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

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Updates, of the more and the less overdue kind

MStFB update(s)
Sometimes it takes ages for me to react to certain developments I should take note of as soon as they occur, nevertheless it's better late than never, even if people might come to think I'm not merely one of the few Hungarians blogging on Afghanistan, but also the only dinosaur blogging on Afghanistan.
So, first of all I should let everyone know that the Uruzgan Weblog is back in action... since July already (see, that's what I'm talking about). UW's webmaster has a lot of other duties to attend to, but rest assured, the news are coming, and not just in Dutch.
Another debt of mine: Bonnie Boyd over at Central Asia recommended to readers my series of posts on the poppy issue. Well, I should return this gesture, but not in order to be courteous, but because I have learned much from her series on the issue in the first place. With this link, you can get to all of her posts on the topic. If you want to hear more concrete recommendations from me, here they follow. Learn about why poppy is a rational choice for Afghan farmers "in a high-risk, poverty-ridden, and low-security environment", given how it's not much affected by boom-and-bust cycles, and how it can be planted in 120-day cycles (that gives farmers both a spring and an autumn harvest in the ideal case for them), to name just a few relevant factors, here. For a much more thorough look, than anything I have come up with so far, at what needed 'infrastructure' may mean in connection with an alternative livelihood strategy, consult this post of hers here (it will give you more than that: it's a comprehensive look at alternative livelihood projects and ideas, their aspirational nature, and the patchwork character of insufficiently coordinated development efforts).
To reflect on some things then that are less overdue here, I'll include here some key links to more or less fresh news on Uruzgan, too. See first of all this blogpost here by Channel 4's Nick Paton Walsh, straight from Uruzgan. Almost the anti-army is the title and it is predictably mostly about the Dutch army. Some reflections on how they organise e.g. waste collection (and disposal) much better than the U.S. military. The Dutch are the greenest, rightly said by Walsh, it seems to me, and that's certainly something that others might be well-advised to learn from them. A message from me to Bob then: here Walsh says the blastproof containers at Camp Holland cost 35,000 euros (but I'm speculating that there isn't just one type of container in use, so therefore there may be different price tags to talk of).
Walsh then mentions that a British officer tipped him off that the Dutch parliament had in the past debated sending prostitutes to serve in Uruzgan, but remarks that he didn't have the time to google this. Well, the idea hasn't come from the Dutch military, and it seems like it wasn't altogether welcome by the military trade union for example (Reuters, via Uruzgan Weblog, October 23, 2006). A U.S. National Guard officer who served for six months in Uruzgan and also some time in Kandahar, notes here that there's an exclusive "nightclub" for Dutch soldiers at Kandahar Airfield, but chances are that it would even be fine according to Islamic standards, given how there's "no booze".
But then the main part of Walsh's article is concerned not with that issue, but rather with the fighting around Chora in June. He takes note of how there were a lot of negotiations before the Dutch military decided there would eventually be a fight against the insurgents (not before "they (the Dutch - P.M.) only held about four and a half square kilometres in the valley", though). If you wonder about the reasoning for such negotiations: "theory is that if you end up shooting a hillful of militants, who are all somebody's father or son, you end up creating a lot more combatants". Doesn't sound entirely flawed an argument, I have to say, but doesn't convince me, either.
Not to mention my old point in this whole debate on the Dutch approach, that more than merely a hillful of militants in Uruzgan may actually be busy maintaining supply lines towards Helmand and Kandahar, and so, although having a strong opinion on issues of this kind is fine, but it also has to be discussed directly with the others affected by one's particular stance first of all. (According to figures cited, in a video by Walsh I'm about to reference, it is rather loosely estimated that some 150 Taliban died in battle around Chora, along with 53 civilians, so the 'killing-of-a-hillful' did happen, anyway.)
On August 3, Walsh sent back some very interesting video reportage, too, to Channel 4 News. I won't give away all you may find in it, just check it out here (look for the "watch the report" link). I do, however, show here the kind of map Channel 4 used in the report to show the Taliban supply line across Uruzgan, that I have already mentioned on this site on earlier occasions. See the pic above. The line is shown there as coming from the direction of Jalalabad (and Peshawar), stretching through the provinces of Nangarhar, Lowgar, maybe some of Wardak, and Ghazni, on the way from the Pakistani border to Uruzgan.


Bob said...

Some points I should make. It was a mayor who suggested sending prostitutes, that exclusive nightclub is actually just a bar called ECHOS and every nationality is welcome but unlike some other nations bars at KAF alcohol is not being served because it's not allowed for Dutch troops. Even when the Queen's birthday was celebrated, which usually happens with a toast of oranjebitter, they had to use orange lemonade.

And well Chora wasn't just a few air strikes and the battle was won. The units that fought at Chora would take serious offense with that. It started out with a suicide bombing on day 1 in TK and ended with a big counterassault of Dutch, Australian and Afghan troops 5 days later in Chora. And in those 5 days some of the heaviest fighting of Dutch troops since Korea took place. David Axe wrote some excellent pieces in the battle for Chora. He was in TK at the time.

PS. how noble it might seem that power is out during the day for tax or environment purposes but the simple truth is that it's to ration fuel because alot of gas trucks are being hit by the taliban and they don't want to run out of fuel there.

Péter MARTON said...

Thanks, Bob, that was a very informative comment indeed. Not to mention that it reminds me that I should try that oranjebitter some day ;-)
The fighting around Chora was undoubtedly heavy indeed. That's something I have actually written of myself. Armoured infantry had to be deployed from even Deh Rawod, and so on, which potentially could have meant being in for some nasty surprises.
The images from Qala Qala and Chora, in Walsh's report, spoke volumes, I think.

Péter MARTON said...

I've just seen your comment over at the Uruzgan Weblog, Bob. I see your point about Walsh's report now. The way he talked about the negotiations might indeed suggest as though there wouldn't have been any firing going on for the time being. You're quite right to point that out.