Afghan Escalation - Washington Post editorial
Each year since 2002, the number of US and allied troops in Afghanistan has grown. And each year, during the "fighting season" of spring and summer, the number of attacks by the Taliban has also increased, prompting commanders to conclude that still more troops are needed. This year is no exception. There are 66,000 foreign troops from 40 countries in Afghanistan, including 37,500 Americans; the force under NATO command has grown by 20,000 in 18 months. But Taliban attacks are up 40 percent in eastern provinces this year compared with 2007, and there has been another spike in coalition casualties. In May and June, more Western soldiers died in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that "at least" three additional brigades, or about 10,500 more troops, are needed for combat operations and training of the Afghan army.
We’re Building a New Afghanistan - Douglas Alexander, The Times opinion
On a dusty highway in open country outside Kabul, a class of young girls, heads covered with hijabs, are being put through their paces in a primary school. It is a scene replicated around the world. The difference is that in Afghanistan a few years ago it would have been unthinkable. The Taliban refused to allow it. Now the feeling of hope is palpable. The girls, none of them older than seven, are already raising their sights beyond the wildest dreams of their mothers. I asked them if they wanted to work when they grew up. The answer, overwhelmingly, was yes. One wanted to be a doctor, another a teacher, a third hoped to break into the all-male ranks of the Afghan police. I thought of my own mother and my grandmother, both pioneering female doctors. I thought, too, of my own daughter, due to start school in September, and our perhaps casual assumption that ahead lies secondary school, perhaps university and, if all goes to plan, a well paid job. The education system that we take for granted in Britain is still a distant dream here, where the government struggles to find teachers and classrooms. But the girls at the Qala-e-Baig school in Shakar Darra are among 2m attending schools across the country. They are a visible sign of real progress.
Back in Kabul, Never at Peace - Tyler Hicks, New York Times opinion
My first trip to Kabul was in 2001. I arrived as Northern Alliance soldiers were fighting Taliban gunmen in and around the Afghan capital. Those who resisted were killed, and those captured were more likely to be executed than taken prisoner. There was a power vacuum in Kabul, a brief moment when one set of rulers fled and the next had not yet taken over. This can be a liberating time for a photographer. There were no clear rules, no central authority that might restrict you from taking pictures. I’ve returned to Afghanistan nearly every year since then. Today, at first glance, Kabul’s dusty stalls and kebab joints, with their bearded men and covered women, look much the same - in at least one important way - as they did when the Taliban were forced to flee. Ordinary people seem stoic under the circumstances, which are better than they were in 2001 but still deeply uncertain. Generations of conflict have numbed the senses. From the Russian occupation during the 1980s, through the years of Taliban rule in the 1990s, and now the intensifying coalition war against the Taliban insurgency, violence has become ingrained in their lives. After a recent period being embedded with the United States Marines in southern Afghanistan, I stopped in Kabul to wander the streets and take photos of a city forever in transition. The Western presence was something not tolerated during Taliban rule, so there have been some changes.
Afghanistan Needs Infrastructure - Christopher Booker, Daily Telegraph opinion
The problem with the outside world's intervention in Afghanistan, as informed observers point out, is not that NATO forces are unable to defeat militarily the various insurgents lumped together as the Taliban. Rather, it is that almost nothing is done to encourage the Afghans to stand on their own feet economically, and to eliminate the poverty and hopelessness which the Taliban exploit to win support against both the foreigners and the corrupt and ineffectual Kabul regime. Eighty five per cent of Afghans live by agriculture, in which their country has far more potential than much of its bleak terrain might suggest. The fertile parts are ideal for a wide range of crops, from apricots and pomegranates to almonds and tomatoes.