Sunday, October 31, 2010

Afghan links

Here at the Low Expectations Journal we've been rather optimistic recently about Afghanistan - at least relative to our expectations. This week, there's been a piece in the Washington Post that completely contradicts this. However, I would point out that this may not be as significant as all that:
Among the troubling findings is that Taliban commanders who are captured or killed are often replaced in a matter of days.

Abraham Lincoln said that he could make a brigadier into a general in three minutes, but a hundred and ten horses were difficult to replace. Isn't this the whole "Al-Qa'ida's Number Three" argument again, just with the sign reversed to justify pessimism rather than optimism? Surely the question is whether they are finding good replacements. An optimistic report is here. Exum wonders how the paper manages to run two entirely contradictory stories on successive days.

On the other hand, it's not the only case of ending up like the man who has two watches and no longer knows what the time is. Here we have two widely divergent opinions on a basic fact like the rate at which IEDs are discovered. You may recall that "Population Density of Afghanistan: Experts Differ" was actually an accurate headline for a while.

Worryingly, Jeremy Scahill reckons that the negotiations are being sabotaged by the old game of reporting whoever you don't like to the Americans as a Taliban.

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