[Editor's note: This full page graphic by Gene Thorp delves into the mire that Afghanistan may become for President Obama. Great mapping and visual story telling with photo and charting elements.]
Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published Sunday 15 February 2009 in the Outlook section.
Graphic by Gene Thorp and Patterson Clark.
Iraq was George W. Bush’s war, but the conflict that now embroils both Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to become Barack Obama’s — a war to which he may commit 30,000 more U.S. troops. Will the incoming soldiers be sucked into the “graveyard of empires,” as the British and Soviets were before them? Or could Obama’s war eventually bring peace and stability to the region? Here are some of the most important trends that will help determine the answer.
Graphic content by Peter Bergen, author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know” and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation program associate
View hi-res PDF of the graphic. Screenshot below.
Click screenshot for higher resolution image.
By Seth G. Jones Sunday, February 15, 2009; Page B01
On the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, lies the Kabre Ghora graveyard. It is believed to contain the graves of 158 British soldiers, diplomats and their families who died in the city during the Anglo-Afghan wars of 1839-1842 and 1879-1880. The name comes from the term Afghans use to describe British soldiers: “Ghora.”
The original British gravestones have disappeared except for the remnants of 10, which have been preserved and relocated to a spot against the cemetery’s southern wall. I have been to Kabre Ghora several times, but on my most recent visit, I noticed something new — a memorial honoring soldiers from the United States, Canada and Europe who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
Afghanistan has a reputation as a graveyard of empires, based as much on lore as on reality. This reputation has contributed to a growing pessimism that U.S. and NATO forces will fare no better there than did the Soviet and British armies, or even their predecessors reaching back to Alexander the Great. The gloom was only stoked by last week’s brazen suicide attacks in Kabul on the eve of a visit by Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But it would be irresponsible to concede defeat. Yes, the situation is serious, but it’s far from doomed. We can still turn things around if we strive for a better understanding of the Afghan insurgency and work to exploit its many weaknesses.