Worse than a Defeat

Writing about Afghanistan by James Meek, May Jeong, Andrew Cockburn, Rory Stewart, Mary Anne Weaver, Christopher de Bellaigue and Lorna Finlayson.

How bad was it? In a way it was worse than a defeat, because to be defeated, an army and its masters must understand the nature of the conflict they are fighting. Britain never did understand, and now we would rather not think about it.

Diary: Femicide in Kandahar

May Jeong, 7 September 2017

‘This whole fiasco around women’s rights, it’s more an international effort than an Afghan-born one,’ Hamidi said. She kept her headscarf close and drew it across her chest every so often as we spoke. ‘It didn’t spring from the bottom up. It is something that was imposed from the outside.’ The changes had put in danger the lives of the very women they were intended to empower – the four women who sit on the provincial council, for example. In the eyes of polite Kandahar society, these young, unmarried women, who take tea and ride in bulletproof vehicles with men, are little more than molls. ‘Even if they are angels, society will make them out to be monsters,’ Hamidi said.

Drones, baby, drones

Andrew Cockburn, 8 March 2012

Numerous reports attest that the drones have inflamed public opinion across Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. It may be true, as Obama has claimed, that ‘most of al-Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated,’ but we don’t know who has replaced them. In Afghanistan, large numbers of local Taliban leaders have been killed, only to be replaced, so local observers agree, by a younger and far more militant class, less interested in negotiation or peace.

Diary: In Afghanistan

Rory Stewart, 11 July 2002

There was no Coca-Cola or Hollywood in this village, they had no electricity and had never watched TV; the only global brand was Islam. Ali did not think I would be interested in the deaths in his family. But he expected me to understand that anyone who burned the Koran, even accidentally, would be damned for sacrilege.

The Indecisive Terrorist: Ziad al-Jarrah

Mary Anne Weaver, 8 September 2011

In a video shot in 2000 at Tarnak Farms, then Osama bin Laden’s headquarters, 12 miles outside Kandahar, we see Ziad al-Jarrah pacing in the receiving room of a guesthouse. He is dressed in a flowing white galabiya, his head swathed in a black makeshift turban. He seems nervous and uncertain of what to say or how to dress. He puts on his glasses, then takes them off; he takes his turban off, then puts it back on.

Money as Weapon

Christopher de Bellaigue, 14 April 2011

Much has been said about Afghan corruption, and with justification, but many were aggrieved when David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in the country, said that corruption had been part of Afghan culture for ‘however long this country has ... been in existence’. Many Afghans dispute this, saying that corruption was manageable under the Soviets, hardly existed under the Taliban and has grown exponentially since 2002.

Can the law be feminist?

Lorna Finlayson, 25 January 2018

Catharine MacKinnon does ask why the treatment of Afghan women wasn’t a reason for military intervention before 9/11. But while others who have asked that question have also spoken out against recent American wars, she says nothing about the documented consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have had a disproportionate effect on women, killing and maiming them and their children or forcing them into poverty and prostitution.

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