A Checkpoint Kabul farewell
(Roses blooming amid the wreckage of a Kabul guest house destroyed by a car bomb last year.)
Last month, Checkpoint Kabul posted this classic break-up letter from one US service member to Afghanistan.
Now it's time for me to write a break-up letter of my own.
At the end of this week, I will be winding up my work with McClatchy Newspapers and heading off to work for the Wall Street Journal's Kabul bureau.
Over the past year, Checkpoint Kabul has tried to cover both the substantive and the sublime.
Checkpoint Kabul was able to feature unusual stories on everyone from the Jihadi Gangster to the Afghan James Bond. This blog posted items on Kanye West in Marjah and riding a rickshaw through Kandahar.
Checkpoint Kabul looked at the dispute between McClatchy and Gen. Stanley McChrystal over our "bleeding ulcer" story and attempts by the US military to restrict media access to the front lines in southern Afghanistan.
In the coming year, I hope loyal Checkpoint Kabul readers will look for the same kinds of reporting in the Wall Street Journal.
But chances are good that Checkpoint Kabul will live on as other McClatchy reporters head to Afghanistan to cover this conflict.
Readers of this blog know that they can count on McClatchy's stellar team of reporters -- including Jonathan Landay, Saeed Shah, Nancy Youssef, Warren Strobel and Marisa Taylor -- to keep producing groundbreaking and thought-provoking work on Afghanistan.
I know I'll be reading their stories.
2011 should be a pivotal year for Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama hopes to begin bringing US forces home in five months.
If Obama hopes to begin this transition, US-led forces under the command of Gen. David Petraeus are going to have to convince Taliban-led insurgents that they face slim hopes of uprooting the surge of American forces hunkered down in southern Afghanistan and rapidly train more Afghan fighters capable of protecting their country with minimal international support.
President Hamid Karzai has to convince wary Afghans that he is willing to weed out insidious political corruption that has undermined his credibility at home and abroad. He also has to carefully consider how much compromise he is willing to offer in peace talks with Taliban-led insurgents so that he doesn't lose critical support from his Northern Alliance allies.
The US-led alliance in Afghanistan has to decide if billions of dollars in development aid is having the desired effect.
And then there is the wild card of Pakistan.
The daunting challenges have fueled widespread doubts about the prospects for success in Afghanistan. Gen. Petraeus faced the same kind of skepticism in Iraq and managed to turn the tide.
The coming months will probably determine if the US commander is able to do the same in Afghanistan.
Thanks to all the loyal Checkpoint Kabul readers for your time.
I hope you'll come find me in the Wall Street Journal.