A British government report warns that failing to bolster the increasingly irrelevant government of Hamid Karzai could lead to an Islamist tide that could sweep into Pakistan and, some claim, eventually lead into a widespread Shia/Sunni regional war. From The Observer:
A report by the British Parliament yesterday said the British-led NATO force in Afghanistan, which includes about 2,500 Canadians, doesn't have enough troops to carry out its mission and the Taliban show worrying signs of strength.
The report, by the British House of Commons defence committee, highlighted a series of concerns, from a lack of training for Afghan police and armed forces to an unclear policy on eradicating the country's vast opium poppy fields.
But the chief preoccupation was a lack of support from other NATO countries to provide more troops to the 36,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, and evidence that violence, including Iraq-style suicide bombings, was growing as Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked insurgents expand their sphere of influence.
Peter Inge, the U.K.'s former chief of the defence staff, highlighted the generals' fears in public recently when he warned of a "strategic failure" in Afghanistan. It is understood that Inge was speaking with the direct authority of the general staff when he made an intervention in a debate in the House of Lords, the parliament's second chamber.
"The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognize," Inge said. "We need to face up to that issue, the consequence of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for NATO ... We need to recognize that the situation – in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan – is much, much more serious than people want to recognize."
Inge endorsed a speech by Paddy Ashdown, , who painted a bleak picture during the debate. Ashdown said 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."
Curiously the report seems to omit any mention of the 160,000 American troops now losing their war in Iraq who could, presumably, do a lot more good were they shifted to Afghanistan, the war they were supposed to win in the wake of 9/11. Oh dear.