Micah's Read of the Week, Vol. 61

How Afghanistan’s security forces lost, Micah Recommends, Recipe Corner, and more.

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This is a newsletter filled with things Micah Wiener finds interesting.

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How Afghanistan’s security forces lost the war

Here’s a terrible story with well-written lede:

Building Afghanistan’s national security forces was one of the most ambitious and expensive aspects of two decades of U.S.-led war.

It resulted in failure.

The United States spent billions of dollars training and equipping police, soldiers and special forces. Despite years of warnings from U.S. and Afghan officials, successive U.S. administrations pledged that the Afghan military was capable of defending the country. President Biden said the Afghan military was “as well-equipped as any army in the world” just a month before its collapse.

Today, not a single unit of the country’s security forces remains intact.

That’s not ideal. Neither is this:

As the war intensified, many of Afghanistan’s police on the front line were entering their sixth month without pay, a widespread problem that took a toll on government forces’ morale and made them vulnerable to Taliban offers.

At a small outpost south of Kandahar city, Noor Ahmad Zhargi was on guard duty.

When he joined Afghanistan’s police force, all he was given was a gun — no training or documentation.

“Next month, if the government doesn’t pay me, maybe I should just sell this to the Taliban,” he said holding the rifle. He said he had heard the Taliban was paying around $2,000 for Afghan government weapons like his, a price much higher than the market rate. He insisted he would never join the Taliban but dodged a question about whether he would surrender.

This story features so many heartbreaking stories. Here’s another one:

Security forces were also being targeted inside Kandahar city.

Shakila’s husband — a policeman — began receiving threatening letters from the Taliban two months before he was gunned down in the city’s central bazaar.

“I was always begging him, ‘You don’t need to continue this job. It’s too dangerous,’ she said. But her husband, Mohammad Sadiq Nabizada, couldn’t find other work.

Like everything about Afghanistan, the story always seems to get worse.

One police commander said the only men from his unit willing to hold positions against the Taliban were drug addicts.

“It keeps them awake,” said Mirza Wali, a police commander attending the funeral for one of his men, Nik Mohammad, who had been killed by the Taliban ambush the night before.

Mohammad was estranged from his family because of his meth addiction, but his sister and mother, Taj Bibi, attended the funeral. They both sat in the shade of a truck a few meters from where Mohammad’s coffin was being covered with earth.

“The addicts are the only one who can stand being on the front line,” Wali said. “If they weren’t using drugs, they would go crazy.”

Micah Recommends


The new Ken Burns documentary on Ali is a must-watch. It’s even more gripping than I anticipated. It’s long, like The Last Dance long, but it’s worth it.

Mind of Micah

Last week on my podcast, Mind of Micah, I shared this story about The Rumble in the Jungle and how it changed the lives of Ali, George Foreman, and the sportswriters who covered the fight. It’s a fascinating look at a legendary event.

Subscribe to Mind of Micah

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Draft report of GOP-backed ballot review in Arizona confirms Biden’s win

So this was a big waste of time and money. Who could have seen this coming?

After nearly six months and almost $6 million — most of it given by groups that cast doubt on the election results — the draft report shows that the review concluded that 45,469 more ballots were cast for Biden in Maricopa County than for Trump, widening Biden’s margin by 360 more votes than certified results.

The draft report found the count to have “no substantial differences” from the county’s certified tallies.

In May, all of Maricopa’s seven elected officials — including five Republicans — joined to demand the Senate put an end to the review, calling it a “con” and a “sham.”

After the leak of the draft report late Thursday, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers (R) said in a statement that the findings mean “the tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do, and the results reflect the will of the voters. That should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise.”

So how did Trump supporters spin this devasting news?

Trump allies tried to play down the conclusion in the draft report. GOP state Sen. Wendy Rogers wrote in a post on Twitter Thursday night that she had just spoken to Logan by phone, who told her that the early version of the report that leaked was “simply a draft and is only a partial report.”

