What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The view of Uruzgan from outer space

MStFB Update
Google Earth, as by now everyone knows, is an important factor in our world. The Google Earth and Maps team has its own blog with lots of interesting news from their point of view - see e.g. how the Surui Indian tribe in the Amazon rainforest cleverly started cooperation with them in order to save their native forests from illegal logging and other hazards. On the Google Public Policy Blog (hat tip to ISN // The Blog) you may hear of the Virtual Alabama project, how Alabama's Homeland Security Department is using Google Earth in the defence of critical infrastructure and to similar ends. Now, before somebody accuses me of being sponsored by Google... of course I'm using Blogger, so in a way that's partly true (I'm sponsoring Google with the content I'm uploading in a way, too)... but still I may even point to how, according to Stratfor (paying registration may be required), al-Qaida-in-the-Maghreb used Google Earth to gather target information before some of its attacks in Algeria, and then demonstrated that in video posts (see here, too). Things can be put to use in many different ways, sure.
Well, here's an interesting addition to my Uruzgan Series then, connected to the subject. It shows how difficult it may be for anyone nowadays to manage all channels of communication through which information can be transfered. You may not even know about the existence of a channel. So the other day I included a reference in one of my posts to Wikimapia (which also uses Google Maps). I wanted to let readers see Chora valley up close, to make my post more intriguing. Then later, as I scrolled southwest from Chora to Tarin Kowt, I found interesting remarks attached to the latter town's surroundings. Some users have placed there their own wiki-connected notes, pieces of information pointing to given points ("hotspots") on the map.
Just a few of what I found there at the time (of course they may disappear from one day to the other for a number of reasons, so take that into account if reading this post not the day it was posted but only later, some time in the future).
"where Aussie RTF soldiers shot dead 3 taliban" - See a house marked within Tarin Kowt here, or even closer here.
"village destroyed by Close air support against taliban" - See the contours of a compound here.
"where me and all the taliban guys lives" - See a place marked not far to the east of Tarin Kowt.
And so on. There are more such notes I could mention, but perhaps you'd like to see this for yourself.
The point is that you absolutely can't be sure whether such information is accurate, whether it's simply a joke, whether it's propaganda for one side or the other etc. You may not even be sure who wrote the given note, I mean what group the author actually really belonged to. But the information is out there, and once it's out there it can work as a cause for all sorts of consequences.
It would be chilling to see at which side street the June 15, 2007 Tarin Kowt suicide bombing occurred, in which not just a Dutch soldier but many children also died, but even if there would be such a note, one couldn't be sure that that's accurate. One may add photos to these notes, and that would potentially make it possible to verify that the given note is credible, but there's not one such photo attached to the notes I have seen so far, as yet.

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