THE COMING END-GAME IN AFGHANISTAN
"Given the steady flow of bad publicity and the general war weariness in the UK and other Nato countries, it is not a level of success I had been expecting to encounter. But in spite of the progress in Helmand, and the killing last year of bin Laden by US special forces, much can still go wrong. Afghanistan could indeed fall back into the hands of the Taliban – and the past decade could prove a waste of thousands of lives and thousands of billions of dollars. The recent spate of deadly Taliban attacks painfully highlights that Sheren Shah and his men stand little chance if he and other ANA leaders do not get the continued support they need to pose a credible threat to the insurgents. But, as it looks from here in Helmand, that failure is more likely to come at the hands of politicians eager to extract themselves from a war they can no longer afford than from the combat boots on the ground. Training Afghans to fight like an army only gets you so far. Western heads of state at Nato’s summit in Chicago next month will need to deliver sustained support to the ANA and Afghanistan as a whole if the ANA is to keep the Taliban at bay once the west’s troops head home for good". Andy McNab, "A personal dispatch from Afghanistan." The Financial Times. 28 April 2012, in www.ft.com. "We were not naive when made the Agreement. As I have indicated in Chapter II, I never believed that Hanoi would reconcile itself to the military balance as it emerged from the Paris Agreement without testing it at least once more. In our estimate, Saigon could handle most North Vietnamese encroachments, especially if American military and economic aid (permitted by the Agreement) was adequate. But we recognized that there might be gross breaches of the Agreement that could topple the military balance it ratified and that would be discouraged only by the threat of American military retaliation. American air power was thus always seen as an essential deterrent to the resumption of all-out war." Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Upheaval. (1981), p. 303. With the likelihood ever increasing of Western forces, especially the Americans withdrawing most of their troops from Afghanistan by the end of anno domini 2014, it becomes ever more of an imperative that said withdrawal be conducted in as controlled and orderly fashion as possible. The hope being that in a little over two years time, there will have been enough training of a core grouping in an Afghanistan, national army that, with merely Anglo-American special forces residue, and backed-up by drones and some degree of air power, based in Afghanistan proper, that the Taliban will, be unable to reconquer this wretched country. Make no mistake: the ongoing withdrawal of most western forces, is absolutely correct from a machtpolitik perspective. Afghanistan, per se, has no strategic significance. It is merely important, insofar as it is not used a base for terrorist and other outrages on Western and other countries. As we have all painfully discovered (with the exception of ex-Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld, who knew this all along) in the past two and half years, that a large and imposing Western military presence in Afghanistan serves no positive purpose whatsoever. That from a realpolitik perspective, there is no need or necessity for 'nation-building' `a la West Germany or Japan circa 1945-1951 / 1953. And that while from a humanitarian point of view, Afghanistan certainly deserves a colossal experiment in nation-building, it would appear that the USA is particular is singularly ill-equipped to undertake any such exercise now. With perhaps it being the case, that as the travel-writer, diplomat, and now Tory MP, Rory Stewart, has recently shown, humanitarian interventions in poor, Third-World countries are fraught exercises in which the likelihood of success is so finite as to be almost imcomprehensible to any rational correlation 1. Which to my mind, makes the relatively optimistic assessment of Mr. McNab in this week-end's Financial Times, all the more important: now indeed is not the time to 'cut and run', or to employ a Churchillian mot: 'scuttle'. That would indeed be the very worst of all possible outcomes to the Afghanistan imbroglio. 1.Rory Stewart. "Because we weren't there?" The London Review of Books. 22 September 2011, in www.lrb.co.uk.