Couch Potato Briefing: Ten Years of War in Afghanistan

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The return of the Couch Potato Briefing marks the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.


The International Crisis Group released in August a comprehensive report detailing the continued failure of President Hamid Karzai’s government and foreign governments to harness all the resources and aid slated for Afghanistan and fashion a politically viable and stable state. For all the cash and blood spent, victory for the U.S. in Afghanistan looks remote. Terror attacks continue in Kabul, and the geo-politicking grows between other nations in the region, concerned over what will come after the U.S. withdraws. Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar, about a Canadian-Afghan woman who returns home in search of her sister, appeared not long after the U.S. invasion in 2001, and was suffused even then with a poignant awareness of the fragility and many tragedies that have come to define this war-scarred nation.

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, was, at its peak, ubiquitous, populating subway cars and airports. The story of what became of two young Kabuli boys turned into a best-seller in part because of international and U.S. interest in Afghanistan following the invasion. The film adaptation was not shot in Kabul for security reasons, but up the Silk Road in the ancient oasis city of Kashgar, whose Turkic old town seemed to echo the streets and bazaars of Kabul before much was bombed out by decades of war. In 2011, Afghanistan is far from what it was in the nostalgia of The Kite Runner — but so too is Kashgar from when it was a movie set. The Chinese authorities in the restive far western region of Xinjiang have bulldozed much of Kashgar’s old town.


Tim Hetherington — a photographer killed while reporting in Libya earlier this year —and Sebastian Junger’s Oscar-nominated documentary is an intimate portrait of an U.S. army outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley that won plaudits from across the political spectrum. In a moving piece addressed to his slain colleague and friend, Junger remembers their time together in Afghanistan:

You and I were always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with, right? The one who made us feel the most special, the most alive? We were always trying to have one more dance with her without paying the price. All those quiet, huddled conversations we had in Afghanistan: Where to walk on the patrols, what to do if the outpost gets overrun, what kind of body armor to wear. You were so smart about it, too—so smart about it that I would actually tease you about being scared. Of course you were scared—you were terrified. We both were. We were terrified and we were in love, and in the end, you were the one she chose.

Taxi to the Dark Side

Touching off from the disappearance of one Afghan cab driver, this Oscar-winning documentary delves into the Bush Administration’s willful violation of the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of detainees in the notorious Bagram Air Base as well as the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay. The film contains some of the first footage and images of the main American detention and interrogation center in Afghanistan.

The Messenger

Nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan. The Messenger is a stark, simple drama of two American soldiers entrusted with that grim task of informing the next of kin of the fallen.