Damned by Riches: How Afghanistan’s Mineral Wealth Undermines NATO Mission

June 27, 2012 by

It is like something out of a movie: deep in the archives of a war torn country a team of intrepid scientists discovers forgotten maps leading to buried treasure. Fantastical as it seems, such a scene played out in 2004 when American geologists found a cache of charts in the Afghan Geological Survey’s library dating from the days of Soviet occupation. Returned to the library after the NATO invasion, these Russian charts were protected in geologists’ homes through the tumultuous 1990s’ and for good reason.

Afghanistan: Why a ‘Limited-Win’ is Sustainable

June 18, 2012 by

Rising disenchantment with the “good war” in Afghanistan ultimately stems from the unrealistically high expectations set by NATO in the early years of the conflict, as well as a rising degree of frustration at the lack of tangible, sustainanable progress. Afghanistan was always going to be an impoverished, conflict-ridden, landlocked, and fractured country; it was never going to be the Switzerland, or even the Philippines, of Central Asia.

Lessons Hidden in Afghanistan

April 10, 2012 by

What should be striking about the reported news out of Afghanistan lately is the extent to which the headlines have been about tragic, non-military events. Korans were defaced and a U.S. servicemember is suspected of murdering seventeen Afghan civilians. These acts have both had a profound, negative impact on U.S.-Afghan relations and, by extension, have put our troops and our mission in Afghanistan in greater jeopardy.

On Power and Delusions of Grandeur

March 18, 2012 by

First the video of United States Marines urinating on bodies of Afghans who had been killed. Then the revelation that copies of the Quran had been burned at Bagram Air Base, which also serves as an American prison camp in Afghanistan. Nearly thirty Afghans and several NATO troops died in the violent reaction. And as I mentioned in my column of March 4, the BBC Kabul correspondent described these events, and the violent public reaction to them, as the tipping point for NATO in the Afghan War.

Following Shooting in Afghanistan, Overall Question is Whether the Mission is Doable

March 12, 2012 by

The shooting of 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday by a U.S. soldier and the Koran burning on the Bagram air base several weeks ago have American officials questioning whether these two events will make it next to impossible for coalition forces to carry through with the mission as planned until 2014, when the U.S. is expected to leave Afghanistan. Several hundred Afghans descended on Camp Belambay in Kandahar to protest the incident which replicates a similar pattern of Afghans generally protesting a foreign presence in the country. Similar protests erupted after the burning of the Koran at the Bagram air base and an Afghan intelligence officer killed two Americans officers at the Interior Ministry in Kabul at the end of February.

A Passage to Kabul

December 6, 2011 by

A recent reading of E. M. Forster’s novel, A Passage to India, prompted me to reflect on the West’s drawn out engagement in Afghanistan. The centerpiece of this prescient narrative is an incident in an ancient cave in Northwestern India between an Indian doctor and an English woman during the heyday of the British Raj. The alleged assault of an English woman by a ‘native’ doctor raises tensions among the community of Anglo-Indians, Hindus and Muslims, exposing the inherent racism and bigotry that accompanied Britain’s ‘benign’ imperialism in India.

Afghanistan: U.S. and Pakistan Seek to Reinforce a Border That Was Arbitrary to Begin With

August 2, 2011 by

If there are general rules of war, certainly one of them is: “Do not fight in places that the Rand McNally three-dimensional map puts lots of bumps.” Kabul, Afghanistan-American and allied forces in Afghanistan are strengthening a layered defense along the border with Pakistan to seize Haqqani network militants as they try to make their way to Kabul to carry out spectacular attacks, according to senior military officers. — New York Times, 8/1/11. Okay, New York Times, time for a little geography lesson, with a few bits of history thrown in.