Other people golf. I read the milblogosphere.
David Brooks’ The Afghan Imperative is a strong argument for McChrystal’s assessment of Afghanistan, and while everyone and their dog has blogged a response to this op-ed, I’ll say only that I find it to be a strong case. But this in particular rang true:
Proponents of withdrawal often acknowledge the costs of defeat but argue that the cause is hopeless anyway. On this, let me note a certain pattern. When you interview people who know little about Afghanistan, they describe an anarchic place that is the graveyard of empires. When you interview people who live there or are experts, they think those stereotypes are rubbish. They usually take a hardened but guardedly optimistic view. Read Clare Lockhart’s Sept. 17 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get a sense of the way many knowledgeable people view the situation.
No freakin’ kidding. Something to keep in mind when reading your way through this discussion.
The Washington Post covers Friday’s meeting between McChrystal, Mullen, Petraeus, and Admiral James Starvidis (supreme allied commander of NATO) in Germany. I bet that wasn’t just scotch and cigars.
The NYT has a rundown of the competing voices in Obama’s review of Afghanistan. Good overview of the political situation.
Scott Simon from NPR has a short excerpt on the destructiveness of the Taliban that is well worth reading/listening to.
The Taliban outlawed news, art, music, theater, song, literature, dance, sport, comedy and any religion but theirs. They built a society in which women were captive, dissenters were prisoners and minorities — Buddhists, the Hazara people or gays — were marked for extinction.
And as sort of a corollary, Newsweek has The Taliban’s Oral History of the Afghanistan War, which is long and difficult and strange to read. You should read it anyway.
AP via Newsday covers US forces moving into Afghan city with some amazing photographs.
The Special Forces soldiers spend their days in and around Nili meeting with local leaders, visiting schools and helping the doctors at the province’s two hospitals. Everywhere they go, they bring soccer balls and backpacks for the children and radios and food for the adults. They never give out aid directly, relying instead on the elders or Afghan police.
“These guys have to learn how to do this,” said Capt. Mark, a former enlisted Green Beret and helicopter pilot whose deep blue eyes draw immediate notice among Afghans. “That way when we are gone, the ideals are already in place.” The Special Forces soldiers, who all have thick beards to blend in with Afghan culture, are only identified by their first names under rules for journalists embedded with them.
This is pretty much COIN in action.