Good Reads: Global sympathy post-9/11, low Afghan Army recruiting, and the battle for Afghanistan

You're busy. We get that. But don't miss these takes on the world's waning sympathy for the US after 9/11, why Afghans are reluctant to join the Army, and the fight in Afghanistan.

The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks seems to be on everyone’s minds these days as that disruptive event continues to percolate through global politics.

Veteran Washington Post correspondent Keith Richburg writes a fine piece looking into how and why the United States gained the world’s sympathy after the 9/11 attacks, and then lost it rapidly because of its unilateral foreign policy in conducting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American politicians may not have gotten the memo, and may feel betrayed by the world's waning support for US policies. But the enduring legacy of the past decade is lost influence for the US, lost confidence in its leadership, lost respect for its effort to champion ideals such as democracy and human rights.

"Perhaps the Iraq invasion — the months-long public debate, the huge antiwar rallies around the globe, the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction — was primarily responsible for the fraying of that post-Sept. 11 global solidarity. Or maybe it was reports of abuses and civilian casualties at the hands of US troops. Maybe the world simply tired of the conflicts after a decade."

"Or, as also seems likely, the shift was at least partially inevitable, because the post-Sept. 11 solidarity was always artificial and fragile."

The New York Times’ Ray Rivera reports from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on why young Pashtun men refuse to join the new Afghan Army. This is no simple domestic issue in a faraway landlocked country. With American troops drawing down and preparing for a full withdrawal, this is a serious problem for Afghanistan to be unable to recruit soldiers to defend its own territory.

Mr. Rivera gets this fine quote from Mahmood Khan, a member of parliament from Kandahar, a city that one would reasonably expect to be a firm supporter of its hometown boy, President Hamid Karzai. But it isn’t.

“If you go and talk to ordinary Afghans in Kandahar, they believe the government will collapse in a week or two. People are still kind of under the spell of the Taliban. They believe it is not only stronger than the government, but that their intelligence is stronger. They can find out very soon if your son or brother is serving in the army.”

And if anyone would doubt just why Afghan men would want to avoid army service, just take a look at Monitor staff writer Anna Mulrine’s Part 1 of a series of war correspondence from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, with the men of Havoc Company, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Like Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, Ms. Mulrine pieces together the facts through interviews with participants in a recent battle, and the result is a very real idea of how difficult the task of fighting the Taliban really is.

The story starts with a troop-carrying Chinook helicopter clipping the tree line and tumbling 80 feet to the forest floor below, exploding in flames. Miraculously, no soldier died. But, as Mulrine writes, “those who crawled out of the burning fuselage were to face the fight of their lives come daybreak.

“No longer would Havoc's mission be to descend into an area that US commanders had nicknamed "the Gambir jungle" – thick with pines and undergrowth and interlaced with a complex network of caves – to relieve the besieged 1st Platoon. Instead, it would stay on this high outcrop and bar the back door against Taliban reinforcements seeking to join the battle below – a five-day-long brawl that, at one point, had the company commander asking his troops, "Can you hold your line?"

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