The biggest failure in Afghanistan to date has been the way the international community has alienated the Afghani people. We cannot win the hearts and minds unless we are helping to fill stomachs and creating a sense of trust in future stability...
The basic needs of the local population are not being met and, as a result, the population is returning its support to the Taliban and other local power-holders.
The international coalition should focus on the immediate and long term economic needs of the local communities and any use of force should be balanced with extensive, visible and effective development efforts. Sustainable peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved by military operations alone: comprehensive and long-term development efforts are desperately needed. The success of the international mission in Afghanistan relies on convincing the Afghani people that development will provide for a better future than the Taliban offers and on the realization of these promises.
The argument that Canada needs a better balance between re-construction and military objectives, if it hopes to succeed, finds support from NATO's Afghanistan commander:
NATO's top commander in Afghanistan warned Sunday that the war is "at a tipping point" and more troops are needed to defeat resurgent Taliban militants.
Gen. David Richards, a British officer who commands NATO's 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, warned in an interview with the Associated Press that Afghans could switch their allegiance to the Taliban if daily life doesn't visibly improve during the next six months.
"If we collectively … do not exploit this winter to start achieving concrete and visible improvement," then some 70 per cent of Afghans could switch sides, Richards said
The Kennedy position is ahead of the curve, more realist than defeatist. The fact that military leaders now agree that drastic changes are needed if the international community is to be successful, puts the Kennedy view into the mainstream. I think it important for Liberals to offer a clear alternative to the Harper view heading into the next election. It is obvious that Harper's stubborness provides an opportunity for the Liberal Party to move the discussion forward in a way that is increasingly acceptable to Canadians. Kennedy's position puts the Liberals squarely between the immediate pullout position of Layton and the stay for eternity view of Harper.
People can question Kennedy's international experience, but it is relevant, that on Afghanistan, he appears to have accurately assessed the situation. The question for Liberals, do we go into the next election with a clear alternative or do we embrace a similar position to the Conservatives? In my mind, Afghanistan will be a central talking point during the next campaign, and Liberals would be well served by adopting the Kennedy position, because with each day his analysis looks far more reasonable and accurate. Kennedy's view isn't reckless, it's pragmatic and offers the best chance to counter the Harper/Bush view of the world. What was considered bold, now begins to look like an electoral winner with each passing day. Do we cede this issue to Harper, or do we offer a clear alternative view?
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy echoes the belief that Afghanistan will be key in the next election, and why it is folly to voluntarily cede the issue:
"Afghanistan is going to be the wedge issue in the next election," Axworthy said. "Mr. Ignatieff has shown horrible, bad political judgment on that issue. And he wasn't just a supporter of the war in Iraq, he was an outspoken apologist and advocate for it. It would make it impossible for a Liberal party to provide an alternative to the Conservative government if he was leader."
Another point of view.