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Afghanistan war and politics

Afghanistan war and politics - THE NEW YORKER COMMENT WAR...

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THE NEW YORKER COMMENT WAR AND POLITICS by Steve Coll OCTOBER 26, 2009 Over the summer, the Afghan Taliban’s military committee distributed “A Book of Rules,” in Pashto, to its fighters. The book’s eleven chapters seem to draw from the population-centric principles of F.M. 3-24, the U.S. Army’s much publicized counter-insurgency field manual, released in 2006. Henceforth, the Taliban guide declares, suicide bombers must take “the utmost steps . . . to avoid civilian human loss.” Commanders should generally insure the “safety and security of the civilian’s life and property.” Also, lest anxious Afghan parents get the wrong idea, Taliban guerrillas should avoid hanging around with beardless young boys and should particularly refrain from “keeping them in camps.” The manual might be risible if the Taliban’s coercive insurgency were not so effective. Afghanistan’s self-absorbed President, Hamid Karzai, might even consider leafing through it; if he could account for his citizenry’s appetite for justice and security half as adaptively as his enemies do, Barack Obama would not be struggling so hard to locate the “good war” he pledged to win during his campaign for the White House. Afghanistan’s deterioration cannot be blamed on one man, and certainly not on Karzai. After the Taliban’s fall, he was a symbol of national unity in a broken land—for several years, he was perhaps the only Afghan leader able to attract the simultaneous confidence of northern Tajik militias, southern Pashtun tribes, and international aid donors. The landslide he won in the 2004 election truly reflected his standing. Gradually, however, Karzai seemed to succumb to palace fever and corruption. An unfortunate blend of ego and passivity hobbled him; he could neither manage the American presence in his country nor turn its failures to his advantage by remaking himself as a convincing nationalist. For years, the Bush
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