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Failing in Afghanistan

"Afghanistan is put up or shut up time for European nations in general and the EU in particular in the greater Middle East. Meeting responsibilities is in their own self-interest and is needed to forestall the first-ever failure by the Western alliance." concludes former U.S. ambassador to NATO Robert E. Hunter after a recent visit to Afghanistan. For a response to similar arguments see the Atlantic Review post: Are Europeans Unwilling to Share the Burden?
Hunter is right to point out that Europe's shortcomings are not limited to the military shortfall. I think that both Europe and the US have not provided sufficient civilian resources to meet their own ambitious (unrealistic?) goals in Afghanistan. Besides, Hunter exaggerates Europe's experience in "nation-building." Robert Hunter's article for UPI (January 2, 2007) has the headline "Europe's Afghan test," full text at the execellent blog Afghanistan Watch. Quote:
Those allies unwilling to face the risks of conflict agreed [at the NATO summit in Riga] to modify their so-called "national caveats" that keep them out of harm's way, but only in an emergency, and tactical airlift will still fall far short of basic needs.
Even so, the military shortfall is a small part of the overall problem. Equally consequential are the continuing inadequacies of the Afghan government (about which outsiders ultimately can do little) and severe limitations on the non-military civilian effort that is a sine qua non of Afghanistan's future. Allies with responsibilities for police training (Germany), fostering a viable judiciary (Italy), and stemming the renewed flood of opium poppy production (Britain) have fallen far short of what they agreed to do. Worse, there is no overall coordination of civilian activities undertaken by governments, international institutions and non-governmental organizations, and far too few resources. It is a truism that Western drug addicts are putting more hard currency into Afghanistan than Western governments.
In her Christian Science Monitor article "Air war costs NATO Afghan supporters" (December 18, 2006), argues that "an increase in air strikes has led to more innocent deaths as Taliban fighters use civilians as human shields." Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 1,000 of the nearly 4,000 Afghans killed since the beginning of 2006 were civilians. Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Marla Ruzicka's NGO Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) is quoted as saying that Taliban have been able to garner support in the southern provinces by providing much-needed financial aid for the families of victims killed by airstrikes:
The increased violence has left NATO generals begging for more troop contributions from reluctant member nations. Just Sunday, the French defense minister announced plans to withdraw the 200 special forces troops deployed under US command in southeastern Afghanistan. But with so few boots on the ground, the increased reliance on air power has led to thousands of civilian deaths. The devastating air offenses are undermining support for the Afghan government, say human rights workers and Afghan officials, and are turning public opinion in the four southern provinces of Afghanistan against NATO forces, who took command of the south from the US in August. The US Air Force dropped 987 bombs between June and November and fired some 146,000 cannon rounds as air support for NATO allies in the south. US aircraft fired more bombs in the first six months of this year than in the first three years of its campaign against the Taliban, according to figures released by the Pentagon.
I think, the lack of "boots on the ground" and the reliance of air power would continue, if Germany deployed a few hundred or a thousand troops to Southern Afghanistan, as many NATO allies demand. Just my opinion. What is yours? Many experts have argued that the US led coalition does not have enough troops in Iraq (about 150,000). What does that mean for Afghanistan, where even much less NATO troops serve (about 40,000)? After all, the Iraq Study Group recommended to shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, writes Afghanistan Watch

The Christian Science Monitor article continues:
Karzai wept openly on national television about his helplessness to protect the Afghan people from US, NATO, and Taliban violence. "We can't prevent the coalition from bombing the terrorists, and our children are dying because of that," he said with tears in his eyes during a speech to mark International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. At the Kandahar meeting, Karzai saved some of his harshest criticism for his Pakistani neighbors, a country he says has been actively helping the Taliban. "The problem is not Taliban, we don't see it that way," Karzai told reporters. "The problem is with Pakistan."
"NATO's strategy has eroded support for its mission as well as for Karzai - nothing could be more telling than Karzai weeping and complaining about NATO killing Afghan civilians," says Sam Zia-Zarifi, Asia research director for Human Rights Watch.
President Bush, however, praised Musharaf as an ally.

Likewise, renown Afghanistan expert Barnett R. Rubin puts a lot of blame on Pakistan as well in his Foreign Affairs article "Saving Afghanistan" (January/February 2007):
With the Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos. If Washington wants to save the international effort there, it must increase its commitment to the area and rethink its strategy -- especially its approach to Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to insurgents on its tribal frontier.
The Sidney Morning Herald argues "Pakistan could become next US nightmare" and is already harming NATO in Afghanistan.

The New York Times (via: Afghanistan Watch) published the editorial "Losing the Good War" on December 5, 2006:
Afghanistan was supposed to be the good war -- and the war America was winning. But because of the Bush administration’s inattention and mismanagement, even the good war is going wrong. The latest grim news is that after years of effort -- and more than $1 billion spent -- Afghanistan’s American-trained police force is unable to perform even routine law enforcement work.
About the police training see the Atlantic Review post: Germany and the United States Failed to Train Afghanistan's Police

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
Afghanistan Intervention "on the cheap"
Should Germany Send Troops to Southern Afghanistan?

