Michelle Norris blandly explains that thousands more US troops are headed off to Afghanistan and doesn't even chuckle in noting that the United States Institute of Peace [tee-hee] released some new policy recommendations for Afghanistan. To discuss the report, Norris interviews Seth Jones, co-author with Christine Fair of the report (both authors are connected with the RAND Corp).
In fairness, a lot of what Jones says comes off as fairly informed and reasonable. His basic thesis is that Afghanistan has been most stable in the past when there were stable functioning rural/regional leaderships that had a lot of autonomy but were connected and cooperative with a central/urban leadership. He even offered corrective to Michelle Norris' knee-jerk assumption that the answer to all problems in Afghanistan is more US troops and military might:
Norris: "...since so much of the problems in Afghanistan are so widespread, this strategy policy would seem to require many more troops, many more advisers to work at the tribal level to gain that trust and build some sort of security."What I found so stunning is that neither Norris nor Jones ever mentioned that the baseline of stable functioning "legitimate" local leaders was essentially destroyed and replaced by the most ruthless, fanatic and illegitimate leaders that the US could recruit and train in its 1980s campaign to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Even US News & World Report acknowledges this basic history. On NPR, though, it's as if this nasty little chapter of US involvement in the sorrows of Afghanistan never even happened - or that it had no continuity with the current configuration of the US-Afghanistan project.
Jones: "I would actually say it's the reverse....local forces can a) protect themselves and b) provide services."
I find it fascinating to occasionally hop into the way-back machine and re-read cartoonist Ted Rall's piece on Afghanistan written at the time when most were crowing about the stunning US victory over the Taliban. His piece in the Village Voice from December 2001 is provocatively called "How We Lost Afghanistan," and it is disturbingly prescient. Consider just this nugget:
"Now a Third Afghan War is wrapping up its final act around Kandahar, and a laughable band of charlatans has lobbied in Bonn, Germany, for the right to rule the unruly. Somehow, if the Bushalopes and the Annanites are to be believed, a New Democratic Afghanistan will be cobbled together from the Hekmatyars and Dostums and Rabbanis, all united under the banner of an 87-year-old king who owes more to Fellini than to Shah Mohammed."I have a suggestion for NPR. How about airing the views and opinions of people who got it right for a change - instead of only consulting the same old stale bunch of State Department, CIA, and Pentagon lovin' pundits and scholars that you rely on again and again and again.