Sunday, December 16, 2007

It Only Took Them Six Years to Realize It's Broken

Afghanistan reviewed - top down, bottom up and even sideways. The US State Department, the Pentagon and NATO are beginning to scratch their heads and wonder why six years of war in Afghanistan has gone exactly nowhere?

NATO already has an idea, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer recently dropping the stinker that the alliance can expect to be in Afghanistan for "generations." As though the place was worth it!

Why all this sudden interest? As the New York Times puts it, the White House and NATO are "deeply concerned about the prospect of failure" in Afghanistan.

"The reviews are an acknowledgment of the need for greater coordination in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, halting the rising opium production and trafficking that finances the insurgency and helping the Kabul government extend its legitimacy and control."

Greater coordination? Does that mean that, after six years of split and inconsistent leadership, they've realized the need for a unified command with something resembling real tactics? What a stroke of bloody genius!

And as for helping the Kabul government "extend its legitimacy and control," how can anyone hope to extend what's never been established? And how can Washington and NATO establish legitimacy and control in the Kabul government without ridding it of the warlords, drug lords and even insurgent collaborators within its ranks that leave it hopelessly compromised and corrupted? The Karzai government is one sick puppy, damn near terminal.

What this all comes down to is showboating, a bit of tinkering here and there, and that's about it. Proof of that comes in this line from the Times report: [the reviews] are not expected to result in a similar infusion of combat forces, mostly because there are no American troops readily available.

Typically, the White House and the Pentagon are trying to dump every bit of blame they can at the feet of NATO. Maybe it's just a coincidence that they never breathe a word of their boss's jackass decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan to play quagmire in Iraq. Maybe not.

My take on what's needed, right now, in Afghanistan. It would begin with NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer acting, for once, like he had a pair (even though he doesn't). That would mean standing up to the White House and the Pentagon and telling them to get their finger out and start massive transfers of troops from Iraq back to Afghanistan. It would mean reminding America that Afghanistan is their deal and their primary responsibility; that NATO expanded its role to allow America to get things finished up in Iraq; and that fighting the sort of insurgency the Taliban is waging is enormously labour-intensive. It would mean Scheffer telling Washington and the Pentagon that NATO is no longer willing to play enabler to a dysfunctional US military effort, no longer willing to be stooges in a hapless "war on the cheap" in Afghanistan. It would mean telling Washington and the State Department to come up with an effective plan, now, to clean up the Kabul government and transform it into a functioning central government that's worthy of shoring up.

If America isn't willing to make a genuine commitment to Afghanistan - and that's measured in many scores of thousands of troops - we're just barely treading water in a hopeless cause. If the Americans want to win this thing, or at least pretend they want to win it, it's time they bellied up to the bar. If not, let's get out just as soon as we can.

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