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Atlantic Review on : The West's Problems in Afghanistan and Underestimating Al Qaeda

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An editorial in the Los Angeles Times is surprisingly supportive of Germany's position on Afghanistan: The old saw that there are no military solutions to political conflicts was never more true than in Afghanistan. Yet, in the five years since U.S. force

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2020 on :

Pakistan is the problem, Waziristan and North West Frontier Province. The jihad of the mujahedin against the Soviets was directed from Peshawar, drug trade was organized by the Trucker Union of NWFP, the Pashtunes/Taliban built a net of gas stations in Afghanistan (run with Iranian oil!) and secured the roads. I'd like to illustrate, that the taliban are not the stupid folks they are mocked usually, they are highly organized, they have large financial resources and their capitol city is Peshawar and Al Qaeda is the offshoot of the Mujahedin Service Bureau in Peshawar. Enduring Freedom only hit an arm of that organization, but not the heart. Operation Iraqi Freedom didn't even hit an arm. The only country in Central Asia that doesn't reject NATO's enduring presence in Afghanistan is Afghanistan itself. I ask you: What can the Western Alliance probably achieve in Central Asia against three billion people and five nuclear powers? Leave Afghanistan to Asia. Don't throw good money after bad, and living solders after dead. If you have an ally like Pakistan, you don't need an enemy.

2020 on :

War Poker: 110,000 soviet soldiers is the small blind. Any raises?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What? They lost that many soldiers in Afghanistan? BTW: Bill Richardson says redeploy troops to Afghanistan [url]http://thecenturyfoundation.typepad.com/aw/2006/12/bill_richardson.html[/url] I just mention it, because he is your favorite presidential candidate... ;-)

2020 on :

No, this is the number of soldiers that wasn't big enough to defeat the mujahedin. The SU officially lost 15,000 soldiers.

Zyme on :

Wasnīt it Soviet air superiority that first made attacking easy for them via using heavy helicopters - until the Americans supplied the Taliban (!) with state of the art anti-air missiles?

Wintermute on :

The Americans supplied the Mujahedin which is not the same as the Taliban. The Taliban mostly recruited themselves from foreigners that were financed by Saudi-Arabia and by the Pakistani Secret Service.

pen Name on :

No state neighbouring Afghanistan is against the presence of NATO troops except Pakistan. 3 Billion people are not against NATO project in Afghanistan - that is a lie. And who is the "2020" mean by "Asia" in his post: Japan? China? India? In fact the problem with EU and NATO mission in Afghanistan is that it operates in a political vacuum - it does not have explicit support from the neighbouring states. While no such support will be ever forthcoming from Paksitan, it is possible, in my opinion, to develop coordination, burden sharing, and support with China, India, Iran, and Tadjikistan. I do not know if EU states are capable of forging this type of informal alliance but it is worth exploring. And like everything else, they will have to be prepared to pay the price.

2020 on :

The 2005 NATO summit in Istambul declared Central Asia the 'sphere of interest', around its sphere of responsibility in Afghanistan. This implies the deployment of reconaissance(EW etc) troops in Afghanistan to observe the situations beyond the borders. I won't go deeper into military aspects here, but one thing is clear: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization immediately rejected NATO's Istambul declaration, it demands withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The SCO's member states are Russia, China, Usbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Tadshikistan. Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia already have observer status, all of them want to join SCO, Mongolia to be probably the first to join, then Iran (Russia's favorite). By now, the SCO represents ~ 2 billion people, plus observer states they are 3 billion and five nuclear powers (six if you like to add Iran). On the other hand, simultaniously Russia tries to expand influence in the middle east, most of all in Israel. Russia wants to recommend itself as an alternative to America as broker and garant of peace and security - in Israel. Russia wants to deliver natural gas to the middle east and Israel is the center piece in that strategy. Now look at both central asia and the middle east: Nothing but escalation to the disadvantage of the U.S.A. Very little can be done to turn around the situation once again, the more we put in, the greater the wind fall profits for Russia, Iran and so forth. Afghanistan will never be a western enclave, a white dot on the central asian map, which will be an SCO map quite soon. And Iraq?--- Maybe now you recognize the real, the greater strategic catastrophe Bush has put on America's horizon.

2020 on :

Six or five nuclear powers? Hm. I usually reject those complicates numbers beyond three.

Zyme on :

@ Pen Name Germany has established close relations to Usbekistan - which is neighboring Afghanistan. But all the other Nato Powers that used to have bases in Usbekistan (including the USA) managed to insult its government and have consequently been thrown out of the country. So it certainly isnīt Germanyīs fault when there is a lack of neighboring support!

2020 on :

Usbekistan, like other states in the region, accuses the U.S.A. of supporting caliphate movement Hizb ut Tahrir, which is most influencial in the region around the Fergana Valley. Fact is, that after the Andijan incident the U.S.A. helped 300 hizb activist escape to a secure country from one of their airfields in Kirgizia. Usbekistan's version is these activists tried to storm the Andijan prison and free their companions and that they had support from the American embassy. America of all countries fighting terror accused Usbekistan of dealing too hard with the islamists. Bizarre, but true.

