How to Save Afghanistan

#1
How to Save Afghanistan

Thursday, Jul. 17, 2008 By RORY STEWART

It is summer now in Kabul, the snow has largely melted from the 15,000-ft. (4,600 m) peaks, and I am sitting with my friends Hussein, Nabi and Zia in the garden of a 19th century fort. Nearby, 10 carpenters who work with my nongovernmental organization (NGO) are creating a library for a buyer in Tokyo. They're fitting slivers of wood into a delicate lattice and carving flowers into the walnut shutters. They work fast and smile often. But Nabi, a gentle-voiced 66-year-old cook, is not smiling. He is pessimistic about his country. "We have been promised progress by every government since 1973," he growls, "but it is getting worse and worse."

Nabi's pessimism is very common now in Afghanistan. There has been a dramatic series of recent attacks by the Taliban: a mass assault on a jail freed hundreds of prisoners, and a suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy on July 7 killed 40 and injured over 100. Many of these assaults are planned and supported from safe havens across the border in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Western troop casualties are climbing; the last two months exceeded the monthly death toll in Iraq. On July 13, nine U.S. soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters swarmed over their base in the eastern province of Kunar — the worst attack in three years.

But terrorism and insurgency are only part of what's going wrong in Afghanistan. In 2002, I walked safely along the length of the road between Herat and Obey in western Afghanistan. Recently aid workers were carjacked on that road, and it is now considered too dangerous for aid agencies, effectively closing the main access to the central regions of the country. In provinces close to Kabul, such as Wardak, Ghazni and Logar, which were easy to visit two years ago, foreigners are regularly attacked and girls' schools burned at will. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world's opium (used to make heroin) and 35% of its cannabis and has a flourishing trade in looted antiquities. In a vicious cycle, narcotics, corruption and the absence of law and order are rotting the heart of the government and crippling the economy. Despite massive Western investment, Afghanistan is close to being a failed state.
More on the link
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1823753-1,00.html
 
#2
Playing to Our Strengths
A smarter strategy would focus on two elements: more effective aid and a more limited military objective. We should target development assistance in provinces where we have a track record of success. Our investment goes further in stable and welcoming places like Hazarajat than it can in hostile, insurgency-dominated areas like Kandahar and Helmand, where we have to spend millions on security and the locals do not contribute to the project and will not sustain it after our departure. We should focus on meeting the Afghan government's request for more investment in agricultural irrigation, energy and roads. And we should increase our support to the most effective departments, such as education, health and rural development; they are good for the reputation of the Afghan state and the West. Creating more educated, healthier women and men and better transport, communications and electrical infrastructure may be only part of the story, but they are essential for Afghanistan's economic future.

Our efforts in nation-building, governance and counternarcotics should be smaller and more creative. This is not because these issues are unimportant; they are vital for Afghanistan's future. But only the Afghan government has the legitimacy, the knowledge and the power to build a nation. The West's supporting role is at best limited and uncertain. The recent elimination of the opium crop in Nangarhar, for instance, was driven by the will and charisma of a local governor and owed little to Western-funded "capacity-building" seminars. The greatest recent improvements in local government have come about through the replacement of local governors rather than through hundred-million-dollar training programs. Since these successes are often difficult to predict, we should invest in numerous smaller opportunities rather than bet all our chips on a few large programs.

Our military strategy, meanwhile, should focus on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency. Our presence has so far prevented al-Qaeda from establishing training camps in Afghanistan. We must continue to prevent it from doing so. But our troops should not try to hold territory or chase the Taliban around rural areas. We should also use our presence to steer Afghanistan away from civil war and provide some opportunity for the Afghans themselves to create a more humane, well-governed and prosperous country. This policy would require far fewer troops over the next 20 years, and they would probably be predominantly special forces and intelligence operatives.

This strategy is far from ideal. But it's the best option we've got. It might not allow us to build an Afghan nation. It would involve a very long-term policy of containment and management, and it may never lead to a clear victory or exit. But unlike abandoning Afghanistan entirely, as we did in 1990, it would not leave a vacuum filled by dangerous neighbors. And unlike a policy of troop increases, this strategy would be less costly, more popular with voters, more sustainable in the long term, less of a distraction from other global priorities and less likely to alienate Afghan nationalists and undermine the Afghan state.

