Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Afghanistan in Tatters

Much has been made in recent days over the uptick in violence in Afghanistan. To many, it looks like our one "success" story is going to hell in a handbasket just as our confirmed disaster in Iraq gets even worse with news of the Haditha massacre. Andrew Sullivan had a pessimistic post of this flavor yesterday. Unfortunately, this impression is too kind by half.

There has undeniably been more violence in Afghanistan, but the recent Kabul riots made headlines precisely because they happened in Kabul, where the television cameras and reporters are. One of the downsides of the highly centralized federal government we have helped set up in Kabul is that it has an extremely limited reach over the vast hinterland of Afghanistan, where many roads remain unpaved and warlords openly vie for power.

Violence has been the rule in post-war Afghanistan for some time now. By blossoming in Kabul, its only made its prime time debut. Violence has raged in the south of the country for months and more coalition troops have died in 2005 than in the previous two years combined.

This is likely to continue so long as the Afghan government remains isolated in the Pashtun stronghold of Kabul, unable or unwilling to venture further afield. There is grave doubt over whether Afghanistan possesses the infrastructure, let alone the will, to operate as a united nation. Unless these issues are addressed seriously, and soon, we may never get the chance to find out.
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