November 02, 2009

All I want for Christmas is...

...a census and land registry for Afghanistan. This is one reason why:

President Obama is still working hard to figure out the next steps in the very difficult war in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in the field, is pressing for an additional 40,000 troops. Obama's top advisers are split. Americans seem to be increasingly skeptical about prospects for victory.


But the task has suddenly become a lot easier: The CIA has gotten rid of 5 million Afghans! Poof! Just like that!


Turns out the agency was substantially overestimating the country's population. The long-used number -- 33.6 million -- was derived from a 30-year-old census that has now been determined to be high.


Not just a little too high, but 5.2 million people too high. The new official count, 28,396,000, is lower by more than 15 percent. A CIA spokesman e-mailed Friday that the agency's population figures, both the old and new ones, were provided by the population division of the U.S. Census Bureau.


So that's a lot of phantom Afghans -- including maybe a few hundred thousand Taliban supporters, maybe a million? -- that we no longer have to worry about. It also means that Iraq is officially larger in population (28,945,657) than Afghanistan.