Afghanistan – Letter From Kabul: The Great Afghan Bank Heist

New Yorker – Excellent analysis by Dexter Filkins of the corruption that permeates the Afghan government. The telling quote:

“The allegations against many appear to confirm wider suspicions that the vast army of private gunmen here, many hired to escort supply convoys headed for NATO military bases, often accomplish their work by bribing the Taliban to hold their fire. These bribes are believed by officials here and in Washington to be one of the main sources of the Taliban’s income. One Western diplomat told me that bribes paid to Taliban commanders by the private security contractors, along with the other ways the Taliban extort Western money, are themselves enough to finance a robust insurgency. “It costs NATO a hundred and forty thousand dollars to keep a soldier in the field for a year, and a Taliban fighter a fraction of that,” he said. “If just ten per cent of that money gets to the Taliban—through bribes or extortion or whatever—that’s enough to keep five Taliban fighters in the field.””

Afghanistan – The Way Out of Afghanistan

New York Review of Books – Ahmed Rashid on the current situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan – The Last Patrol

The Atlantic – In the heart of Taliban country, the paratroopers of 2 Charlie begin their final mission, braving snipers, IEDs, and the unrelenting sun.

Afghanistan – Obama: 'We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan'

Washington Post – The third of three articles adapted from “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward.

Afghanistan – Biden warned Obama during Afghan war review not to get 'locked into Vietnam'

Washington Post – The second of three articles adapted from “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward.

Afghanistan – Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan

Washington Post – The first of three articles adapted from “Obama’s Wars” by Bob Woodward.

Afghanistan – Bob Woodward book details Obama battles with advisers over exit plan for Afghan war

Washington Post – President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year, repeatedly pressing his top military advisers for an exit plan that they never gave him, according to secret meeting notes and documents cited in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Afghanistan – What’s Inside a Taliban Gun Locker?

New York Times – CJ Chivers, working with the US Marines, looks at the weapons the Taliban use.

Afghanistan – In Afghanistan, Petraeus will have difficulty replicating his Iraq success

Washington PostIn Afghanistan, Petraeus will have difficulty replicating his Iraq success

Thomas Ricks analyses the situation facing General Petraeus in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan – Teaching the Ropes

US Naval Institute ProceedingsTeaching the Ropes

The Afpak Hands Program may be one of the smartest tools for achieving peace we possess.

Afghanistan – The Runaway General

Rolling StoneThe Runaway General

Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.

Afghanistan – As Afghan Fighting Expands, U.S. Medics Plunge In

New York TimesAs Afghan Fighting Expands, U.S. Medics Plunge In

C.J. Chivers writes that nearly nine years into the Afghan war, the pace for air crews that retrieve the wounded has become pitched.

Afghanistan – What Marja Tells Us of Battles Yet to Come

New York TimesWhat Marja Tells Us of Battles Yet to Come

C.J. Chivers says that as NATO and Afghan forces flow into neighboring Kandahar Province, where for the next many months the latest high-profile effort to undo the Taliban’s hold will unroll, the continuing fighting in Marja can be read as a sign of problems in the American-led surge. It can also be read as something less worrisome: a difficult period in a campaign always expected to be hard.

Afghanistan – In Afghan Fields, a Challenge to Opium’s Luster

New York TimesIn Afghan Fields, a Challenge to Opium’s Luster

The annual Afghan opium harvest finished this month with production sharply down from last year, Afghan farmers and American military officers say. Now, growers and smugglers who had long been unchallenged here face tough choices created by the poor crop and new government and military pressure. They describe an industry approaching a crossroads.

Afghanistan – In Ambush, a Glimpse of a Long Afghan Summer

New York TimesIn Ambush, a Glimpse of a Long Afghan Summer

C.J. Chivers is back in Afghanistan with the US Marines.

New York TimesRevisiting Combat Outpost Reilly

Afghanistan – Ahmed Rashid

Q & AAhmed Rashid

Excellent interview with Ahmed Rashid, the author of the book “Taliban.”

Afghanistan – Toggling Between Fighting and Outreach in Afghanistan

New York TimesToggling Between Fighting and Outreach in Afghanistan

CJ Chivers writes that however the Afghan war is faring over all, across the wide and varied expanse of Afghanistan, with all of its political and cultural complexity, one thing is abundantly clear: toggling between fighting and outreach can create head-spinning scenes. Some of these scenes underline the difficulties inherent in a counterinsurgency doctrine that mixes lopsided violence with attempts to make nice. But they also simultaneously demonstrate that the efforts to follow the doctrine far from Kabul, out on remote ground, have become a central part of how the war is waged, even as the merits of the doctrine are quietly debated.

Afghanistan – A Firsthand Look at Firefights in Marja

New York TimesA Firsthand Look at Firefights in Marja

New York TimesPutting Taliban Sniper Fire in Context

C.J. Chivers continues to analyze the Taliban’s fighting ability.

Afghanistan – Man Versus Afghanistan

The AtlanticMan Versus Afghanistan

Robert D. Kaplan surveys the current situation in Afghanistan. He asks will General Stanley McChrystal be our deus ex machina in Afghanistan? Or just the latest commander to succumb to the impersonal forces of history and geography?

Afghanistan – Prize on the Battlefields of Marja May Be Momentum

New York TimesPrize on the Battlefields of Marja May Be Momentum

Any historian, or any general, would tell you the same: Lose the initiative on the battlefield, and it’s awfully hard to get it back.

Afghanistan – Follow the Bear

US Naval Institute ProceedingsFollow the Bear

A joint team of active-duty U.S. military officers takes a second look at what worked in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union in the late 20th century and suggests that the United States could learn a thing or two from what transpired.

Afghanistan – The Soviet Victory That Never Was

Foreign AffairsThe Soviet Victory That Never Was

Could the Soviet Union have won its war in Afghanistan? Today, the victory of the anti-Soviet mujahideen seems preordained as part of the West’s ultimate triumph in the Cold War. To suggest that an alternative outcome was possible — and that the United States has something to learn from the Soviet Union’s experience in Afghanistan — may be controversial. But to avoid being similarly frustrated by the infamous “graveyard of empires,” U.S. military planners would be wise to study how the Soviet Union nearly emerged triumphant from its decade-long war.

Afghanistan – Welcome to ‘The Mansion’

New York TimesWelcome to ‘The Mansion’

With CJ Chivers and the Marines at Combat Outpost Sullivan, the home in Helmand Province for much of Weapons Company, First Battalion, Third Marines.

Afghanistan – Afghanistan: Connecting Assumptions and Strategy

US Naval Institute ProceedingsAfghanistan: Connecting Assumptions and Strategy

Three well-known military thinkers re-evaluate what we’ve assumed to know-that just wasn’t so-about a country where we’ve been fighting for eight years.

Afghanistan – Newly deployed Marines to target Taliban bastion

Washington PostNewly deployed Marines to target Taliban bastion

Days after President Obama outlines his new war strategy in a speech Tuesday, as many as 9,000 Marines will begin final preparations to deploy to southern Afghanistan and renew an assault on a Taliban stronghold that slowed this year amid a troop shortage and political pressure from the Afghan government.