Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Military Action not the Solution To Afghan War

I make no secret of my desire for the war in Afghanistan to end. I welcome any initiative that brings that closer. But, what is the purpose of the new military drive (Operation Moshtarak) in Afghanistan? Why do NATO think they will be successful militarily, when no other force invading Afghanistan in the last 200 years, including the much bigger Soviet invasion, has been?

Many Taliban fighters are local Pastun, earning a living by any means. They were given plenty of time to go back to their homes, because of the way NATO publicized its attack well in advance. It even gave them time to lay many more lethal IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. They can just wait until the big push is over and the NATO forces retreat. The main threat to the Taliban is if the Afghan Government manages to win over the hearts and minds of the local population.

Unfortunately, the killing of 12 civilians in a rocket attack by coalition forces undermined this process from the start. Everyone knows that if you wage war, innocent people will get hurt. Well everyone except Tony Blair and George Bush.

One wonders how many of the invading Afghan force are Pashtun themselves and how likely the local population is to trust the previously corrupt Afghan police force? The pay for Afghan service personnel is said to be less than the Taliban pay their fighters and compensation for losing a limb is apparently only a one off payment of $400. How likely are the Kharzi Government to persuade the local population and particularly the local warlords to abandon their lucrative links with the Taliban? Massive investment in the local economy is needed, aid that should have been put in seven years ago.

I hope that Operation Moshtarak brings peace to Helmand Province. But history suggests that military action without diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban will not succeed. NATO has to decide what is the best policy, not just for local Afghans, but also for world peace? Another 15 years of war (as predicted by President Kharzi) or an accommodation with the Taliban? I predict it will be the latter. I just hope we do not have the 15 years of war before we get there.

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