This is the land of communal bathrooms, sweaty trains, body odor and too much mayonnaise. But, if you can set aside a few creature comforts, then the former Soviet Union is the most exciting travel destination there is.
The real reason we're doing this ride is the same reason we chose careers focused on global environmental issues: We're fascinated by our planet, and we want to explore it in order to better understand it and meet the people with whom we share it.
For the past decade, I've been wandering like a dervish around the globe -- trying to see things from a different perspective -- specifically, upside down. While some people fly or sail around the world, I'm trying to cartwheel across this great Earth.
Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 in part because of his pledge to end the war in Iraq and shift the Pentagon's attention to Afghanistan. He has won a second term in part by promising to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan - as quickly and as securely as possible.
The Central Asian exit plan will cost the American taxpayer more than twice as much as the Pakistani alternative.. Worse, the plan's success depends completely on the goodwill of Russia and its mercurial Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The deadly June crisis in southern Kyrgyzstan highlights the extreme fragility in Central Asia's inherently flawed post-independence nation-state structures. However, the five republics are being simultaneously courted by the U.S. military.