The military option is going nowhere. The way forward is to emulate Pakistan by withdrawing troops and making deals
Friday October 20, 2006
"General Sir Richard Dannatt's brave call for an early British withdrawal from Iraq contained one logical flaw. It did not apply to Afghanistan, he said, because foreign troops were invited by the Kabul government. This gave them a different status from coalition forces in Iraq, "which is why I have much more optimism that we can get it right in Afghanistan". It was an odd remark since US and British forces have a standing invitation from the Baghdad government. There is a clear parallel with Afghanistan, just as there is in his core arguments: Britain's presence in Iraq is exacerbating the security problems, and "we are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear".
Both points apply to Afghanistan, where a combination of rising nationalism, impatience with Kabul's selection of corrupt governors, anger at the coalition's military tactics, and disappointment with its failure to improve basic services, is creating a tide of resistance. Afghan history shows that foreign interventionists, especially non-Muslims, only have a small window of time to show they are doing good. It runs out fast, particularly in the Pashtun south, the traditional heartland of opposition.
The Taliban are resurgent. British forces are taking casualties in clashes that Brigadier Ed Butler, the outgoing commander of UK forces, calls more ferocious than anything in Iraq. A retired US general, Barry McCaffrey, reported this spring that, unlike Iraq's insurgents, the Taliban operate in battalion-sized units of 400 men, equipped with "excellent weapons and field equipment" and new technology for roadside bombs.
The conflict's intensification reinforces the case, argued by a minority in the west after 9/11, that military attack would not solve the Taliban - or al-Qaida - problem. In Washington and London the desire to eliminate al-Qaida was wrongly combined with seeking regime change in Kabul - a goal the security council never authorised. A propaganda campaign demonised the Taliban so as to justify their removal as a victory, even though Osama bin Laden might not be found."