The final hearing “will render findings of great consequence,” wrote Rogers, who has been calling for Biden’s win to be decertified. “Then he said ‘God is in control’. Please pray for our audit team tomorrow as they present their findings.”

This result seems pretty definitive. Not that anyone who’s been paying attention ever thought otherwise.

Election experts said the Arizona experience should serve as a warning sign to other Republican legislators who have in recent weeks responded to pressure from Trump and agreed to embark on their own reviews of the 2020 election, including in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas.

“Every time Trump and his supporters have been given a forum to make their case, they have swung and missed,” said Ben Ginsberg, a Republican election lawyer who has been critical of Trump’s false claims of fraud. He spoke to reporters in a call organized by the Center for Election Innovation & Research Thursday before the draft leaked.

“If Trump and his supporters can’t prove it here — with the process they’ve designed — then they can’t prove it anywhere,” Ginsberg said.

Recipe Corner

Hanger Steak With Chimol

Summer of flank steak rolls on. It may never end.

  • Vegetable oil (for grill)

  • Juice of 4 limes

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired

  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated

  • 8 oz. any kind of radishes, trimmed (peeled if using watermelon radishes), cut into bite-size pieces

  • 1 cup torn cilantro leaves with tender stems

  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 1¼-lb. hanger steak, cut crosswise into 2–3 pieces, center membrane removed

  • Worcestershire sauce and warmed tortillas (for serving)

Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; oil grate with vegetable oil. Toss lime juice, red onion, chiles, garlic, radishes, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in ¼ cup olive oil. Let chimol sit at room temperature while the steak cooks.

Season steak with salt and pepper, then rub all over with remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Grill, turning occasionally until deeply browned on the outside and cooked to desired doneness, 8–12 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and generously drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. Let sit 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Serve steak with chimol, tortillas, and more Worcestershire sauce.

Charred Broccoli Salad With Figs

You know we’re gonna use that hot grill for veg.

  • 2 lb. broccoli (about 3 medium heads), ends trimmed, stems peeled

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

  • ½ cup labneh or whole-milk plain Greek yogurt

  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely grated, divided

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dried figs (such as Turkish or Mission)

  • Zest of ½ lemon

  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided

  • 1 cup tahini

  • Small handful of mixed tender herbs (such as mint, tarragon, and/or parsley), leaves torn if large

  • Sumac (for serving)

Prepare a grill for high heat. Cut broccoli lengthwise into ¼"-thick planks (try to keep crown and stem attached). Toss broccoli planks with oil in a large bowl to coat; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until charred all over (they’ll look burnt, and that’s a good thing) but stems are still crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; reserve bowl. Transfer broccoli back to reserved bowl and cover tightly and let sit 30 minutes to steam.

Meanwhile, whisk labneh, half of garlic, and 2 Tbsp. water in a small bowl until smooth and the consistency of ranch dressing (add more water if needed). Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces (about 3"), separating florets from stems as you go. Coarsely chop stems and measure out 1 cup; set aside. Return remaining broccoli to bowl; add figs and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Blend tahini, reserved broccoli stems, remaining garlic, remaining 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and ½ cup water in a high-speed blender until very smooth and the consistency of a loose hummus. Season purée with salt and pepper.

Spread ½ cup purée on a platter. Top with reserved broccoli salad and spoon dressing over (you won’t need all of it). Scatter herbs, sumac, and lemon zest over.

Do ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Tomato Salad with Warm Basil Dressing

The end of tomato szn is upon us. Make the most of it.

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced into rings

  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)

  • 1 cup basil leaves (purple or green)

  • 1½ lb. heirloom tomatoes, some sliced, some cut into wedges

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • Kosher salt

  • ½ lemon

  • Flaky sea salt

Cook oil, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots and garlic begin to turn golden, 7–9 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in anchovies, if using (they’ll dissolve in the oil quickly), and basil.

Toss tomatoes with vinegar and a pinch of kosher salt in a medium bowl. Transfer to a platter and pour warm dressing over. Finely grate lemon zest on top and sprinkle with sea salt.

Where else can I find Micah content?

Until next time, buh-bye.

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