Excerpts from a fascinating Ottawa Citizen piece which paints a picture of Afghanistan today that we won’t get from The New York Times nor (I imagine) the BBC.
The Afghan war was not a debacle. Full stop.
By Terry Glavin, Ottawa Citizen December 6, 2013
The 2013 school year in Afghanistan started with more than eight million children enrolled in classes, including 2.6 million girls. During the Taliban time, fewer than a million children were in school, almost none of them girls.
Photograph by: FARSHAD USYAN , AFP/Getty Images
The very instant that the good guys won, gunfire erupted in a deafening roar of all over Kabul in a staccato chorus of handguns, rifles and AK47s being emptied into the heavens. Tens of thousands of joyous people thronged the streets. It was this past Sept. 11, a Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of 9/11. The Afghan National Soccer team, in Kathmandu, had just clinched the South Asia cup in a 2-1 victory over India. The celebration isn’t quite over even now.
Neither the Sept. 11 win nor the delirious outpourings that followed were wholly unexpected. Even though its players had been plucked only in July from the country’s just-established premier league, the Afghan team was blessed with outstanding and determined talent. On Aug. 20 in Kabul, in its first encounter with Pakistan on a soccer field in 37 years, Afghanistan triumphed 3-0. More than 12 million of Afghanistan’s 32 million people watched the match on television that day. The country went a little bit crazy.
. . .
The sweet ironies involved are not lost on the Afghan people.
During the Taliban time, kite-flying was banned, musical instruments were forbidden and even card games were outlawed. Soccer was occasionally tolerated, but only in order to bookend the main-attraction stadium halftime show of executions and handchopping mutilations. Those days were so, so over.
There are deeper ironies.
Afghanistan is supposed to be an incorrigibly backward Central Asian backwater and burial ground for the armies of empires. And yet you can draw a line from the Syrian seaport of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast all the way to India’s Kashmiri frontier, only a stone’s throw from the headwaters of the Ganges, and Kabul is easily the happiest place along the way.
There are sorrowful ironies.
Damascus is now merely the Baathist stronghold in a failed-state open air mortuary consisting of scattered warlord principalities and heavily-armed al-Qaida emirates. More than six million Syrians are homeless, at least 120,000 are dead, and all that remains of Syria is a failed-state testament to the catastrophe of Barack Obama’s doctrine of abstention and capitulation. Baghdad, meanwhile, is a nightmare terrain of tit-for-tat suicide-bomb campaigns waged by vampire cults embedded on both sides of the Iraqi divide in the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam.
. . .
Then there are ironies of the funhouse-mirror kind.
. . .
A couple of doozies that have already become quite faddish warrant some attention.
One is the claim that by some organic and perennially obscene aspect of the civilian-military relationship, Canadians were more or less tricked into sending soldiers to Afghanistan by the Canadian Forces’ brass. Another is a kind of theorem to the effect that Afghanistan is actually worse than it was back in the day, and this is in no small part the fault of the Canadian Forces — and oh, by the way, “we lost the war.” [ . . . ]
Further down, the pronouncements of various pundits come in for a bit of demolition.
It’s encouraging to know that not everybody thinks that everybody in the Coalition is a cohort of the Forces of Darkness. At least, Canada isn’t.