February 17, 2004

And speaking of the War on Terror, have you been keeping up with our success story in Afghanistan? Tom Englehardt has been and in TomDispatch he quotes Ahmed Rashid and Ben Russell (scroll to 2/12) . . .

At this point, Afghanistan is certainly the forgotten war and the forgotten "nation-building" project. As Ahmed Rashid, superb reporter and author of the authoritative book Taliban, has written recently in the New York Review of Books, there's a reason why. Most of the country remains a failing non-state. Rashid recently went back to Afghanistan, essentially to retrace a trip he took in 1994-95 when he first covered the Taliban, a bizarre movement largely created by the Pakistani intelligence services and jihadis whose oppressive version of "Islam" bore little relation to anything Afghans had ever known. As he comments (The Mess in Afghanistan):

"Nearly a decade later, this past autumn, I made the same journey again. What I saw was history repeating itself -in some respects in ways that were worse than before. 'The Taliban are gathering again in the same places from where they started, it's like a rerun of an old movie,' says Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President's brother… Taliban fighters, I was told, are better equipped than they were in 1994. They are buying Thuraya satellite telephones and hundreds of Honda motorbikes to carry out guerrilla raids; they are also importing night-vision equipment from the Arab Gulf states." . . .

According to Ben Russell of the British Independent, "The United Nations warned last year that opium production was spreading like a cancer in Afghanistan, with the country producing three quarters of the world's illicit opium, from which heroin is made. The UN estimates that two thirds of all opiate users [world-wide] take drugs of Afghan origin." And this year's crop is supposed to be larger still.
So what we really get outta all this is cheap smack?? Oh, well . . . I was thinkin' 'bout gettin' back into the treatment business again.

Be at peace.