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December 8, 2009

brief history of the US involvement in the afghanistan war

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Comments (33)

Wow, I enjoyed this and I learned a bit too. Well done.

Posted by: OuyangDan at December 8, 2009 12:14 PM

As usual, you break it down nicely. Well done and good info-graphics evolving over time.


Posted by: Tim Letscher at December 8, 2009 12:44 PM

Oh man Ze that was genius! I’m sharing this with everybody I can. Thank you.

How do I get you back in my iPod? You know RSS 2.0. It makes it possible to share with people like my Dad.

Posted by: Justin Simonsen at December 8, 2009 1:06 PM

succinct. and incredibly impressive... not unlike yourself, i hasten to add. wish i'd had talent like you to work with back in my TV news producer days. ; )

Posted by: neva at December 8, 2009 1:11 PM

Good video, and I really liked your last statement.

Posted by: Carlo Zottmann at December 8, 2009 1:40 PM

Funny, I had a scratchy voice recently, too. One of my clients told me I sounded "like a hotline operator." I hadn't considered it "sexy."

Posted by: kadavy at December 8, 2009 2:05 PM


With all those dots, you sunk my battleship:(

Posted by: John at December 8, 2009 4:18 PM

Way to keep the scale on those graphs the same..

Posted by: Brian at December 8, 2009 7:03 PM

Oh, yeah, I meant to say that too! I am such a sucker for moving pictures.

Posted by: OuyangDan at December 8, 2009 8:35 PM

I really love what you said at the end...about how you started to write an opinion piece, but how your opinion of what you think Should be going on have been interfering with your ability to understand what Has been going on...and I like that as opposed to just spewing out rash "opinions" like so many others do merely in attempt to appear ...well, sort of pseudo-opinionated.. :p what you did instead was explore what was Really going on...and that's a brave thing to do.
I think if more people took the time to really think about what their true opinion is, and to do the research behind it before blabbering...a lot less feelings would get hurt in the end.
I'm sure it means nothing from a person who comments amongst hundreds of others, but... Good Job, Ze. =)

Posted by: AlexBTetra at December 8, 2009 10:08 PM

Great video, but by far the best part is the denouement.

Posted by: Bobby Martin at December 8, 2009 11:36 PM

Great video, but by far the best part is the denouement.

Posted by: Bobby Martin at December 8, 2009 11:36 PM

Thanks Ze, very well done, as always. When I figure out how, I'm going to tell Time "thank you" for bringing you on to do these videos.

Posted by: Anton at December 9, 2009 1:34 PM

Awesome job Ze! I learned more from that four and a half minute clip than from the collective jabberings of every talking head over opinionated news reporter combined

Posted by: theZeke at December 9, 2009 2:42 PM

Nice presentation.

And - no apology necessary.

get well!

Posted by: gypsy sister at December 9, 2009 3:08 PM

You're the freaking man. If i was a woman i would let you do me.

Posted by: Nick at December 9, 2009 5:14 PM


maybe u shoulda put in something about how corrupt the last afghan national election was...

but still awesome - thanks man!

Posted by: J.W. at December 10, 2009 1:46 PM

Fantastic overview, Ze. I especially like your infographics and hope you plan on doing many more.

Any chance you could post some kind of interactive flash version of your animated map?

Posted by: Dan at December 10, 2009 11:52 PM

The Afghanistan troop surge will most likely work for the same reasons the Iraqi troop surge worked - more troops means more ability to keep the insurgents at bey, pretty simple. The real question here is:

1. Should the US commit to a continued effort in that region given long-term and short-term questions such as government legitimacy and the US budget?

2. Is the war still "just"?

My answer to the first is a tentative no, but a somewhat certain "yes" for the second question.

Posted by: Last name starts with Z at December 13, 2009 1:23 PM

Also, I just bought a ze frank christmas card at target. woot!

Posted by: J.W. at December 14, 2009 3:06 PM

Happy holidays, Ze.

Posted by: Jon at December 23, 2009 5:46 PM

Excellent Ze but you should have mentioned something about the treatment of women under the Taliban. That, to me more then the Al Queda (sp?) thing, is the linchpin justifying our continued involvement. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on those people.

(From Ze: that wasn't the reason that we got into this war, and i don't like the fact that it is being used to reverse justify our presence there)

Posted by: mn-steve at December 24, 2009 4:14 PM

That was really well done. A simple retelling of history, but with sophisticated graphics that really drive the story home. I really like it.

Now that you've connected, I look forward to the opinion piece. For myself, I see it going one of two ways. Either we're there for 100 years, or we declare victory, get out, and start bribing locals to keep things down to a dull roar.

