Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And Good Luck With That

Afghanistan intends to ask the international community for another $50-billion in aid at the donors conference in Paris in June.

Unfortunately Afghanistan is old news, a country where the international community is already looking for the exit door. Lives have been wasted and billions squandered transforming Afghanistan from a failed state under the Taliban to a failed state under the rule of warlords.

I suppose massive amounts of aid will be promised in Paris but whether that aid will ever reach Afghanistan is another question. Much will probably hinge on next year's Afghan elections. Who will wind up running the show and what will their agenda look like? No one knows. At the moment, Karzai seems to be everyone's default choice but no one is particularly happy about it.

Afghanistan's other problem is that you can only be the poster boy for so long. Since the Taliban were routed in 2001, Afghanistan has been a bottomless pit for Western assistance, military and civil. However, with a government as corrupt and compromised as Karzai's, it's been little more than pissing into the wind. That sort of frustrating effort has a limited shelf life and Afghanistan has already passed its "best before" date.

No matter how hard we try not to notice, there are other problems in the world as deserving of our assistance and we're doing no one any favours by neglecting them. Food shortages, disaster relief, sectarian violence abound seemingly everywhere outside the borders of the Western world.

Besides, what's in it for us? Both Russia and China have a very tangible, economic interest in Afghanistan. They want at the mineral resources and want to run pipelines across the entire country. Why then aren't they handling the security? I don't think they would do a worse job of it than we have.

No, I don't think we'll be seeing $50-billion worth of sincere, binding commitments coming out of Paris next month. If America wants to prop up Kabul to keep it out of the sphere of influence of the Russians and Chinese, that's none of our business. We can put our money and our soldiers' lives to better use than as fodder for Washington's geopolitical games.

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