‘Enduring Freedom’ and Afghanistan


in Bombs and rockets, Canada, Politics, Security

Montreal graffiti

Last night, I got into a brief conversation about the Taliban. It reminded me of a statement quoted at a Strategic Studies Group meeting I attended in Oxford:

People are being very careful not to be against the Taliban and ‘keep the balance’ so that they will not be punished for helping foreigners when the Taliban return.

-Police commander, Kandahar

This idea raises an important question about longevity. If the Taliban can outlast any deployment NATO will be able to maintain, it becomes essential to produce a government that will be able to hold its own against them in the long term. Otherwise, we are just delaying the transition back to Taliban rule. While I am definitely not an expert on the military or political situation in Afghanistan, it does not seem like the present Karzai government has that kind of capability, in the absence of direct military support from NATO.

The question thus becomes what, if anything, NATO can do to produce a (preferably democratic) Afghan government capable of enduring after their withdrawal. If that does not prove possible, the question becomes what we are hoping to achieve in Afghanistan, and whether any lasting good will result for the population as the result of the initial displacement of the Tabliban and the Al Qaeda elements they were supporting.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon @ Wadh October 28, 2007 at 10:53 am

That seems a suitable choice of graphic. Where was it taken?

Sean October 28, 2007 at 11:01 pm

I find it interesting that the police commanders says ‘when’ and not ‘if’. This makes it seem that people consider the return of the Taliban an envitable event.

Sad thing is, he may well be right. The fact that the Alliance cannot even get its members to furnish the appropriate level of troops does not bode well for their capacity to engage in something more complicated and protracted such as democratic institution building.

. October 29, 2007 at 1:56 am

MacKay calls for more NATO troops in the south
CTV.ca – 11 hours ago
Canada is doing more than its fair share in Afghanistan and other NATO countries must contribute more, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says after returning from a NATO meeting in Europe last week.

Brett Banks October 29, 2007 at 5:39 am

“Sad thing is, he may well be right. The fact that the Alliance cannot even get its members to furnish the appropriate level of troops does not bode well for their capacity to engage in something more complicated and protracted such as democratic institution building.”

I figure no level of troops is going to help when it comes to trying to artificially build democratic insitutions in a tribal region such as this.

Sean October 30, 2007 at 12:02 am

Brett, I have met many Afghan refugees who would disagree with you. I am not at all claiming that higher troop levels is a magic bullet. Their basic argument is that a more effective assault on the Taliban would create a more stable environment in which people would not be as fearful. Said stability would be an environment in which an indigenous form of democracy would grow. I cannot dismiss their views out of hand.

. October 31, 2007 at 1:03 am
Anonymous November 1, 2007 at 9:59 am

Japan ends Afghan naval mission

Japan has ordered the withdrawal of its two ships supporting US-led operations in Afghanistan.

The move follows the government’s failure to agree a deal with the opposition to extend the mission beyond the end of its mandate on 1 November.

. November 1, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Tone it down, Ottawa tells top soldier
‘Marching orders’ issued over Hillier’s controversial remarks

From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
November 1, 2007 at 2:00 AM EDT

OTTAWA — Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Rick Hillier, has been told to tone down his political interventions after he spoke out last week on the direction of the Afghanistan military mission, sources have told The Globe and Mail.

“He got his marching orders,” a senior government official said Wednesday. “He was reminded what his role is. His role is not to be the chief spokesperson for the mission.”

Gen. Hillier sparked controversy last week by saying it will be at least a decade before Afghanistan is able to field a professional military capable of managing its security. He also called on European countries to take a bigger role in the violent Kandahar region of Afghanistan, where Canada has committed 2,500 troops. Earlier in the week, the government’s Speech from the Throne said Afghans will be able to defend their sovereignty by 2011.

. November 1, 2007 at 1:22 pm

He added that, “Canada does not have responsibility for the long-term professionalization, professional development and major equipping of the Afghan National Army, which in my view, will take a significant period of time.”

. November 6, 2007 at 10:37 am

War without end

Oct 25th 2007 | KABUL
From The Economist print edition
Not winning, but not losing either

Nonetheless, as NATO’s defence ministers gathered this week in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, few observers doubt that the Afghan insurgency has years to run. The Taliban seem to have enough recruits, as well as a refuge and logistical base in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. They also have enough funds, an estimated 40% coming from the drug trade.

“The only way the Taliban can be defeated is with strong Afghan government, strong Afghan security forces and a wedge driven between the insurgents and the people,” says NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill. He accepts that NATO’s role is that of stopgap, as billions of dollars go into building the Afghan security forces.

