Saturday, November 04, 2006

Losing Afghanistan

Beyond the tough talk about standing firm and ultimate victory, the reality of Afghanistan is increasingly distancing itself from the rhetoric. Last week, we heard alarming talk of a Taliban winter offensive that would "push" into Kabul. Evidence that the war is widening:
NATO troops fought suspected Taliban insurgents northeast of Kabul today, Afghan and NATO officials said, in the first major encounter in the area since the strict Islamist group's government was ousted in 2001.

NATO officials said the clash in the Tagab valley, 70 km from the capital, erupted after an alliance convoy was attacked while hunting insurgents in the area, just east of the main U.S. base at Bagram airfield.

Speaking from a secret location, a Taliban spokesman said militants destroyed several NATO vehicles in the twisting valley, where rebel activity has picked up in recent weeks for the first time since a U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban.

If the security situation around Kabul can't be guaranteed we move from quagmire to outright defeat. The Taliban are increasingly bold, not on the defensive as commanders suggest, but widening the conflict and taking the initiative. What is particularly frightening for Canada, the NATO response lags behind events on the ground and we are now trying to play catch-up.

There is no military solution in Afghanistan, and security will never be achieved by foreign troops. Admitting this reality is the first step in embracing a profound change in strategy. Someone needs to show courage and admit that our troops are accomplishing little on balance, and may in fact contribute to the Taliban resurgence. Afghans will never accept occupation, no matter the circumstance. The only hope for success lies in a massive infusion of capital to prop up domestic forces and re-construction. We can be stubborn and patriotic, but this "resolve" will be our ultimate undoing.


knb said...

Here's an interesting view of what is needed on the ground.

Steve V said...

Thanks knb :)

knb said...

Steve, after posting that article, I watched CBC, Our World, with Brian Stewart. His guest was Kathy Gannon.

The interview is not very long, but really interesting. She point blank says we, Canada, went in without a plan. She lays out a strategy that might have worked, (obviously a bit simplistic given her time parametres), but stresses that we did everything wrong. It looks to me, from her account, that Hillier sold Martin a bill of goods.

Stewart asks her about the "we're going in to kill scum-bags" comment and she quickly dismisses just how idiotic that thinking is.

She refers to the corruption in the earlier article I referred to and said it is just awful. Basically, Afghanistan is where it was, when the Taliban took over, and that's why they took over. The Minister in charge of eliminating the drug trade, is the largest drug dealer in the country. There were more examples that I can't recall, but it makes you shake your head in disbelief.

She does think it is salvagable, but not without a new, well constructed strategy.

If you get a chance to see the show, do. It's matter of fact and to the point.

Steve V said...

"It looks to me, from her account, that Hillier sold Martin a bill of goods."

I did a post on the Hillier angle awhile back, that linked to a Star piece(link doesn't work anymore). It was quite revealing, in that Hillier was bent on making our military relevant and sold the Afghan mission hard.

knb said...

Thanks for linking me to your previous post...really good.

It should indeed be obvious to all how we are mirroring the mistakes of Iraq. No plan or if you are really kind, no plan that is working.

As I'm typing this, I think I just heard a new Ipsos-Reid poll. Support for the mission in September was 60%, now, 44%. I'm not sure I heard it properly though.

There is no question we have to reassess. The one thing Gannon made clear, this mistake has been made at the expense of our soldiers.

This is madness and Harper has made it worse. What really makes me ill, is he must have known this when he threatened to extend the mission, regardless of the vote. Think back to when he said we'd no longer see the fallen coming home. A Bushism to be sure, but he knew full well that support would fall as men and women came home dead. Look at the difference between the US and us and how quickly the support fell for our mission.

Sorry, I know I'm all over the board, but I'm angry and I'm in a rush.

Our military does not deserve this legacy. A legacy built on machismo and misplaced ego. This man Harper is dangerous. Scotian has done a brilliant job of warning us about him, (you too Steve) but I fear too few are actually listening.

Olaf said...


"Resolve" as in a commitment to failed strategies is no virtue. I agree here. I've never been an advocate of the status quo, however I'm also not an advocate of abandoning the country to the Taliban. If a complete rethink of how best to prosecute NATO assistance is needed (as seems to be increasingly the case), than so be it.

knb said...

olaf, no one wants to leave Afghanistan to be run by the Taliban again. We are making mistakes though, we are not winning their trust, (Afghani's), and if we don't get that right, we are beat.

A complete rethink is in order, but how do we get the Harper government to do that, is the question. Hillier will stand by his comments and strategy. Does Harper have the know- how to dispute it?

I hope you watch the CBC show I referred to. She know's from where she speaks. Would that we had more voices such as her's, in Canada.

Mike said...


Its good to see a small-c conservative saying that. I have been saying this for months, but somehow it ends up that I am somehow "against the troops" for that kind of stance.

Perhaps if more guys like you would voice this, we might be able to save the mission. I fear it is getting close to the point of being too late.