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June 1, 2009

We got back to our hotel in Dushanbe at 2 AM this morning after 15 grueling hours of overland transport from Khorog, the provincial capital of the Pamirs. We traveled along the Panj river for 10 of those 15 hours and my view out the window was into Afghanistan. It was an eye opener on several levels.

Skip the next paragraph as I am ranting about Central Asian political realities.

In an earlier post I said that Tajikistan is what Afghanistan would possibly be like if Afghanistan had not spent the past 30 plus years at war. Well, I neglected to mention that Tajikistan spent about 5 years in the mid 1990’s in a deadly civil war. The opposing factions of a basically tribal conflict were killing each other based on which identity cards each were carrying. The guys in the Pamirs backed the losing side of the war and have been suffering for it for the past 12 years. They have very little in terms of civil support and are likely to continue to be the last place to receive government subsidies.

Now, back to the road. Road? 15 hours of driving along rock (or collapsing mud) precipices, under waterfalls (seems to me I had already done that at Disney World), through rushing streams (one with several feet of white water), zig-zagging around rock slides (sometimes through boulder strewn fields) and barely avoiding 100 foot sink holes (I hate those guys). Let me clarify the severity of this forced excursion (the weather was too bad for the little plane to fly us out) by saying that it was no worse, and not less beautiful, than the Tibetan plateau in monsoon and driving from Lhasa to Katmandu over several days. The problem was the bone crushing 15 hour length of the ride. I could talk about toilets and time spans here, but I’ll spare you the details and get right to the point.

You may not be interested in the “point” so skip the next 2 paragraphs, also.

The Pamirs/Tajikistan = Afghanistan + Pakistan divided by foreign aid dollars minus the US military incursions. (Sorry, I ran out of math symbols on my laptop.) If you can’t follow my Bushian fuzzy math, I’m saying that, like Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, the Pamirs is a sorry mess with basically good people who harbor resentments from past histories, but do well with support from outside countries. In Tajikistan’s case, the Soviets, relatively peacefully, took over the country and propped it up for 50 or more years. The Soviets tried to do the same for Afghanistan in the 80s and Afghanistan’s US supported pre-Taliban warlord resistance may have contributed to the fall of the USSR. US military support in Afghanistan in the 80s certainly assisted the current day’s problems for Afghanistan and the US.

Now that the USSR no longer exists, Tajikistan is left without an economic sponsor. It is literally falling apart one road at a time. It has no exports and has only recently managed to feed itself mostly on home grown products. True support is not a matter or cheering on a young democracy, or in the US approach to the region, inserting a military presence. It’s about concrete financial aid that does not simply line the oligarchy’s pockets. I think that in the long run, sending earth moving equipment and helping with food development strategies can open up the region’s resources for future economic security. This is not a one year, one US administration fix. It may take 20 or 30 years and orchestrated support with other countries, but it is better than McCain’s suggestion last year of an endless war.

OK, so where are the pictures? I just wanted to separate some text from pictures because some of you do not have a fast internet connection. I’ll post small pictures so people like my sister and my neighbors don’t have to wait for the images to load. I know that my sister doesn’t want to read the above rant so I guess this approach is one of planned obsolescence. I promise that the next post will come with pictures and minimal bull.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. julia permalink
    June 3, 2009 12:30 pm

    fabulous, Photo’s and story weaving, sounds so exciting to be you Frank.

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