Thursday, April 24, 2003
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WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible
WORRYING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN: It's possible to point to press stories indicating that things are getting better in Afghanistan. The number of returning Afghan expatriates is increasing, which is one sign of stability. Kandahar now has an Internet cafe. Polio vaccinations have drastically reduced the rate of infection in the country.
So, does that mean things are -- on the whole -- improving in the country? No, I'm afraid the security situation is getting worse.
Much, much worse.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chat with a high-ranking member of our armed forces. This is the kind of guy who presents a generally unflappable demeanor. It was an off-the-record conversation, so I can't say what he told me exactly. It was clear, however, that the situation in southern Afghanistan was starting to alarm him.
Further evidence comes from Jane's Intelligence Review's latest update on the Afghan situation:
Click here for today's example of the increased coordination of the anti-Karzai forces.
Part of the problem with the increased strength of the oppoosition forces is that it forces the Karzai government to rely even more on tribal militias, contradicting efforts to create a truly national military. The Christian Science Monitor explains:
The U.S. response and the Afghan government's response to this has been to step up security patrols in the affected areas, and to apply pressure on Pakistan to cut off any covert support for Taliban remnants.
The final source of my pessimism comes from someone who knows Afghanistan well, Barnett Rubin. Read this VOA report and it's clear his outlook has become more pessimistic since I heard him in January.
Clearly, more effort needs to be devoted to the country. Given all the focus that will be on Iraq, my concern is that this situation will be permitted to deteriorate even further, because Afghanistan is off the front pages and because many of the same government officials responsible for Afghanistan are dealing with Iraq as well.
Developing... and for the moment, not in a good way.
UPDATE: CNN reports on another firefight along the Afghan-Pakistani border.posted by Dan on 04.24.03 at 11:58 AM