Obama’s Afghan Gamble

Until Dec. 1, the Afghan war was a Bush legacy. It is now President Barack Obama's war and history will judge him on the success of his bold gamble to send more troops to Afghanistan. The situation there is dire and deteriorating. There is no guarantee more troops and a smart strategy will work to…

The Taliban’s Winter Plans

The winter months in Afghanistan are traditionally a time for combatants to regroup, assess the lessons of the previous fighting season and consider what may be improved or altered for the following year. The Taliban are a multitude of tribal and often highly localized armed groups fighting for a range of reasons and masters. They…

Slow Progress in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan's 28.4 million battle-weary people are slightly more optimistic in 2009 – or were, prior to the fiasco that their national election turned into, according to an exhaustive public opinion survey conducted throughout the country in June and July under the auspices of the Asia Foundation. The survey, done in partnership with Afghan Socio-Economic and…

The Men Who Stare at Landmines

If enough positive people of positive mien thought positive thoughts for long enough, could you skip through an Afghan minefield with nary a thought for being blown out of your combat boots? You could if the square root of 1 percent of the population, preferably soldiers, were standing somewhere nearby, chanting “Om” over and over,…

Britain Agonizes over Afghanistan

When I was in Britain in June, the country was consumed with a frenzy over how members of parliament had fiddled and fixed their expense claims, sometimes illegally. I have been back again over the past month and again the country is deep in agonized debate, but this time it is over a much more…

Quick, Before The Quagmire Sets

Iraq seems, at last, yesterday’s war. Now the Forgotten War in Afghanistan, the one that’s been going on longer, has become — again — the Just War. Barack Obama says he will change the character of the war against a resurgent Taleban, at the pointy end of the desert wastelands of the Pashtun south. But…

A role for Mecca in Afghanistan

Washington, DC - Wandering seven long years in the mountains of Afghanistan with hardly an end in sight, the United States has just been offered a most fortuitous fix. It likely eludes America’s current president and queuing candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, but not for long. The fix is found in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.…

US Failure Breeds a Stronger al-Qaeda

This is an edited excerpt from Ahmed Rashid's recently published Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia (Penguin Books, 2008 available from Amazon, US$18.45). Used with permission. Seven years on, the US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable…

An American General’s Upbeat Afghan Assessment

In the wake of the hotel bombing that killed six people in Kabul on January 14, and following reports that the Taliban plans to turn its guns solely against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, concern is growing for the future of a country that lurches from tragedy to tragedy, despite insistence from Western forces that progress…

The Afghani Way of Banking

In banking, there’s Switzerland and Singapore, secure and secretive. There’s Indonesia, which has been so plagued by corruption you can never be sure who's actually holding your money. And then there is Afghanistan, in a class of its own. Afghanistan's leading commercial banker is a professional Las Vegas poker player. His bank's most popular product…