Afghanistan: A country locked in a spiral of doom

From The Sunday Times
October 12, 2008

Afghanistan: A country locked in a spiral of doom

Christina Lamb has been reporting from Afghanistan for 20 years. Here she offers a chilling frontline analysis of why we cannot beat the Taliban

There is something sinister about the Chinook helicopter, like a giant, dark insect bearing down from the skies to disgorge battle-weary soldiers amid clouds of hot dust. When I think about war, whether it be ones I have reported in Iraq or Afghanistan or seen in Vietnam movies such as Apocalypse Now, the soundtrack in my head is always that of the throbbing blades coming closer and closer.

Last week I sat perched inside a Chinook flying over Helmand, trussed up in flak jacket and helmet, squashed between some Royal Marines arriving for a six-month tour. Unable to talk over the loud rotors, some had earphones attached to iPods. Others, like me, had to make do with yellow military-issue earplugs and spent the journey watching the gunner scour the parched land below through the open back.

For long distances there was nothing to see but our dark shadow skimming across the desert. On the horizon was a camel train, perhaps carrying the opium that will end up as heroin on British streets. Temperatures can exceed 50C out here, and the one mudwalled settlement we see seems to be sinking into the sands like an ancient ruin. Miles and miles from anywhere, we fly low over a man with a cloth turban wrapped round his head and a small herd of ragged brown sheep. He does not even look up.
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Afghanistan has been lost since the first US cruise missiles dropped in Iraq in March 2003.

Can you imagine the difference 150,000 coalition troops there could have made vis-a-vis now?

As score and score of experts have said: Astan was/is the frontline in the war on terrorism. Not Iraq.

As Winston Churchill once said: "Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention."
Skynet said:
Royal Marines arriving for a six-month tour. .... some had earphones attached to iPods.
They never learn do they :twisted:
In my opinion, the thing that has gone wrong with almost all the governments Britain has set up in other countries is over centralisation.

Over centralisation is bad even in an interlinked society like ours, in a third world country it is disastrous. The Taliban worked as an Afghan government because it was more of a franchise than a command structure. There was virtually no central government and local leaders made most of the decisions.

If you look at the successful ex British colonies, they are places that had effective local government when they were colonies and were allowed to retain this when they because independent. Particularly interesting is the USA; effective local government when under British rule led to effective national government being created by local government after independence.

It is also worth noting that when the west rebuilt West Germany after WW2, the states were given considerable independence, minimising the power of the national government.

So what we should be doing in Afghanistan, and Iraq, is building democracy from the bottom up. Start by getting town councils working, then province and finally national government. In both cases we are repeating the old mistake of attempting to crate an over powerful central government.

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