FRONTLINE INFLATION: Tajikistan has become a popular jumping-off point for journalists bound for northern Afghanistan. The Taliban-controlled areas are now closed to foreigners. But that means prices for everything are rising in Tajikistan. Normally, to get a visa extension and press credential, Tajik officials will charge $40 for one-day "express" service. While the Monitor's Scott Peterson (pages 1 and 8) waited for a visa on Friday, the price rose to $80, then $120, and it was $200 by the time he got to the front of the line. "They'll charge whatever the market will bear now. I bet it's still going up." There was a waiting list of 290 journalists hoping to get on one of the Northern Alliance's aging Soviet-era helicopters. Capacity: about 15 people. There were three flying from Dushanbe ($300 per person) over the border into Afghanistan. Rather than wait in that queue, Scott caught a flight on an old Russian military prop plane into Faizabad, Afghanistan. "Normally, I wouldn't choose to ride in such a decrepit plane or helicopter. But these aren't ordinary times," says Scott, who has now hired a car.
RUSSIAN REVULSION: Fred Weir never reported from Afghanistan when the Russians fought there (1979-89). But he did visit Tajikistan during that period, and he has lived in Russia long enough to know that Russians see Afghanistan as a kind of poison. "The US may feel it's over Russia's 'Vietnam syndrome,' but Russians do not. It's a raw point for them," he says. While Fred knew this - he has friends who are "Afghan vets" - he was surprised by the universality of opinion as he conducted interviews for today's story (this page). "From top generals to academics to vets, each in their own way said that they wouldn't wish their Afghan experience on anyone. It was a definitive experience the US should heed."
- David Clark Scott
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