and begin seeing their own countrymen and women making decisions that directly affect their future, I think the more democracy has a chance.

    So far, this book is frustrating the hell out of me.

  4. That is a frustrating example about the Highway Patrol. A real "wtf?" moment.

    Nation building and "helping them help themselves" is a common refrain, but I think it's much easier said than done. That's what makes it so frustrating.

    For example, Afghanistan's recent elections had concerns about legitimacy. Even if they were legitimate, what if they re-elect President Karzai? His administration had a reputation for mismanagement and even corruption. If this is the man that the people elect, and he can't really get the job done, but then gets re-elected - then what? Afghanistan has made its bed and sleeps in it?

    This Economist interview with Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to Karzai, covers Abdullah's view of Karzai's failings. Still, he concludes the interview by saying he will not contest "a legitimate, mostly transparent election" because stability is the most important thing for the country.

    What kind of prospects does this leave for the nation? Surely not too optimistic?