I have been reliably informed that the CIA added two new stars to the wall of its entranceway about three weeks ago, signifying that two more clandestine service officers have been killed in action. Both died while searching for Osama bin Laden along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ceremony adding the stars was brief and private with no press present because Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan are spinning out of control, becoming major embarassments for the Bush administration. Intelligence sources believe that bin Laden and his deputy al-Zawahiri will likely be captured or killed soon, but they note that the terrorism problem has morphed in the meanwhile and is now decentralized. A year ago there was only one Taliban, now observers distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, a sure sign that the contagion has spread.
There are increasing reports that the war against the Taliban is being lost measured by the hopelessly corrupt Karzai government’s inability to actually control the ground in most of the country’s provinces. Two years ago, civilian contractors working for ISAF were able to enter three out of four provinces to monitor reconstruction and security issues. Today, two out of three provinces are always off limits to all foreigners and the remaining areas can only be visited by Afghans with heavy security cover. It has been noted that the production of narcotics has been increasing every year, with Afghanistan now producing most of the world’s heroin. The Taliban, which eliminated narcotics when it was in power, is now cashing in on the drug trade, as are most of Karzai’s government ministers. Afghanistan has become an equal opportunity narcostate.