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Afghanistan: sobering « Previous | |Next »
February 28, 2007

Intervention in Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is seen to be justified and it has bipartisan support, even though it is unclear why Australian troops are there; or even what NATO is trying to achieve. It is a low key war and the strategic aims are fuzzy. What sits in the background is the nation-building neo-conservative program of regime change, the ostensible purpose of which is to "drain the swamp" that supposedly nurtures the terrorist pestilence Al Qaeda who was given a home by the Taliban. Islamic fundamentalism rules.

The usual answer for NATO being in Afghanistan is the need to defend a secular liberal democracy by taking the fight to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The justification ends there. Mission creep continues in the face of a Taliban resurgence and control in the south of Afghanistan, even as we are told about the great "progress" that is being made in Afghanistan. Yet economic reconstruction—especially in some of the deprived southern provinces where there are security challenges—has hardly taken place, bin Laden seems to have become yesterdays villain in the process, and the existing government of President Hamid Karzai is weak and divided.

The gap between Western rhetoric supporting democratization and development in Muslim societies and the actual commitment that Western countries are prepared to make is large. Tariq Ali, in this article in Counterpunch suggests that all is not as it seems:

What was initially viewed by some locals as a necessary police action against al-Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks is now perceived by a growing majority in the entire region as a fully-fledged imperial occupation. The Taliban is growing and creating new alliances not because its sectarian religious practices have become popular, but because it is the only available umbrella for national liberation. As the British and Russians discovered to their cost in the preceding two centuries, Afghans never liked being occupied.

The American's victory in Afghanistan is beginning to unravel, and it increasingly looks as if President Hamid Karzai is ruler of little more than the capital city of Kabul. If a growing numbers of Afghans see the NATO-led forces as an enemy similar to the Russians, then there is no way NATO can win this war, given the rising anti-American insurgencies. The solution is political, not military. Is U.S. foreign policy fueling the very Taliban insurgency that the U.S. force is there to combat?

Update: 28 February
An account by Mark Silva from the Chicago Tribune of what it is like being a journalist traveling with the Dick Cheney, the US Vice President, to Afghanistan, after he'd left Australia. It highlights the rules for the press on these trips.

I presume that the objective of NATO in Afghanistan is to establish a long-term presence in the region and that Afghanistan and Pakistan is a base used by the US to launch covert operations into Iran. Western development strategy should concentrate on two areas: helping the Kabul government establish health and education facilities, which do not directly threaten regional rulers, and using the U.S. military to repair infrastructure, beginning with roads.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:29 AM | | Comments (8)


I would guess yes.

It's such an awful shame, I think military action in Afghanistan had a decent chance of success, followed by a relatively quick withdrawal. Until the idiocy of Iraq bled this fight of neccesary resources and focus.

Bush's (and by defaut Blair and Howard's) Middle East and anti-terrortism policies have been nothing short of disastrous for us all.

yes the intial military action was very focused. They the goal posts changed to an occupation that is bringing about a civil war.

I think there is the idea to stop the drug money going to terrorism too.


To stop drug money going to fund terrorism and to block the supply of drugs to the American street--does this imply the war of terrroism is the war on drugs? Did Dick Cheney go to Afghanistan to talk about drugs on the streets of Washington?

From all accounts the war on drugs isn't working. Afghanistan is still economically dependent on the cultivation of poppies, and this is still controlled by various warlords.

Quite a lot is coming to Australia too.

According to William Maley in an op-edthe Canberra Times> Brendan Nelson, the Defence Minister, said that:

The most important thing we've got to understand is that the same people that are causing all of the problems in Afghanistan are the same people that are causing problems in Iraq. We're fighting the same people in two different places."

Nelson is an intelligent chap so this is sheer spin. It's a civil war in Iraq between Sunni and Shiite. The Taliban in Afghanistan are quite different ,and they have their base in Pakistan. As Maley says:
Here is perhaps the key distinction between Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq conflict is largely generated by an internal dynamic. Afghanistan's troubles are largely driven by an external terrorist force and by the foreign state from whose territory it is able to operate.

He adds that Pakistan is acting far more destructively in Afghanistan than Iran is in Iraq. Yet one hears so little about Pakistan in the Australian media; or that the US would be in a highly delicate position within Afghanistan if it chooses to embark on a war against Iran.

I wonder whether a lot would be looking the other way as the drugs move into Iran. No doubt it is having a destabilising effect.

On a local Issue you may enjoy the latest Diffusion Radio as it relates to The Id Card Bill

Les ,
drugs or no drugs, NATO looks as if it could possibly be entraped in the "war on terror" in Afghanistan. As Russian deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov observed in an interview with Der Spiegel on the eve of the summit:

"The current situation in Afghanistan is indeed very reminiscent of the late 1980s when the Soviet Union was involved there. It is painful to talk about it, but even with its 110,000 elite soldiers, the Soviet Union never managed to gain control over the entire Afghan territory.I am firmly convinced that the security situation will never improve until you are able to very effectively monitor the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan ... [But] it's also difficult because Pakistan is a US ally, and because, at the same time, it is not an entirely democratic state....

The Bush administration still reckons that NATO could win the Afghan war - it's just a question of more troops. Iraq is the ghost that haunts NATO"s war in Afghanistan.