On Afghanistan

Lawrence of Arabia DocumentaryWe are accustomed to seeing Afghans through bars, or smeared windows, or the sight of a rifle: turbaned men carrying rockets, praying in unison, or lying in pools of blood; boys squabbling in an empty swimming-pool; women in burn wards, or begging in burqas. Kabul is a South Asian city of millions. Bollywood music blares out in its crowded spice markets and flower gardens, but it seems that images conveying colour and humour are reserved for Rajasthan.

Barack Obama, in a recent speech, set out our fears:

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Time to be honest about Afghanistan

Article first published in The Financial Times on 21 September 2012. Whatever the west feels it should do, it cannot bring a political or military solution. More than 50 US and British soldiers have been killed by their Afghan partners this year. The attacks have been described as Taliban infiltration of the police, which could be addressed […]

National Army Museum, London/Bridgeman Art Library

Lessons from Afghanistan

  Diana Preston’s The Dark Defile describes the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan by Britain from 1839 to 1842. This is a well-known story—depicted in grand nineteenth-century canvases (Remnants of an Army), 1960s comedies (Flashman), and a flurry of books with Victorian titles, published or republished to coincide with our current Afghan mess: Signal Catastrophe, Crimson Snow, The Last Man, Retreat and […]

The Great Game: A personal view

This Monday and Wednesday, at 9pm, BBC 2 is showing a documentary I made about the Victorian and Soviet invasions of Afghanistan.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to make a documentary again.  I began it before I was elected to parliament.  The editing was finished last year. And it was cancelled just before it […]

RS

9/11 MEMORIES: RORY STEWART

Article first published in The New Statesman on 7 September 2011. I missed the attacks entirely. I found out about them on 18 September, when the police came into my room in north-western Nepal and accused me of being an “Osama Bin Laden activist”. There was another ten days before I could reach an internet […]

Rory in Kabul museum

kabul museum

From INTELLGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2011 Two vast and mostly trunkless legs of stone stand in the hall; near them sits a shattered Bodhisattva, whose hunched shoulders and sorrowful gaze are the work of an Afghan sculptor from 1,700 years ago. In 2001, the Taliban broke it into a hundred pieces. And the Bodhisattva seems […]

Richard Holbrock

Tribute to Richard Holbrooke

Article first published in The Huffington Post on 20 December 2010. Last January, Richard Holbrooke called my cell phone at midnight, although we were both in DC. He had been Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan for a week and he wanted to quiz me on Afghanistan. After each reply he paused and then — […]

Rorynatgeo

The Irresistible Illusion

Article first published in the London Review of Books in July 2009. We are accustomed to seeing Afghans through bars, or smeared windows, or the sight of a rifle: turbaned men carrying rockets, praying in unison, or lying in pools of blood; boys squabbling in an empty swimming-pool; women in burn wards, or begging in […]

Rory in Afhganistan

Afghanistan: What Could Work?

First published in The New York Review of Books, 17 December 2009. Cool poker-players, we are tempted to believe, only raise or fold: they only increase their bet or leave the game. Calling, making the minimum bet to stay, suggests that you can’t calculate the odds or face losing the pot, and that the other […]