Elizabeth Rubin's latest dispatch from Afghanistan is heartbreaking -- and essential.
I went to Afghanistan last fall with a question: Why, with all our technology, were we killing so many civilians in air strikes?
After a few days, the first question sparked more: Was there a deeper problem in the counterinsurgency campaign? Why were so many more American troops being killed? To find out, I spent much of the fall in the Korengal Valley ...
As hard as Iraq was, nothing was as tough as the Korengal.
... If you peel back the layers, there’s always a local political story at the root of the killing and dying. That original misunderstanding and grievance fertilizes the land for the Islamists. Whom do you want to side with: your brothers in God’s world or the infidel thieves?
Captain Kearney met as many villagers as possible to learn the names of all the elders and their families. But he inherited a blood feud between the Korengalis and the Americans that he hadn’t started, and he was being sucked into its logic.
It didn’t take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants.
... Kearney smiled. He was getting used to the routine between the Americans and the villagers — miscommunication and deception. The encounter felt as much performative, a necessary part of the play, as substantive. And I wondered how Kearney was going to keep his sanity for 10 more months.