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

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Going through Reuters photographers' blog pages about Afghanistan, I came across this post by Fabrizio Bensch. I'll quote a part of it here, for something telling.
"Suddenly I heard a bang. I thought it could have been the sound of a mortar or a rocket, but it could also have been the sound of a firework set off for the Eid al-Fitr festivities. There was silence, so I continued to file my pictures. Then a couple of minutes later there was a second bang and now I was sure this was a rocket attack on the base.

I grabbed my kit and ran to the nearest shelter in the building. We were under fire. The joint operation centre gave the alarm and a coded loud speaker announcement confirmed this was a rocket attack. Seconds later there was a third bang and shortly afterward the sounds of a faraway explosion. Then silence again. In the shelter, the soldiers looked at each other, waiting for the next rocket, but nothing happened.

We waited for hours in our shelter. Fortunately, the base had not sustained any damage. This had been the first rocket attack in two weeks. “That’s normal, daily business in Afghanistan”, said one of the soldiers to me."

Bensch is reporting in this case from a base in Kunduz, where mainly German but also Belgian and other troops are stationed. His dispatch is dated October 13. That is not beyond the regular guerrilla season, and this matters, since in the north insurgent activity has probably maintained more of a cyclical nature (I'd love to have all the data to be able to comfortably confirm this). Regardless, it's still amazing to think of how many rockets, e.g. 107 mm ones, are used by insurgents. I noted with mild shock and awe last year how a particular U.S. unit in the area of Mangritay village suffered 200 rocket attacks within the space of twelve months. This comes not on the same level up in the north of Afghanistan, yet soldiers there still feel the need to talk of it as something they'd better get accustomed to.

Illustration: Photo of discovered Chinese-made 107 mm rockets set up to be fired at a target in Iraq, near Mosul, February, 2004 (source).

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