Thursday, October 29, 2009


Earlier this week, The WaPost ran stories about former Marine Captain and then Foreign Service area expert Matthew Hoh resigning from his position in Afghanistan, where as the senior US civilian official in Zabul Province he was trying to investigate "why are we not doing well here?" Simply found, the Afghans locals were helping the Pashtun Fundamentalist Taliban to fight NATO because they were seen as occupiers. Once the US withdrew from rural valleys, the Afghan local tribesmen chaffed at the Taliban occupiers, and started fighting against/ resisting them as well. NPR ran a story on him today as well.

I keep hearing this again and again, with NPR journalist implants who are with Airborne Ranger or Marine or Army units, from Richard Engel of NBC News, from author Jeremy Scahill, from Australian journalist Michael Ware who's been taken hostage by Al Queda and escaped to live and tell about it... and now Matthew Hoh, who has been in two different areas of Afghanistan and worked to try and pacify / mollify / stabilize a country that is still clinging to the 4th century in many rural regions.

My gut feeling is telling me, remaining en masse, in Afghanistan, with armed troops and civilian contractors trying to force "some kind" of centralized government and civilization on a massively diverse, multi-ethnic, fiercely tribal people... is not gonna work. It's just going to kill alot of Americans and drain alot of treasure, without doing anything to destroy Al Queda, who is hiding out in the NW FATA regions of Pakistan. Yes, the Taliban are evil and misogynistic fundamentalists, but they are just the Pashtuns, less than 40% of Afghanistan, and less than 20% of Pakistan ethnically. The rest of the country is surrounded by 3 totalitarian dictator former-soviet regimes on the verge of collapse (Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan) Iran, Pakistan, and China (that tiny little umbilical chord that is as thin as Maryland's pan-handle, that stretches to the east, touches China). It would be easier, and cheaper (I believe) to just pay off these medieval tribesmen - more than what the Persian Gulf fundies are paying the Taliban, and maintain a very very small presence in the country - and STOP letting Toyota Land Cruisers (the preferred vehicle of the Taliban) and pick up trucks continue crossing Afghanistan's borders. Blow them all up with drone attacks. Goat herders ain't driving Land Cruisers. the more the Republicans scream that Obama stop "dithering" the more I am thinking, "surging" in my troops is a very bad idea.

I finished Ahmed Rashid's "Descent Into Chaos" book at the pool last week. As a Pakistani, Rashid's writing reflects his country's best interests (and his lamenting of its mis-management) first, not the US's best interests first. Now Jeff Sharlet's "The Family" has begun. Some day, I'll get out of 2008 and begin reading 2009 material. Sharlet's writing style, I find to be personal, fluid, easy to follow, and engaging... and prescient. His recounting of the 1934 Longshoremen's strikes in San Francisco, and the language used then, and attitudes expressed 80 years ago, eerily parallel the current shrill cries from the fanatical right in the US today.

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