NEW YORK—A longtime New York Times foreign correspondent and recent book author will make the final stop on his book tour here on Monday. Dexter Filkins is the author of the new book about war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “The Forever War”.
Filkins and fellow author Robin Wright drew a full house earlier this month at a TimesTalks event where they discussed prospects for peace in the Middle East. Wright is a former Washington Post correspondent and author of “Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East.” The forum was moderated by Steven Erlanger, Paris bureau chief of the New York Times.
Filkins, who recently visited the Middle East, spent almost ten years there covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says although things are changing in Iraq for the better, it seems like a “fragile” peace, and the situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is getting worse.
Filkins, who is an avid runner, used to jog in Baghdad at the height of the war as a mental and emotional outlet. He says the park where he used to jog was always deserted, but is now full of families and women in western clothing.
“I went to that park [where I used to jog] at dusk and there were women in blue jeans, families,” said Filkins. “Peace has a momentum, and the longer it goes on, the more people will demand it.”
The contrast Filkins experienced in Afghanistan was at the other end of the spectrum.
“I went in with the Northern Alliance when the Taliban collapsed,” said Filkins. “It was like a party with women throwing their burqas off.” Now, he says the country is “basically a sanctuary for the Taliban”.
When asked by the moderator, Erlanger, if efforts to negotiate with the Taliban should be made, Filkins was emphatic that it would be fruitless.
“What would you talk about with the Taliban?” Filkins asked rhetorically. “You can sit across from these guys and look into their eyes and there is not a lot of light in their eyes. It’s like they’re from a different planet.” Filkins notes that if asked, they’ll tell you, “We’ll fight forever”.