Transforming a nation of 32 million people is a task not for the West but for Afghans. Creating a narrative of national identity is not a technical engineering problem but more a question of mythmaking. Afghanistan's future must combine elders like Nabi with the aspirations of 5 million refugees, recently returned from Pakistan and Iran. And it will be influenced by even larger forces: the eddies of local ideologies, charisma, the fundamentals of population growth and natural resources, global commodity prices and the nation's relations with its neighbors, from Iran and Pakistan to China. It will draw on government bureaucracies and opaque tribal structures, on old constitutions and new cultures, on religion and luck. Afghans have the energy, the pride and the competence to lead that process. The West, however, does not. It should not waste its money, its lives and its reputation trying to do the impossible. It should invest in what it does well. We do not have a moral obligation to do what we cannot do
There are so many contradictory messages in his conclusion it must be the work of one of these here interlecktuals.

I acknowedge his time in country , FCO and NGO work, but I still found myself muttering "That's bollox" through a lot of it. The base , in spite of his earlier statements is still "throw more money at it" in spite of his saying we shouldn't.

His suggestion to segregate by investment is tantamount to suicide. You can't leave one part of the country wild and ungovernable, it will eventually spread like cancer to envelop the rest.

I am also at odds with his perception that things will get better if we blow more warm air up Karzai's butt.

None of his smiley-happy assessments can progress without security. That security comes from defeating or severely restricting the Warlords and Taleban and assorted riff-raff.

How are you going to distribute aid and good works in your future utopia without security and stabilisation Professor Stewart?


In a vicious cycle, narcotics, corruption and the absence of law and order are rotting the heart of the government and crippling the economy
I suggest you're looking at this in the wrong direction Professor, the rot is on the inside rotting out, not the other way round
 
#3
Was always thus PTP.

I think Rory's opening sentence hits the nail;

"A smarter strategy would focus on two elements: more effective aid and a more limited military objective."

I agree that the need for security is absolute, in order to allow effective aid and distribution, but this government neither has the capacity to do this, either in Afghanistan or Iraq. Therefore, the work of the IO / NGO community is severely limited. Irrespective of HMG's stock lines. The UK Government ventured into Afghanistan clueless in relation to the reality.

Last paragraph goes with my view in relation to the spend of tax dollars in the rebuilding. Small wins and plenty of them.

Incidentally, his book is well worth a read.
 
#4
Simple jon thinks the military can do their job. The problem is will the Politicians do theirs or just sell out the Servicemen who lives they have placed on the line.
john
 
#6
I am inclined to agree I can't see how you can get progress without security when dealing with a fanatical regime like the Taliban. His suggestion seems to be that the locals will deal with the Taliban. If that was the case why didn't they do so prior to western intervention. On the other hand half hearted and uncoordinated western intervention seems to me to to be a policy which will continue with a perpetual war neither side being able to prevail.
 
#7
Another book in the offing on how you saved the world, eh Rory :roll:
 
#8
Skynet said:
I am inclined to agree I can't see how you can get progress without security when dealing with a fanatical regime like the Taliban. His suggestion seems to be that the locals will deal with the Taliban. If that was the case why didn't they do so prior to western intervention. On the other hand half hearted and uncoordinated western intervention seems to me to to be a policy which will continue with a perpetual war neither side being able to prevail.
For "Half hearted and uncoordinated western intervention" read; Containment.

It would seem (to a layman) that policy is governed by a 60 year old post WW2 ideal. Policy seems to suggest that "we have not the resources, political will or public confidence to crush you, but we will do just enough to keep you on your toes and maintain a semblance of security". Cynical? Moi?

To hell with the "perpetual war" of Orwellian nature and the musings of the conspiracy theorists, the fact is that Afg` is a strategic nightmare. But, at the moment with western commitment as it is, will (seemingly) mean a foreseeable perpetual war.

So what about war by proxy? Indigenous resistance? Little victories? Possibly, but a none starter without security surely? How many times has this been tried? Africa was ruined by such endevour over the last 40-50 years. Central America, a hotbed of liberal democracy? Where is Oliver North now?

How about complete destruction of infrastructure, political aparatus and landscape? Hey....it worked for Germany and Japan!
 
#10
We cannot 'save' Afghanistan.
Leaving aside the unspoken arrogance of such a goal, this is an airy-fairy utopian mission statement, doomed to failure.
British soldiers in Afghanistan can only succeed in specific concrete and discrete exercises against identified enemy targets, whilst political pressure continues against Pakistan, Iran and radical islam.
An awareness of larger strategic and geo-economic goals in the region is helpful.
 
#11
Pakistan needs to be brought into the forground in A-Stan too. They need both to have a vested interest in Pakistan and be held accountable for military units moving freely across their border.
 
#12
Turn the desert to glass, tarmac it and make a huge park & ride for Iran.

Flippant I know, but we know the real reason, don't we?
 

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