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Posts Tagged ‘victory’

The ruins of Darulaman Palace, the "abode of peace" *

A watering can salesman, near the palace **

Literally, the “abode of peace”, Darulaman Palace was ruined as rival Mujahideen factions fought for control of Kabul during the early 1990s.   Today, it stands as a deeply cynical symbol of Afghanistan’s future … a country ruined by insurgency and government corruption.  But Darulaman also stands for a wildly hopeful future … a vibrant country rebuilt by Afghan entrepreneurs with the help of NATO and others.

I’ve been away from Afghanistan for over a year now, and I’ve found the time and distance have made it harder and harder to maintain perspective of the country and its people …

Clearly, it’s time to wrap up this blog.

Thanks to all who’ve taken the time to read my favorite posts:

And also my most popular posts:

Bottom line:  Fare well, Afghanistan.  And farewell …

* Photo by ET1 Peterson, USN
** Photo by Shah Marai, AFP/Getty Images

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Kabul 02

Kabul in 2002: About as bad as it could get*

Kabul now

Kabul now: Not deteriorating**

Afghanistan: Not deteriorating!

This is another slogan the Afghan Ministry of Tourism probably doesn’t need.  But ‘not deteriorating’ is REALLY good news for a country that – less than a year ago – seemed to be in a death spiral.

Yesterday morning, the Stars and Stripes ran an article by Julian Barnes of the Chicago Tribune, quoting GEN McChrystal, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force:

I still will tell you the situation in Afghanistan is serious, I do not say now it is deteriorating.  We [made] significant progress in setting conditions in 2009 and we will make real progress in 2010.

Put another way, it increasingly seems the insurgency is loosing momentum.  And in a counter-insurgency fight, momentum is a Big Deal.

A friend of mine talks about the country as if it was a bowling ball, with the insurgents as a bunch of ants trying to move the ball backward and us – Afghans and Coalition members alike – as ants trying to move it forward.   For a while, the momentum was with the insurgents.  But the bowling ball is slowing, and soon we may even be able to turn it around.  Which is making many insurgents think VERY seriously about reconciliation.  The alternative (being crushed like an ant by a bowling ball) is looking less and less appealing to them by the day…

I’m not trying to overstate this, we – both Afghans and the International Community – still have a LONG way to go.  Or, as GEN McChrystal says,

I am not prepared to say we are winning, but I am confident we will see significant progress.

Bottom line:  Victory is far from inevitable.  And WAY too many ants will die in the process of stopping and then turning the bowling ball that is Afghanistan.  But the momentum is shifting…

* Photo by Ismail Eren, from DeviantArt

** Photo by Pietro Calogero, from his blog

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It's safe to fish now in the Paghman river, Wardak Province*

Someday, we'll ski these mountains, just west of Kabul

Drew Brown had a great article in this morning’s Stars and Stripes, in which he discussed the path to victory in Afghanistan with GEN McChrystal, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and US Forces – Afghanistan.

I’ve talked to  MG Ali, my counterpart in the Afghan National Army, about what victory would look like.  To him, victory is being able to invite his Coalition advisers back to Afghanistan for a fishing trip near the village where he grew up.  The way he tells it, there was a GREAT fishing hole there, but because of the insurgency, it’s now far too dangerous.  There’s good news though:  Because almost nobody fishes there any more, all the fish have become both big and stupid.  Victory is an Afghanistan where you can fish safely with friends.  And that’s worth fighting for.

To me, victory is being able to go skiing on the Paghman mountains, just to the west of Kabul.  Seriously, Kabul could very easily become a PERFECT ski and snowboard destination.  Think Denver, but with more snow and cheaper lift tickets.  Of course the Soviet-era land mines would have to go, but one look at these mountains and you know it’s doable.  Not quickly of course…I’ll probably be too old to ski before it happens, but the work we’re doing here now is going to make it possible.  Victory is an Afghanistan where my kids can ski (or more likely, snowboard) near Kabul.  And that’s worth fighting for.

Bottom line:  I like GEN McChrystal’s view…

There’s no way to put an exact timeline on it…the Afghan people will determine [what victory is].

* Photo by Õnne Pärl, from her photo gallery

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