A journalist friend who writes frequently about Afghanistan passes on this terrific, depressing Dexter Filkins piece in the New Yorker. Along with the link, he offers this message: “I’d say about 99 per cent of what you read about Afghanistan is utter [nonsense]. This isn’t.” An arresting sample:

Afghan and American officials believe that some precipitating event could prompt the country’s ethnic minorities to fall back into their enclaves in northern Afghanistan, taking large chunks of the Army and police forces with them. Another concern is that Jamiat officers within the Afghan Army could indeed try to mount a coup against Karzai or a successor. The most likely trigger for a coup, these officials say, would be a peace deal with the Taliban that would bring them into the government or even into the Army itself. Tajiks and other ethnic minorities would find this intolerable. Another scenario would most likely unfold after 2014: a series of dramatic military advances by the Taliban after the American pullout.

As they say, read the whole thing.

And let me be the libertarian finger-wagging at conservatives for a moment on a related issue. It’s a complaint frequently lodged by many on the right that the New York Times — the Death Star of the dreaded mainstream media — is irredeemably biased and barely suitable for wrapping rotten fish. And I share much of this frustration, frequently tossing the book review section in the trash in frustration, creating Paul Krugman voodoo dolls in my basement, etc. This is, after all, a newspaper that once employed Chris Hedges as a reporter. Yes, yes, I know.

But there is much to be praised about the Times, and for all the bellyaching about biased coverage of the war in Iraq, the New York Times correspondents in Baghdad — all hugely brave and wonderfully talented — produced some of the best journalism of the war. Filkins, John Burns and the late Anthony Shadid were all intelligent and informative chroniclers of the conflict. So I beseech conservatives: Criticize the Times with precision, because it often deserves it, but give credit to the guys who do their jobs with honor and daring.