GOODBYE KABUL December 13, 2007Posted by wmmbb in South West Asia.
The news on one hand is NATO forces, principally the British with critical participation by the Americans have won a victory over the resistance in Afghanistan, and on the other that as in Iraq, Brown would prefer a strategic retreat. The sustainability of the victory at Musa Qala and the sustainability of the newly formed Afghan Army to maintain the peace is yet to be seen.
In immediate terms the successful of the Nato and Americans in capturing Musa Qala seems to be a strategic success. The Guardian had reported:
For the Taliban, Musa Qala has become a key centre of military and drug smuggling operations. For the international forces, ousting the enemy would take away their last major stronghold before the winter sets in, a period when the Taliban traditionally build up their reserves.
The irony is that the Taliban Government had successfully, or so it was said, prohibited the cultivation of drugs. It is significant that the Resistance successfully withdrew. Whatever the reasons for the withdrawal were, despite the allegation that the Taliban are religious fanatics it is clear that they did not regard this battle and this location as a Masada, suggesting the possibility of strategic intelligence which combined with courage makes for a formidable enemy. The people of the town will now see on the ground through ethnic and other lens as a daily experience the behavior of the newly minted Afghan Army. For example, if suicide bombing were to escalate, then we will know this has been an unsuccessful relationship imposed on an unwilling population.
The map gives some idea of the options that “the Taliban” had:
Map via BBC .
The assumption by the invaders, the British and the Afghan Army is that they will have the support of the local population. We shall see.
Now it seems the British will be withdrawing Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. Brown is proclaiming the heresy that the Kabul Government should talk with the Taliban, and it might well be the Taliban since the tribal elders who the British negotiated with earlier specifically in relation to Musa Qala do not seem to have been the right people to speak with. The suggestion is that Brown and possibily other European leaders have tired of the doctrine of endless war and domination by overwhelming force that leads to one Pyhrric victory after another, and no long term resolution of conflict and positive social reconstruction and development, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The Independent reports:
Six years after British troops were first deployed to oust the Taliban regime, the Prime Minister believes the time has come to open a dialogue in the hope of moving from military action to consensus-building among the tribal leaders. Since 1 January, more than 6,200 people have been killed in violence related to the insurgency, including 40 British soldiers. In total, 86 British troops have died. The latest casualty was Sergeant Lee Johnson, whose vehicle hit a mine before the fall of Taliban-held town of Musa Qala.
The Cabinet yesterday approved a three-pronged plan that Mr Brown will outline for security to be provided by Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and the Afghan national army, followed by economic and political development in Afghanistan.
But the intention to engage Taliban leaders in a constructive dialogue, which Mr Brown will make clear in a parliamentary statement today, will be by far the most controversial element of the plan. A senior Downing Street source confirmed the move last night and one Brown aide who accompanied the Prime Minister on his recent visit to Kabul, said: “We need to ask who are we fighting? Do we need to fight them? Can we be talking to them?”
The paper goes on to observe that the dialogue strategy is an attempt by Brown to position himself on ground that will be clearly different from his predecessor Blair and the lame duck Bush in his final months of office with little leverage over friend or foe.
It seems that now the British have virtually withdrawn from Iraq, more quickly than anticipated. The results of the Australian election may well have been influential albeit that the plan was well into its implementation. The Independent noted:
At the weekend, the Prime Minister made a surprise visit to Basra in southern Iraq and announced that the British handover of control of the region to local Iraqi forces would be completed within two weeks. British soldiers’ combat role will then cease, as they move to an “overwatch” role, and retreat to Basra Air Station.
It seems, according to The LA Times, that the US Military regard the war in Afghanistan as of secondary importance, unlike Iraq. Yet, it seems the Secretary of Defence, Gates, has contrary ideas believing that the US can hold their NATO allies feet to the fire, as reported by The Washington Post.
So predictably the Bush Administration has baulked at the suggestion. They are stuck in their world view and paradigm which goes deeper than a military doctrine, not necessarily shared by the US Military. The Europeans, including the British Government, I suspect never shared the Bush world view in the first place, and are not prepared to allow the costs to accumulate in the reckless manner of the Bush Administration.
Hugh White sees the Americans staying in Iraq, regardless of the outcome of the American presidential election. It is now clear that the British by contrast will leave Iraq as they will leave Afghanistan. Other NATO countries will not be far behind them. Hugh White said that the problem is too large, and the necessary time frame too long for the Americans and Nato to prevail in Afghanistan. The consequence is that the West will walk away.
The paradox is that the consequence of the methods of violence and destruction will be social disintegration, without the development of social movements, probably intimately related to one or another expression and form of Islam. Hence it is possible that in the fullness of this development would see the emergence of the nightmare the Americans have sought to suppress curiously, and counter intuitively by setting in train the conditions for its development.
If the Americans want to stamp around the world like vandals engaged in random destruction while causing their economy if not to tank at least subject to the decisions of foreign governments and erstwhile enemies, then it is up to them. At its best tearing up the fabric of life by military destruction or commercial exploitation and calling it creative, is tenuous and so disastrous as to call into question the sanity of the perpetrators. To imagine that life is not interdependent and interrelated is not civilization, but insanity.
Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy has a post, “Gordon Brown talks to Taliban”, with a different take suggesting that talking with the Taliban is a risky strategy for reasons that are unclear since in the end what else does the government in Kabul do if it is serious about extending its legitimacy and edict over the country?
I suspect that Tim is somewhat more coherent. My excuse, and it is only that, was I had too much information and I was getting tired.
The way in which News Corp have set up their blogs does not make it possible to link directly to the post, but at least you can see the comments.