How We Lost the War We Won
A journey into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan
Rolling Stone
Oct. 20th

okay. is it just me or does one of these Taliban look too young to be playing with guns?

As we drive away, Ibrahim laughs. The soldiers, he explains, thought I was a suicide bomber. Ibrahim did not bother to tell them that he and Shafiq are midlevel Taliban commanders, escorting me deep into Ghazni, a province largely controlled by the spreading insurgency that now dominates much of the country.

Until recently, Ghazni, like much of central Afghanistan, was considered reasonably safe. But now the province, located 100 miles south of the capital, has fallen to the Taliban. Foreigners who venture to Ghazni often wind up kidnapped or killed. In defiance of the central government, the Taliban governor in the province issues separate ID cards and passports for the Taliban regime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Farmers increasingly turn to the Taliban, not the American-backed authorities, for adjudication of land disputes.

By the time we reach the town of Salar, only 50 miles south of Kabul, we have already passed five tractor-trailers from military convoys that have been destroyed by the Taliban. The highway, newly rebuilt courtesy of $250 million, most of it from U.S. taxpayers, is pocked by immense craters, most of them caused by roadside bombs planted by Taliban fighters. As in Iraq, these improvised explosive devices are a key to the battle against the American invaders and their allies in the Afghan security forces, part of a haphazard but lethal campaign against coalition troops and the long, snaking convoys that provide logistical support.

Grim Forecast for Afghanistan (from US) – Oct. 9

U.S. Says Afghan War [UK] Comments “Defeatist” Oct. 7

How To Win Afghanistan’s Opium War
The best way to deprive the Taliban of drug profits? The United States should buy Afghanistan’s poppy crop instead of trying to eradicate it.
By Christopher Hitchens
Oct. 6th, 2008

Surely a smarter strategy would be, in the long term, to invest a great deal in reforestation and especially in the replanting of vines. While in the short term, hard-pressed Afghan farmers should be allowed to sell their opium to the government rather than only to the many criminal elements that continue to infest it or to the Taliban. We don’t have to smoke the stuff once we have purchased it: It can be burned or thrown away or perhaps more profitably used to manufacture the painkillers of which the United States currently suffers a shortage. (As it is, we allow Turkey to cultivate opium poppy fields for precisely this purpose.) Why not give Afghanistan the contract instead? At one stroke, we help fill its coffers and empty the main war chest of our foes while altering the “hearts-and-minds” balance that has been tipping away from us. I happen to know that this option has been discussed at quite high levels in Afghanistan itself, and I leave you to guess at the sort of political constraints that prevent it from being discussed intelligently in public in the United States. But if we ever have to have the melancholy inquest on how we “lost” a country we had once liberated, this will be one of the places where the conversation will have to start.

41 Replies to “Afghanistan”

  1. Oh dear god! Him again!

    Legalize everything. Leave it to the markets! Where are all of the libertarians around here.

    Cheech! Where art thou?

  2. Not to be too picky here, but since when has the US been short on painkillers? My MD friend informs me that the hallmark of modern medicine is pain relief. They throw that stuff at practically everything, when a good cure would be the most effective, e.g., any flu, cold viral infection. How about cancer?

    It’s hard to cover all the bases whilst trying to be a know-it-all. Trust me.

  3. How many troops did Russia have in the country before we enlisted Bin Laden to the thorn in their side?

    Gotta love it when everybody says you have to learn from history, but refuses to acknowledge reality, like the reality that Afghanistan has proven to elude the rule of foreign powers. Of course, Alexander the Great was not George Bush or John McCain. A true maverick would most definitely accomplish that task!

    Over 100,000… It would be humorous excepting the true idiocy.

  4. Alexander gave up!

    We have a quarter of the troops the Russians did in Afghanistan! That is comical.

  5. I don’t recall Alexander giving up anything. Are you perhaps referring to his troops’ quasi-mutiny in India? He used several tactics to control peoples within his conquered areas, including Greece. Folks were feisty independents back then, so it took a lot of brutal suppression to keep them down, if possible.

    Afghanistan hasn’t changed too much. If I were trying to rule there, I’d be referring to Alex’s Conquer & Win Friends for Fun & Profit playbook all the time.

    He ruled a lot like a mafia don. He had big plans, but it looked like a perpetual war was needed to attain them. He died young, so we don’t know the eventual outcome.

  6. OK, I’m not sure what he did in Afghanistan or how long it lasted. My understanding was that he took what he needed and got the hell out.