. November 7, 2007 at 1:26 pm

After smart weapons, smart soldiers

Oct 25th 2007
From The Economist print edition
Irregular warfare may keep Western armies busy for decades. They will have to adapt if they are to overcome the odds that history suggests they are up against

“Western armies have unsurpassed firepower, mobility and surveillance technology. Guerrillas’ main weapons are agility, surprise, the support of at least some sections of the population and, above all, time. The warren of Iraqi streets and the fortified compounds of Afghanistan compensate for the insurgents’ technological shortcomings.”

“The dilemma for Western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is that, though they may lack the wherewithal to win, the national governments they seek to help are unable to stand up on their own. At best, Western armies can create the political space to build viable governments. But this has proved difficult enough even where the fighting has stopped and the main political forces have been co-operative (or at least acquiescent)—as in Bosnia and East Timor. It may be impossible under sustained fire.”

Anon November 13, 2007 at 9:56 am

Torture widespread in Afghanistan, Amnesty says
NATO troops urged to not hand over prisoners
Peter Goodspeed, National Post
Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reports of torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest are so widespread in detention centres run by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that Amnesty International wants NATO troops in Afghanistan to stop handing prisoners over to authorities there.

. November 29, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Afghanistan on the brink

Stumbling into chaos: Afghanistan on the brink. A report from the Senlis Council think tank claims that the Taliban has a permanent presence in more than half of Afghan territory and the country is in serious danger of falling back into their hands. The Canadian and British governments disagree.

Anon December 17, 2007 at 1:55 pm

UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief

Blunt assessment delivered as British hand over security to Iraqis

The full scale of the chaos left behind by British forces in Basra was revealed yesterday as the city’s police chief described a province in the grip of well-armed militias strong enough to overpower security forces and brutal enough to behead women considered not sufficiently Islamic.

As British forces finally handed over security in Basra province, marking the end of 4½ years of control in southern Iraq, Major General Jalil Khalaf, the new police commander, said the occupation had left him with a situation close to mayhem. “They left me militia, they left me gangsters, and they left me all the troubles in the world,” he said in an interview for Guardian Films and ITV.

. January 3, 2008 at 11:03 am

The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.

. April 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm

The state of NATO
A ray of light in the dark defile

Indeed, a recent report overseen by General James Jones, formerly NATO’s supreme military commander, declares: “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan.” Failure, the report says, will “put in grave jeopardy NATO’s future as a credible, cohesive and relevant military alliance”.

. September 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

Should We Still Be in Afghanistan?
Yes—and Obama must make the case on both sides of the Atlantic.
By Anne Applebaum
Posted Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, at 8:01 PM ET

Perhaps this summer’s bloody and tragic fighting season did it; or perhaps it was the disappointment of the election, with its low turnout, accompanying violence, and allegations of fraud. Whatever the reason, the Afghan war is suddenly at the center of political debate in several Western countries. At stake are not merely tactics and methods but a far more fundamental question: Should we still be in Afghanistan at all?

Given how different the political cultures of North America and Europe are sometimes alleged to be, the arguments are strikingly similar. In the United States, George Will has just pointed out that the Afghan war has now lasted longer than World Wars I and II combined. In Germany, the defense minister caused an uproar by predicting that German troops might be in Afghanistan for another decade; opposition leaders immediately started calling for a much faster withdrawal. Faced with public disapproval, the Canadians have had to promise to withdraw troops by 2011. The Dutch are supposed to pull out in 2010. At a conference I attended in Amsterdam last weekend, a large audience cheered when a panelist denounced the war. Demands for a time frame—”two more years and then out”—can be heard almost everywhere.

Don’t Forget Why We’re in Afghanistan and Iraq
We’re in a long war against Islamic terrorism.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, at 11:54 AM ET

Right though I so very often am, it always makes me feel distinctly queasy to find myself in the majority. A few weeks ago, I reported Rory Stewart’s increasing misgivings about the course being followed by NATO and the United States in Afghanistan. (Stewart has seemed to me both the shrewdest supporter as well as the smartest critic of the counter-Taliban effort—don’t miss what I quoted him as saying on both sides of the case.)

Now it seems that every columnist from George Will to Tom Friedman has decided that we are being played for suckers by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and drawn into a lethally baited trap by a Taliban that is increasingly able to pose as the voice of the Pashtun people. Some appalling disclosures from the recent Afghan elections seem to lend support to both of these dire conclusions.

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