The number of journalists at a typical Kabul dinner party is only surpassed by the number of story suggestions proffered to said journalists. Still being a newcomer, these pitches are most appreciated.
One such story idea was to delve into the world of Afghan conspiracy theories.
Conversations between westerner and Afghan can quickly devolve into the foreigner refuting accusations that their home government, still clinging to imperial designs, are fighting the Taliban insurgency with one hand while supporting it with the other. Dig deeper and one learns that, despite horrendous losses in both blood and treasure, western forces are, in fact, actively working against themselves to keep Afghanistan in a state of instability.
Unfortunately rumors of western forces paying off the Taliban help to connect the conspiracy dots. And in some instances these allegations aren’t that far off. From this point of departure it isn’t difficult to follow how an illiterate society—where hearsay is the primary conduit of information— that—through its own experiences—has developed a understandable distrust of government can make the necessary leap in logic to conclude that the only reason that after eight years of war the American army of bunker busters and stealth fighters hasn’t bombed a bunch of Islamist hillbillies from their mountain redoubt is not simply because they’ve chosen against it but that they are actually arming and protecting Mr. Mullah Omar, commander of the Taliban faithful.
From here conversations veer towards motivations: what on earth could justify such high economic, political and moral costs? Realpolitik and serious cash. In the know Afghans will explain that an unstable Afghanistan—nestled tightly between Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan—provides the perfect pretext to station troops in a region of extreme strategic importance. Along with an opportunity for power projection, Afghanistan also offers mineral wealth. And when hard pressed, the perennial fallback of a war against Islam comes in handy.
At this point the speaker usually lets out a deep sigh before confiding, "at least when the Soviets came to fight a war they weren't pretending to be our friends."