    “After 4 years of battle he passed through Afghanistan to Central Asia and with 100 thousand reinforcements from Greece and newly captured central Asian kingdoms returns to Afghanistan and captures Balkh, Qandahar, Heart, and Kabul and begins his invasion of India.”

  7. Doom,

    I still say that EIEIO’s arguments are incoherent! The man is all over the board, which can be a tactic I use on those unable to track the thread. I do keep that central point in mind all of the time however.

    The argument to EOE was, prove that his community service was either ineffective or self-serving. Tell me when he demonstrated that!

    I need some yoga, and more beer!

  8. I liked the “What If” story on Alexander’s aid taking a sword to the head, and Alexander going on. He was one strike away from never doing anything… It was a very early battle.

  9. “prove that his community service was either ineffective or self-serving”

    either being your Achilles heel here.

    Easy. It is self-serving in that it was part of his resume to win the Presidency. In the same way inane high-school extra-curricular activities are to a college application. One isn’t actually supporting the glee club or the chess team, but trying to round out three varsity sports and a marijuana addiction (i’m not talking about Obama or myself, I only lettered in two sports).

    I don’t think it is about debating points. The same thing could be said about the ridiculous “swift-boat” style attack on John McCain’s life and reputation by whatever those people seem to want to be called (liberal democrats, I guess). The Rolling Stone article last month by Dickerson I believe is the best example.

    But let’s have this discussion again in January as the end of life as Obama knows it begins.

    I just saw Oliver Stone’s “W.” Don’t get me started. Damn, was Barbara Bush a nasty bitch.

  10. “I just saw Oliver Stone’s “W.” Don’t get me started. Damn, was Barbara Bush a nasty bitch.”


    Don’t get your knickers in too much of a twist over an Oliver Stone movie. He takes a lot of liberties with reality, e.g. The Doors, to create his own fantasy.

    He was in the service over in Viet Nam stoned out of his gourd hanging out with his fellow soldiers–pretty much all black guys–while the equally drug-addled Morrison & Co. were back here in the states whipping things into a frenzy.

    Stone was halfway ’round the world while we were here actually living with the experience of The Doors.

    P.S. Babs (and Bush I) was reputed to have a mean streak.

  11. “I just saw Oliver Stone’s “W.” Don’t get me started. Damn, was Barbara Bush a nasty bitch.”

    Please say it ain’t so, Cheech. I always dreamed she was just ass-pinching sweet, 24/7/365.25.

  12. Who the fuck is Cheech?

    So is The Doors worth seeing, apart from it being an Oliver Stone movie? Isn’t Val Kilmer in it? He’s cool. I liked the actual doors. When the Music’s Over. Crystal Ship. People are Strange. I liked Platoon, too. Not as good as Apox Now or Full Metal Jacket. But ya gotta love Charlie Sheen. You ever watch Two and a Half Men ? That’s sitcom gold. What’s this “W.” about.? That like George W. Bush?

    Alexander sucked. Big Time. No double entendre intended.

  13. Alexander, only the battle scenes were good, and not enough of them. Too much crazy Angeldust Jolie, the daughter of Midnight Cowboy. The chick that played Roxanne was cool, not enough nude scenes with her. The Doors dude, who played Phillip, that was good, moron of him would have helped.

    Normally I don’t say stuff like this, but I could have made a much better Alexander movie than Oliver Stone did. I liked his JFK, though.

    So, JR, are you now denying your Cheech/Mr. Rabbit alter egos?

    Even a bad The Doors movie is better than doing without. “Mais, Val Kilmer ne pas Jim”.

  14. “My understanding was that he took what he needed and got the hell out.”–Nick

    That’s pretty accurate. If they paid their tribute on time and didn’t kill the tax collectors, it was cool for a quasi-independence as a part of the empire. Don’t pay and/or kill the local empire reps, and you’d get a taste of retribution, Alexander style.

    One of my fav battles was I believe for the Greek city of Tyre. They mocked him, so he made an example of them and leveled the city. No stone left upon another stone kinda stuff. Alexander loved to lay siege upon cities.

  15. Gonzo Eff’n Cheech watching “W” on a Monday. Duuuude. That is hardcore, two-fisted masochism at its most magnanimous. Where the hell is thal when I need to buy a vowel? What CFN really needs is a moderator intimately familiar with and capable of brutally enforcing the Federal Rules of Evidence or some other behavioral modification template. I’m seeing Nicholas and OEO swinging back and forth at each other in equally non-responsive fashion, but there’s no person on hand capable of bringing them close enough together for a punch to land, or even credibly assessing pugilistic or other merit and awarding points. So we ogle instead at the ring girls in our respective minds’ eyes, in some instances, simultaneously mulling latent thoughts relating to movements, stratagems and the like less likely to be construed as indelicate within the context of purported end times or, upon further reflection, deciding not to give a shit in that regard.

