"The so-called war on terror is going badly," a nameless Western diplomat is quoted in The Guardian of London, in a story last month that worked its way around the world before finally showing up in the US, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Interesting reading for those who think that the US invasion of Afghanistan had vanquished the Taliban. Now it's ascendant in Pakistan as well.
The dramatic rise of the self-described Pakistani Taliban in recent months has triggered alarm among Pakistan's leaders and marked a significant setback in the American-driven war on Islamic militancy. The militants are strongest in North and South Waziristan, two of seven tribal districts along the Afghan border.
Strict social edicts have been handed down, residents said during interviews in Peshawar, where many from the tribal lands have fled. ... In towns across Waziristan, shopkeepers may not sell music or films; barbers are instructed not to shave beards, the refugees said. Checkpoints have been set up to collect taxes from passing vehicles, and a self-described Taliban group has established a new Islamic court in Wana to replace the traditional jirga, or council of elders. ...
Many draw worried comparisons with the emergence of the Afghan Taliban in the early 1990s. The two groups are strongly linked -- several leading Pakistani militants are believed to fight alongside Afghanistan's Taliban, who also are ethnic Pashtuns.
As for Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported this week in a widely carried story that the "Taliban-led insurgency is likely to worsen this year." Not that things lately have been good.
Last year was the deadliest for rebel violence since U.S.-led forces ousted [sic] the Taliban in 2001. Some 1,600 people, including 91 U.S. troops, were killed. That was more than double the total in 2004.
Oh, but things are so much better for Afghan women now, right? Not exactly, according to Ann Jones, whose book Kabul in Winter was reviewed in The Baltimore Sun.
I was moved to start digging for news about Afghanistan after reading in today's Editor and Publisher about recently returned Washington Post foreign correspondent Griff Witte.
He remains surprised that there is so little coverage of Afghanistan beyond the wire services and the major metros (he was the lone Post reporter there): "There's no television presence whatsoever, and this is a very visual story. We've got 19,000 troops there, a lot of the world's leading terrorists are there or across its border, and the country is supplying 80% of the world's heroin. As we found out on 9/11, it bears relevance to what's going on in our towns and cities. We lose sight of Afghanistan at our own peril."