Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Mullah Dies, and War Comes Knocking

Sarah Chayes is not new to the situation in southern Afghanistan, which makes her reports especially valuable. She is less likely to be taken in by her sources -- each of which has an agenda and a perspective in Afghanistan -- so she is more able to discern the nuances of Afghanistan's complex social world. I prefer her analysis of affairs to those of journalists who have less experience there. Sarah has been burned enough by her mistakes in the area -- or rather by those who have used her and misled her -- to bring a discerning eye to events there.

The Washington Post
By Sarah Chayes

"Arghandab district, with its riot of tangled fruit trees, is the lung of Kandahar province; its meandering, stone-studded river is the artery of the whole region."
"Mullah Naqib fought the Soviets from his base in Arghandab; they were never able to dislodge the mujahideen from this place. As the Taliban gathered strength and insolence recently, they would contact the mullah from time to time, trying to strike a deal, telling him that they wished him no ill, but just to pass through Arghandab. He would bellow his retort. He would get on the radio and vow by God that if they dared set foot inside his Arghandab, the whole population would rise up. And thus he held his fractious, disgruntled tribesmen firm against them. A week after the mullah's death, Zmarai, the district police chief, received a phone call at 1 a.m. 'You're alone now that Mullah Naqib is gone,' said the voice on the line."
"On Monday, Oct. 29 ... Taliban were in Chahar Ghulba, his racing words announced, Mullah Naqib's home village. They were in his very house. Their commanders were meeting in the village mosque, and they were thick in the country all around."
"On the base the next day, I found a quietly exultant mood of work well done: NATO troops had responded, the Afghan National Army had responded, and some villages had been retaken, with significant Taliban casualties. The beginnings of a noose had been arrayed around the rest."
"What had in fact transpired, in my view, was a deft, successful psychological operations action by the Taliban. Their attack on Arghandab was designed to communicate, and it did -- eloquently. It said that they are here."


hannah said...

That's terrifying... did you get a chance to read Chayes' article in the Atlantic? i have a lot of respect for her work.

Bob said...

Hi Hannah,
No, I have not read her piece in the Atlantic. I am familiar with her book, but not finished it. Rita, my wife, was delighted by it. Thanks for the note