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Afghanistan: why? « Previous | |Next »
November 16, 2008

Why is Australia in Afghanistan? We are waiting for the Taliban to hand-over Osama bin-Laden. Since they are unwilling to do so they have to be bombed by NATO. The Taliban respond with an endless spate of bombings, instead of a conventional battle. They are denounced as resorting to terrorism by NAT0. However, the western military say that the solution in Afghanistan cannot be purely, or even mainly, military. Clearly, Washington has accepted that militancy, at least in Pakistan and Afghanistan, can't be tamed only through the barrel of the gun, especially given its resurgence in these countries. The military option is a descent into chaos.

So what are Australian troops are supposed to be doing there? Completing the mission apparently. Which is what? Looking for Osama bin-Laden?

Being involved in NATO's counter insurgency----the local Taliban are fighting against foreign troops in Afghanistan----makes no strategic sense at all in terms of Australia's national interest. That interest is not threatened by the Taliban. The Americans are calling for more troops---a surge. Europe resists. Spain, Germany, Britain----even Canada---- want to withdraw their troops.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:56 AM | | Comments (9)


It's called 'irrational escalation of commitment', or 'trying to recover sunk costs', or 'throwing good money (or in this instance, lives) after bad'.

In other words withdrawing without any discernible achievements would suggest that the whole exercise was ill-planned and pointless. In short, a gross error of judgement.

'Gross error of judgement' is not a phrase to be tolerated in the prime ministerial office under any circumstances.

Alternatively we're there fighting a desperate battle to prevent the establishment of a new caliphate extending from Morocco to Indonesia and who knows where beyond that, and if we cut and run, the terrorists will have won. I guess we should go with option 2, it's simpler.

The commitment seems to be completely wrong-headed.

The establishment of a national government in Kabul is not the same thing as having a state in a tribal society. Rebuilding is needed, since infrastructure such as roads are pretty much shot after over thirty years of war.Reconstruction as a purpose it is inconsistent with pursuing military subjugation on behalf of the Kabul Mayor.

The purpose of the mission is described as "working together with the international community to help prevent acts of terrorism around the world".Implicit in the purpose is the need to delegitimate terrorism. If at the same time there is aid and complicit acceptance of indiscriminate, remote, murderous aerial attacks on civilians, the moral argument falls to allure of barbarism.

We should not be palling around with terrorists, or terrorists methods, or terrorists purposes.

"The establishment of a national government in Kabul is not the same thing as having a state in a tribal society."

Five minutes out of Kabul in any direction is tribal. Afghanistan is not a nation state in political terms, which still doesn't seem to have been understood by those attempting to have a war there that runs along the lines of nation state logic. There's no way "a war" can be won there.

Australia's military presence there is symbolic. Had we sent in a bunch of industrial manufacturers and business people instead the thing would have been over by now. There's no way fudamentalism and terrorism would have won against money, McMansions, flat screens and Taragos. bin Laden would have been given up for an electric can opener years ago.

Somebody, can't remember who but it might have been Marx [that's Karl not Groucho], that "where there is muck there's money".
Same with war.
Lots of people make a lot of money out of wars, you can think of the usual suspects.
Wars are good for business. In Deep Throat's words [that the Watergate fella not the other] "Follow the money".

I've read somewhere that Pakistan is cutting off the main NATO supply route from Karachi to Kabul through the mountains into Afghanistan because it cannot be defended from Taliban and Al Qa'ida attacks

These are the same tactics used by the mujaheddin that crippled the Soviet Army by attacking its supply convoys.

Pakistan has been forced to turn to the IMF for a loan to help prevent it from defaulting on its foreign debts. It has run out of foreign currency reserves.

I concur with Lyn. Effective governance has never been exercised from Kabul. Local tribal leaders have always run the place. That should be okay with Australia so long as Al Qaeda is denied sanctuary. So we should provide incentives to local leaders so that they will see it in their interest to keep Al Qaeda out.

Now this is interesting book salon on FiredogLake. it is on Andrew J Bacevich's The Limits of Power .Ther he argues that the US has a dangerous self-delusion:

that tells them us are on a providential mission to save the rest of the world from itself, to implant our virtues – which we see as superior to all other virtues -- on others, and that we have a right to do this by force. This self-delusion, he writes, has corrupted Republicans and Democrats.

Barack Obama and those around him embrace, as does John McCain, the folly of the “war on terror.” The Obama administration may want to shift the emphasis of this war to Afghanistan rather than Iraq, but this is a difference in strategy not policy. By clinging to Iraq and expanding the war in Afghanistan the poison will continue in deadly doses.

The Pentagon is arguing against the US withdrawal from Iraq. They have too much stuff ---all those bases and equipment etc--- to leave Iraq any time soon.

It is not clear that an Obama administration will break from past policy or will just create a military-plus add-on ---a new surge---to it. The NATO allies will then be required to supply the grunt troops for the future surge.