Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Surge In Afghanistan? -- It May Already Be Too Late

On Wednesday July 18, '07 a British Parliamentary Committee report on the war in Afghanistan was released; it is full of bad news, and some inane talking points...

The Associated Press wrote a story carried in the International Herald Tribune entitled, "NATO's Force In Afghanistan Is Being Undermined, UK Panel Warns",

"The NATO mission in Afghanistan is being undermined by its members' failure to provide adequate troops and serious strategic mistakes, a British parliamentary committee said in a report Wednesday.

Echoing concerns expressed by senior British military figures in recent weeks, the legislators warned that the entire Afghan campaign is at risk if leading NATO countries continue to refuse to deploy additional personnel.

Lawmakers also criticized the pace of work to combat the opium trade in Afghanistan and said NATO was failing to communicate its successes to ordinary Afghans, handing the propaganda initiative to the Taliban."


The 'serious strategic mistakes' referred to above, is talking about the three major coalition entities working at cross purposes. With-in the nexus of these, NATO (with three different sets of engagement rules), Enduring Freedom (US Air Power and special forces), and the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief or ACBAR (relief groups) are the horrific, and unprecedented civilian death rates, the lack of coordination and investment in rebuilding and security, and the lack of a central military command. (!?)

The Guardian Unlimited weekend edition, The Observer, ran a piece by Nicholas Watt and Ned Temko last Sunday, July 15, '07. From interviews with Lord Ashdown, a career diplomat and politician, and Lord Inge, former chief of the defence staff, Watt and Temko out-line the British defence staff's opinion of the state of the war in Afghanistan:

(my emphasis)

"Inge's remarks reflect the fears of serving generals that the government is so overwhelmed by Iraq that it is in danger of losing sight of the threat of failure in Afghanistan. One source, who is familiar with the fears of the senior officers, told The Observer: 'If you talk privately to the generals they are very very worried. You heard it in Inge's speech. Inge said we are failing and remember Inge speaks for the generals.'

Inge made a point in the Lords of endorsing a speech by Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, who painted a bleak picture during the debate. Ashdown told The Observer that Afghanistan presented a graver threat than Iraq.

'The consequences of failure in Afghanistan are far greater than in Iraq,' he said. 'If we fail in Afghanistan then Pakistan goes down. The security problems for Britain would be massively multiplied. I think you could not then stop a widening regional war that would start off in warlordism but it would become essentially a war in the end between Sunni and Shia right across the Middle East.'

'Mao Zedong used to refer to the First and Second World Wars as the European civil wars. You can have a regional civil war. That is what you might begin to see. It will be catastrophic for Nato. The damage done to Nato in Afghanistan would be as great as the damage done to the UN in Bosnia. That could have a severe impact on the Atlantic relationship and maybe even damage the American security guarantee for Europe.'

Ashdown said two mistakes were being made: a lack of a co-ordinated military command because of the multinational 'hearts and minds' Nato campaign and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom offensive campaign against the Taliban. There was also insufficient civic support on, for example, providing clean water.

Ashdown warned: 'Unless we put this right, unless we have a unitary system of command, we are going to lose. The battle for this is the battle of public opinion. The polls are slipping. Once they go on the slide it is almost impossible to win it back. You can only do it with the support of the local population


To me, it doesn't seem that the message being sent by the military leaders to the politico's has gotten though. The Parliamentary Panel's high-lighting of the heroin issue shows a cultural myopia and a miss-understanding of the war that may actually speed the disillusionment of the Afghan population with NATO.

If we wish to see this through, we need an Afghan Surge, a spreading area of operations that
constantly establishes new 'forward operating bases' in each capital, in each town until every crossroads has a federal and/or local police presence. At The Same Time, irrigation and electrical infrastructure projects, and training on all levels must move ahead. NATO/ACBAR need to be paying farmers to work at improving the value of their land.

More than 33,000 western soldiers are in Afghanistan now. It's going to take perhaps 100,000 soldiers, plus twice as many civil engineers, planners, police, training not to mention MONEY.

This needs to be approached with the same sense of import as the reconstruction of Europe after WWll. This will be harder though, 20 years of war rather than 5, and a level of infrastructure and education levels that are behind by a century.


Negotiate with the Taleban, and get out as soon as possible. Offer the Taleban a share of government in exchange for a guarantee Afghanistan would not tolerate foreign extremists (Al Qaeda). It's an olive branch the Taleban have extended on several occasions; most recently when they made the statement that they had nothing to do with the 'new' suicide tactics in the
summer 2006. It will mean we have to tolerate another Iran -- a new Islamic state in the region -- in exchange for regional stability.

I think it's a good deal.

The buffoons in political office through-out NATO seem to think 2,000 more troops and few more helicopters will rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.

What the generals are saying -- I think -- is that we may wake up some morning soon, and be shocked to discover that over night, the Canadians
at Kandahar have been over run.

Canadians need to press government for clarity here, what will it actually take to win this war? Not one more drop of blood is worth it if this continues as an escalating series of civilian horrors.

FilterBlogs Afghanistan label.


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