The second option's most likely, because we're about to be involved in a shooting war in Yemen.

Posted by: Patrick Carroll at December 28, 2009 5:10 PM

If we could back out of Afghanistan and have the Taliban resume their control of most of the country (pre 2001) without Al Qaeda, would that be satisfactory? It would clearly satisfy our justification for the invasion but would it be right?

(From Ze: The Taliban is in control of most of Afghanistan right now... without Al Qaeda - there is no need to create a hypothetical. I don't know what you mean by "right" or "satisfactory" beyond the stated aims of this mission or war. There are many things in this world that i disagree with that i don't think necessarily justify war. and no...I do not think that sharia alone is a justification for war.)

Posted by: mn-steve at December 30, 2009 4:51 PM

great job... always love these

Posted by: mark at January 4, 2010 1:32 PM

Who put that picture together? The pentagon? Because it's a very optimistic american optimists slant of things, and if you don't believe me then believe the various US generals statements after they were there a while.
Point is that it's not so anybody is in control as your nice coloring suggests, the NATO/US just sit in the few cities and some fortifications, behind big barricades, and once in a while venture out in what basically is nobody's land, and there's nothing to be achieved, there is not big orange coloring unless you go back to agent orange, but that won't do your voice much good either I fear.
But you could say nobody in real control is better than the taliban, except the 'government' they have now is also pretty damn fundamentalistic so what's the difference? Oh yeah, access to their natural resources (they have a lot of natural gas for instance), OK I guess it's all working then, good good.

(From Ze: the "control" part of the map is related to number of taliban attacks per month. it's not a great measure, but i would also say that it isn't "optimistic" either - if there is more than one Taliban attack a month then the area is thought to be under Taliban control. In any case, I agree that it is hard to talk about who controls a country like this one, or Somalia, or any place that has been ravaged by war for over a generation. But i have to say that the tone of voice you use in this comment... the snide, smug voice of someone that wants to seem like they have the answers despite not offering a single one, is what I consider to be the problem. You would reduce the conversation to "it's all about the natural gas?" I'm tired of your anonymous bullshit voice. Tired of the opinions popping up before anyone has a chance to ask questions.)

Posted by: VisitorX at January 8, 2010 1:19 PM

Great piece. I'm glad to see the Time videos still coming.

To add a little more context, earlier in 2001 the threat posed by Bin Laden was well known. For example, here's an article published in the summer of 2001, which recommended that the CIA work with the head of the Northern Alliance, Massoud-- who was assassinated by Al Queda agents posing as journalists on September 9, 2001.


As an aside, while searching for that article, I came across this nifty research tool:


Posted by: Nichts at January 10, 2010 7:31 PM

It's funny that you apologize if your voice sounds a bit sexy since I just watched a video by sxephil, a popular blogger who produces a video blog that totally ripped off your style but who now has many followers who probably would say you ripped off his, seeing as you no longer produce a daily videoblog and he does.

What I'm trying to say is... I miss you Ze. How much would it cost to bankroll a daily videoblog of you? Think of a number, then divide it by 1 and ask that many people to donate $1 so you can do it; that is, if you want to.

I also think it commendable that you answer questions from anonymous people on the internet, which can range from intelligent, well-thought out commentary to taunts shouted by drunks on the highway.

Posted by: YRG at January 26, 2010 2:33 PM

Thanks so much Ze, I enjoy your public interest pieces, and take great pleasure in still keeping up with your projects after (oh god I'm getting old) 8 years.

So I'm trying so say... I'd love more! But I super like what you give already.

Posted by: Sparrow at February 25, 2010 9:12 AM

So now that there are regular insurgent attacks on the capital of Afghanistan should we then, according to the standard of 'less than 1 attack per month is under control', conclude the capital was lost now? You better recolor the map there, it's the standard you selected to accept after all.

Note though that the attackers are now described as 'insurgents' by the press liaisons, so yeah you can get away with saying 'everything is under control, it's not the taliban' I guess.

(P.S. yeah it's me again)

Posted by: DismissedAnonymousD00d at March 6, 2010 6:08 AM

almost no haters, wow you must be good =)

Posted by: me at May 19, 2010 10:10 AM

I found this late. But it's awesome. I just called in my 7 year old and forced him to listen to you. He loved it, I loved it. You need your own tv show. Plus, your blog is brilliant. Not something I would normally read , but very very funny. I didn't let my 7 year old watch all your videos there, however. Except the dancing ones.

Posted by: DL at May 19, 2010 7:57 PM

Excellent delivery of global political confusion. I look forward to the next.

Posted by: geonlab at December 1, 2011 1:10 PM

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