    Nov. 4: Fuck the Vote!

  16. Personally, I’m giving up on the apocalypse, it’s just taking too damn long. Gonna get lost in my work and forget the whole thang. Maybe get back into surfing, dunno.

  17. Yeah Doom, you just can’t count on anything anymore! Not even the apocalyspe.

    Do you have a favorite book on Alexander?

  18. Jr plays Kilmer.
    Holmes DeNiro
    Nicholas Pacino.
    Doom Jon Voight.

    My problem is Doom always wants to play Ann Margaret.

  19. thal plays Elvis
    MOU plays Ann Margaret
    Yarra plays Nicholson
    tipping plays Natalie Wood
    Bif plays Coburn
    EE plays Bacall
    dave plays Mickey Rourke
    Nudge plays Sigourney Weaver
    Remus plays Remus

  20. JR, there’s a lot of love in the room. 100% True!

    I’ve posted this or a similar link before… some performances simply demand multiple encores. My sources tell me that AM also worked for the FBI, often secreting thermite charges in her leotard. Doom, you (and Dr. Jones) can thank me later.

  21. “Jesus. you have no idea. you’d make more playing WITH Ann Margret”

    Did I tell you I held her hand once while she sang to me on the stage of the Las Vegas Hilton? My seat was next to the stage–my right elbow was resting on the stage. We made eye contact as soon as she walked out. She knew I wanted her, bad. I was 24. She was, who cares? She was fabulous.

  22. Holmes, my favorite book on Alexander is: (wait a minute, while I check author/titles)

    There’s two, actually:

    Robin Lane Fox, “The Search for Alexander” (also a Nova or PBS series). Also a beautifully illustrated book.

    Paul Cartledge, “Alexander the Great” (2004). Nicely illustrated, but my hard copy has a lot of black & white plates not as nicely reproduced. A more scholarly work than Fox’s book, but both were aiming to be popular.

  23. The argument to EOE was, prove that his community service was either ineffective or self-serving. Tell me when he demonstrated that!

    haha, community activist = party functionary. if we had a decent system, good functionaries would be rewarded with young women, instead of “higher” party rank. then it would be worthwhile to be an ass licker.

  24. “My understanding was that he took what he needed and got the hell out.”

    we still talking about Morrison here?

  25. “I’m seeing Nicholas and OEO swinging back and forth at each other in equally non-responsive fashion, but there’s no person on hand capable of bringing them close enough together for a punch to land, or even credibly assessing pugilistic or other merit and awarding points.”

    Come on! I was waiting for the man to provide some arguable facts. Tis hard to argue with, fuck you idiot. His job was to prove the above mentioned facts. Whole lotta not my job…

    Tyrants are always fun to watch however, and Alexander must have been a hoot.

  26. OEO is certainly slippery. And he definitely enjoys shifting the burden of proof to his opponent when he thinks it’s appropriate and/or that he can get away with it.

    To be fair to him, and putting the name calling proclivity aside at least for a moment (no one has perfectly clean hands here, but perhaps you merely mirror to make a point), he seems to genuinely want evidence to be put in front of his face. I know… a whole lotta notta you jobba. Impasse….

    I didn’t intend to criticize, so much as comment that each participant seemed determined to steer the rules of engagement more than they desired to persuade the opposition (or at least the slobbering peanut gallery).

    dave, I just want to know how to mathematically describe the orbital trajectory of the sun around our beloved flat earth.

  27. Holmes, excellent and insightful summary of our cyber tar baby, OEO. how apropos that he/it is made from petroleum products.

    “My understanding was that he took what he needed and got the hell out.”

    It was the usual tyrant short list: food to feed troops, women to entertain troops, gold/silver to pay troops. In lieu of the latter, promises to land conquered for retirement ranchitos.

  28. easy, angels pushed it along the ouside of a crystal dome, kinda like warps in space/time and shit do today.

  29. “…often secreting thermite charges in her leotard.”

    Holmes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re BAD!


    (Predictable delayed reaction) The Doors movie is fantastic. I’ve seen it four or five times in full once I got over the fact that it wasn’t a movie about reality. As I said earlier, IMHO, the movie was really Oliver Stone’s fantasy about what it would be like to be Jim Morrison.

  30. “Mister EE”

    how’d you like to come down from that and come make a record.

    Or more to the point. Come produce a website.

    The job is yours if you want it.

    I’ve offered it to:


    They have all turned me down.

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