Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The war that can bring neither peace nor freedom

The crisis of the Afghan occupation is a reminder of its fraudulent claims, growing cost in blood, and certainty of failure

Seumas Milne
Tuesday February 5, 2008
The Guardian

"The Afghan war, you will remember, was supposed to be the "good war". Unlike the catastrophe of Iraq, from which most former cheerleaders still prefer to avert their eyes, Afghanistan was thought to be different. Senior British military figures might wince in private over their Basra humiliation, but would earnestly insist that they were fighting the good fight in Helmand "at the request of the elected Afghan government". Gordon Brown felt able to tell parliament only six weeks ago that "we are winning the battle in Afghanistan".

But in the wake of a string of reports that the country is fast becoming a failed state and a humanitarian disaster, as armed attacks on western troops and Afghan forces multiply and Nato splits down the middle over sending reinforcements, that looks ever more other-worldly. The US coordinator on Iraq, David Satterfield, even suggested last month that Iraq would turn out to be America's "good war", while Afghanistan was going "bad"......

The war in Afghanistan, which claimed more than 6,500 lives last year, cannot be won. It has brought neither peace, development nor freedom, and has no prospect of doing so. Instead of eradicating terror networks, it has spread and multiplied them. The US plans to send 3,000 more troops in April to reinforce its existing 25,000-strong contingent, and influential thinktanks in Washington are pressing for an Iraqi-style surge. But only a vastly greater deployment could even temporarily subdue the country, and that is not remotely in prospect. The only real chance for peace in Afghanistan is the withdrawal of foreign forces as part of a wider political settlement, including the Taliban and neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan. But having put their credibility on the line, it seems the western powers are going to have to learn the lessons of the colonial era again and again."

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