Good News, Bad News

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An American soldier on patrol in Logar province.

The reports out of Logar province, the southern gateway to Kabul, were mixed Monday.

The Pentagon’s daily Afghan round-up led with good news:

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Bomb Expert

A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban bomb expert in Afghanistan’s Logar province today, military officials reported. He allegedly has built and supplied improvised explosive devices to insurgents and is believed to have selected targets for IED attacks.

But the more important story came from the international newswire GlobalPost. It was headlined:

Afghanistan: Another Province Goes to the Taliban

Filed from Pul-i-Alam, Logar’s provincial capital and less than an hour by car from Kabul, it began:

The first sign of the Taliban’s growing strength in Logar province comes on the main highway, where culverts have been blown up at regular intervals, each one an ideal place to hide a bomb aimed at passing military convoys. Next, there is a police post made from a shipping container and surrounded by sandbags. It looks like it has been set on fire and abandoned. But the definitive proof that the insurgents are in the ascendency here can be found among the residents. Those who are willing to be interviewed are happy to express their admiration for the Taliban, while many others are scared of talking to a journalist.

Then, a little further down, comes the “nut graf” — the heart of the story — as editors and journalism professors call it:

The situation here is a blueprint for what may lie ahead for large swaths of the country as NATO forces continue to withdraw. Outside the district centers, the government has little influence or backing. The foreign troops are even more unpopular.

Only one key fact missing from the piece: the Taliban took Kabul in 1996 by launching an offensive from strongholds in Logar.