Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Taliban Are Winning

Further proof that the Manley Panel report is a load of political hogwash came today in the release of several reports showing that we're not winning in Afghanistan but the Taliban is.

The Atlantic Council of the United States, in a report prepared by former Afghanistan NATO commander, retured US general James L. Jones, warns that NATO is, at best, in a "stategic stalemate" as the Taliban expands its influence in the countryside and the Karzai government fails to carry out vital reforms and reconstruction. From the Washington Post:

"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said the report by the Atlantic Council of the United States. "Afghanistan remains a failing state. It could become a failed state," warned the report, which called for "urgent action" to overhaul NATO strategy in coming weeks before an anticipated new offensive by Taliban insurgents in the spring.

A second report, by the Afghan Study Group, co-chaired by General Jones and US diplomat Thomas R. Pickering stressed the urgent need for the appointment of a UN High Commissioner to coordinate the international effort, a move that Karzai sabotaged last weekend.

Progress in Afghanistan "is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country," said the report by the Afghanistan Study Group.

Wow, we're not winning? The Taliban's winning? Odd that our military wunderkind, Rick Hillier, hasn't been sounding the alarm here at home, isn't it?

Of course we're not winning, something the Karzai government all but guarantees. Lest everybody realize how useless he is, Karzai blocks the appointment of Paddy Ashdown as UN super envoy, torpedoing it at the very last moment and setting the whole effort right back on its heels. You'll know Karzai is serious about salvaging Afghanistan the day he arrests his first drug lord. That's right, he hasn't arrested one of them in the past six years and it's so easy. All he would have to do is start with his own brother Ahmed who's reported to be in thick with the opium trade.

If there's to be any hope of saving Afghanistan we have to get rid of Karzai and the warlords and drug lords and common criminals who have insinuated themselves into positions of power in his government. We have to stop pretending that this guy is our guy. He's not.

Forget the helicopters, forget the extra troops, forget Manley and Harper. That's all meaningless nonsense until we can establish some sort of decent, functioning governance for Afghanistan. Maybe this is one of those Diem moments. Then again, how well did that turn out?


Larry Gambone said...

The British couldn't do it, The Russians couldn't do it either. How arrogant to think that the US with Canada as its toady could dominate Afghanistan! Leave thee people to work it out for themselves. IF the US hadn't meddled in Afghanistan in the 1980's to get back at the Russians, maybe there would be a secular state and not the Taliban.

Fish said...

Not exactly the most sound reasoning I've ever seen Larry.

Try to remember that the Japanese Empire was undefeated for centuries until they ran into that little stumbling block in the 1940s. Just because something has not been beaten, does not mean that it cannot be beaten.

We might also want to take into consideration that the Japanese had humbled the mighty Russian Empire in 1905, and had even won a few minor victories against German colonies during the First World War. Were the allies arrogant to think they could defeat them in 1941?

We are already doing better than the Soviets in Afghanistan, who, in ten years of fighting, lost approximately 14,000 men. The NATO forces have only lost a few thousand in 6 years of fighting.

I'm not trying to convince anybody that Afghanistan will be an easy victory, but the funny thing about war is that sometimes your enemy won't just roll over and let you kill him. There will inevitably be victories for both sides. Just don't give up at the first sign things aren't going our way.

As for Karzai, at least there is some semblance of democracy with him around. If he is removed it will be Diem all over again.

The Mound of Sound said...

C'mon Fish, you have to do better than that. "..doing better than the Soviets?" By what measure? We ought to be enormously grateful that there isn't a hostile superpower out there eager to train, equip and fund the Taliban with the latest weaponry or we'd be toast.

Here's a question for you Fish. Give me an example of a successful counterinsurgency waged in the manner we're conducting this war. Just one. Please. I promise I won't be too picky.

As for Karzai, you place way too much value on his government's "semblance of democracy." I guess that's because it also has a semblance of collaboration with the insurgency, participation in the opium trade, facilitation of feudal warlordism, Sharia oppression. It resembles so many things, faintly.

On a "compare and contrast" question, you would find your comparisons of the Taliban and the Japanese simply are irrelevant. You have to do better than that. When did the Japanese wage a nationalist insurgency?

No, Fish, I'm siding with Larry on this one. We could stay there twenty years and wind up precisely where we are today - if we were very, very lucky.

Fish said...

I'll grant you that fighting a war against a super power is not the same thing as fighting a war against an insurgent or "guerilla" force. But the basic point remains the same, just because something has never been done does not mean that it cannot be done.

As for your request for an example of a successful counterinsurgency, exactly what do you mean by "in the manner we're conducting this war"? Off the top of my head I can think of one or two successful counterinsurgencies, the first one to pop into my head is the Boer War. Unfortunately, the British won this war by rounding up a bunch of innocent civilians and holding them in concentration camps (where many died). Call me a hopeless optimist, but I still beleive there has to be better way of defeating guerillas.

Two more examples that spring to mind both happened in this country, the Batoche rebellion by the M├ętis was crushed by brute force, and then of course there is the FLQ. I realize these are huge leaps, but I'm not trying to prove victory is in our grasp, merely that it is possible. And besides, you promised not to be too picky!

Back to Karzai though. I am not so naive as to beleive that he is some kind of Afghani Mandela (as we all know nothing could be further from the truth!). But in international politics, you have to deal with other leaders, even when they are dictators. At least Karzai was elected. True, he does beleive in a lot of things we do not (you just listed a bunch of them), but maybe the people of Afghanistan do, and we have to respect that.

We have helped build democracies in other countries with no democratic tradition before and we can do it again. Once Karzai's position is strengthened a little, perhaps he can be persuaded to go after the opium dealers, perhaps not, but right now I'm more concerned with the Taliban.

The Mound of Sound said...

Fish, your optimism is positively breathtaking! It's also very refreshing albeit naive. Who cares? Keep thinking those good thoughts.