I pursued the same line of thinking through a different metaphor, by asking, "Is the Afghan glass half empty or half full?" I concluded:
The Afghan glass may be half full, a tenth full, or near to overflowing. But it is standing on a very rickety table in an earthquake prone area. It will not matter how full the glass is if the table collapses or one of the region's unstable tectonic plates suddenly shifts.On November 6 a suicide bomber assassinated opposition spokesman Sayed Mustafa Kazemi and six other members of the National Assembly at a newly privatized sugar factory in Baghlan, northern Afghanistan, setting off panicked shooting, by the end of which over 70 people had been killed, over 59 of them schoolchildren (funeral at left). In an article for Madrid's El Pais, I analyzed how this one event demonstrates the fragility of all that has been achieved in Afghanistan. The International Herald Tribune has now published this article in English.
Since that time the Senlis Council has reported:
In the five years since international military operations began, Afghanistan’s security situation has deteriorated significantly. After a period of relative calm during the first few years that followed the removal of the Taliban, violence is spreading once again throughout this country. As a consequence, many Afghans now perceive their country to be less secure than it was in 2001. Although “democratic government” is now in place, the Afghan population has not yet experienced many of the promised economic and social stability benefits of peacetime. Specifically, international military operations have failed to achieve their main objective which was to assure security and stability in Afghanistan, both essential foundations for democracy and economic development.The report presents a misleading map of Afghanistan showing a clear frontline between a Taliban-controlled south and a government-controlled north. This map exaggerates the extent of control by both the government and the Taliban. The reality is much more a patchwork of access by different actors for different purposes and a population that is sick of false promises, brutality, and incompetence from everyone. It is harder to depict this fractal reality than to show an oversimplified, dramatic "front line." But amid all the criticism of the Senlis Council that is sure to follow, I would like to mention one over-riding impression: this report largely echoes what Afghans tell me in Afghanistan. Official statements issued by the U.S., NATO, and the UN do not.