Monday, October 6, 2008

Meanwhile in Afghanistan...

It will be interesting to see if Afghanistan comes up in tomorrow night's Presidential debate, because the news coming out of there in the past few days has been decidedly bad...

First was this rather stark admission by the commander of British troops in Afghanistan Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith who said over the weekend "We're not going to win this war."

Rather than all-out victory, the Afghan campaign (according to Carleton-Smith) should be about "reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army. We may well leave with there still being a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency," he said. It was a rather blunt statement of an argument that European officials have been making more quietly in recent weeks: that the American strategy in Afghanistan is deeply flawed and it will never bring about the decisive victory over the Taliban and al-Qaeda that American politicians talk about.

There is a growing feeling that the war in Afghanistan has reached a stalemate and that Western forces will never be able to entirely root insurgents out from the vast, wildly rugged Afghan countryside. History may back the critics up - in 1979 the Soviet Union conquered all of Afghanistan's cities in little more than a week, then spent the next nine years trying (and failing) to win a war in the mountains and valleys of the country; the mighty British Empire didn't do much better back in the 19th century.

And Western officials are reportedly getting more and more frustrated with the government of President Hamid Karzai, which is described as weak and corrupt (more on this in a moment). Karzai has his own problems with Western militaries operating in his country following several well-publicized events where Afghan civilians were killed, the worst being a US-led air strike in August reported to have killed up to 90 civilians. Karzai and some European officials are now saying that Western troops in Afghanistan are more of a problem than a solution – that their actions are doing more to strengthen the insurgency than to weaken it.

But there's a good chance there will be fewer and fewer Western troops in Afghanistan in the coming months anyway. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to get all of his country's troops out by 2011, while the Germans are saying they won't be renewing the deployment order for their special forces operating in south Afghanistan. And reports out of France are that some soldiers from that country set to deploy to Afghanistan are refusing to go. Ten French soldiers were killed in August after a daylong battle with Taliban troops, an event that turned French public opinion against the war.

Getting back to Karzai, according to the New York Times, the president's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is also reported to be a major drug dealer, profiting from the lucrative poppy trade (poppies provide the raw material for drugs like opium and heroin). Ahmed is said to use his position in government (he is on the council that rules a good chunk of Afghanistan, including the second-largest city, Kandahar) to protect his part of the trade. The Karzai brothers dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks.

Considering how both Obama and McCain have the fight in Afghanistan a part of their policy platforms, you would think this would be a topic to discuss in the debate. We’ll see if that happens…
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: