Good Reads: America's longest war, in Afghanistan, and Liberia's Nobel Laureate
On the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, today's papers detail the lessons still to be learned. And in good news, Liberia's first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, wins a Nobel Peace Prize.
Good Reads highlights the best reporting and analysis available on the top international stories of the day – and other key topics you shouldn't miss.Skip to next paragraph
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The bombing worked, and it did so quickly. Within a few days, Taliban fighters abandoned their positions and fled for the mountains. The armies of the Northern Alliance rolled into Kabul, and hundreds of foreign correspondents like myself rolled in as well to watch Afghans put their country back together after a decade of mujahideen civil war and misrule.
These were heady, hopeful times. Afghans greeted American soldiers in their Humvees with thumbs up, Afghan children followed American soldiers the way teenagers follow rock stars, reaching for their hands, asking for chocolates, mimicking their English. Afghans also looked to a new generation of leaders – Hamid Karzai being the most prominent – many of them returning from years of exile in the West, and gave them the greatest opportunity of a generation to recreate a society from the ground up.
Within a year or two, the Afghan mood of hope had changed to profound disappointment. The Americans became occupiers. Afghan leaders were derided as “dog washers,” men who had held the lowest possible jobs in exile were now in charge, and failing at the simplest tasks.
Today’s papers are full of stories on how things went wrong in Afghanistan, and the very narrow chance of setting them right again.
The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe and Joshua Partlow write a devastating piece on how America is “narrowing their goals for the country,” as it prepares the long draw down of forces from Afghanistan. Once considered the “good war,” Afghanistan has become “the good-enough war,” they write.
The Post’s sister publication, Foreign Policy, backs this up with a roundtable of experts, each with an essay on the lessons that we can learn from the Afghan war.
And in the Telegraph, former British ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles, writes that the best hope for Afghanistan is to give up on the “fantasy” that there was a military solution to the political problems of Afghanistan. No one can deny the real achievements made in Afghanistan over the past year, in terms of health and literacy and political freedom, he writes, but “the real test is not what happens when and where Western forces are present, but what happens where and when they are not. And here the record of lasting achievement is more mixed, and the prospects darker.”