2020 on :

And, by the way: In the long run we will profit from Usbekistan's reaction. Usbekistan is a very rich country, we can easily engage there even without America.

Zyme on :

Of course it is good for german companies and the strategical interests of our country. Our foreign ministry certainly is skilled enough in diplomacy to avoid certain topics. I believe this was the reason why the other Nato countries had to leave: While they publicly complained about Usbekistanīs inner affairs in dealing with demonstrations, our government has acknowledged that this is not of our affair. The responsible usbekin inner minister was even treated in a german hospital since he has cancer - although the european union had denied his entry in the union. Thatīs the way to make friends :)

JW on :

The German government might have made the right decision. Or maybe not. Perhaps there could have been a better way. The red-green government definitely was hypocritical. See the "Moralsupermacht" (morale superpower) post in Die Zeit blog: [url]http://blogg.zeit.de/bittner/eintrag.php?id=196[/url]

Zyme on :

btw: This applies to most countries in the region that used to be part of the soviet union. They want to be independent from Russia, so they cannot stick to that power. And since they have quite authoritarian governments and donīt bother with human rights a lot, they have difficult relations with USA. Thatīs why many stick to Germany.

JW on :

"Thatīs why many stick to Germany." Really? What makes you think so? Are you contradicting 2020 about his statements re the Shanghai Co-Operation Organization? Germany is not all that active in Central Asia. Only in recent weeks our government is slowly discovering that region... Steinmeier recently noticed that we don't have a Central Asia strategy... Did he mean Germany or the EU? Or both? "And since they have quite authoritarian governments and donīt bother with human rights a lot, they have difficult relations with USA." So why do Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have close relations to the US? Focusing on human rights could drive the Central Asian states into Russia's arms... In a sense, it already did. See the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. On the other hand, without human rights etc that region will not stabilize in the long run...

JW on :

[b]@ PenName, 2020, Zyme, [/b] Perhaps you could digg into this issue a bit and recommend some links concerning the Shanghai Coop Org's stand on NATO in general and on Afganistan in particular. I will then write a new post about it. Thanks. Excerpt from Wikipedia for those readers, who are not familiar with the [b]Shanghai Cooperation Organization[/b]: "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization which was founded on June 14, 2001 by leaders of the China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Except for Uzbekistan, the other countries had been members of the Shanghai Five; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organization. Many have looked at this organization as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)." Much more here: [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Co-operation_Organization[/url] Chicago Tribune: "The coming fight for oil" Excerpt: "Critics dust off Cold War-era labels to warn of a "new Warsaw Pact." But the reality is something different: a more perfect union for the age of oil. The group's six members--China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan--unite some of the planet's largest producers with one of its largest consumers. The group does not shy from flouting the West. In May 2005, less than two weeks after Uzbek troops killed protesters in the eastern city of Andijan, drawing the ire of Western powers, Beijing greeted Uzbek President Islam Karimov on a state visit to China with a 21-gun salute. Likewise, as the U.S. rallied support for sanctions against Tehran last June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a speech to the Shanghai-based organization to extol a future in which "we should remove the word `sanctions' from the political literature of the world." The group's boldest move came in July 2005, when it called for the U.S. to remove its military bases from Central Asia. Before long, the U.S. withdrew from Uzbekistan, and Washington is struggling to keep an air base in Kyrgyzstan. The Shanghai group has emerged as an "alternative universe" to the European Union and the U.S., said Sean Roberts, Georgetown University's Central Asian affairs fellow. "They have begun all the kinds of programs that other organizations like the EU carry out: training, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance," Roberts said. China, a single-party authoritarian state, even helped monitor elections in Kyrgyzstan in February 2005, he noted. " [url]http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-china-oil-htmlstory,1,2325279.htmlstory?coll=chi-news-hed[/url]

2020 on :

The SCO Website

pen Name on :

I am not disputing the displeasure of Shanghai Group with the NATO deployment. But that is precisely my point. You cannot introduce NATO into that area of the world without re-assuring Iran, India, Russia, and China. Apparently that was not done. From a military perspective the NATO troops in Afghanistan are a threat to Iran. From a political perspective, the NATO troops in Afghanistan are an implict re-statement of the NATO missions to a global alliance rather than a localized US European alliance aganist USSR. This new implicit role is a threat to Russia, China, India, Iran, and others. But beyond this, I had something else in mind when I mentioned burden sharing - as an example: As I suugested in a previous post, Iran could have been training the Afghan Police while Germany could have trained her military. Italy could have organized Afghan Army Corps of Engineers while US could have provided narcotics interdiction help.

JW on :

Ah, now I get it. "You cannot introduce NATO into that area of the world without re-assuring Iran, India, Russia, and China. Apparently that was not done. From a military perspective the NATO troops in Afghanistan are a threat to Iran." I tend to agree, but I have a few doubts and I wonder what this would look like in practice. Iran supported the US invasion of Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power since the Taliban were Iran's enemy. So at least initially, Iran was okay with it. I assume you think that Iran is getting nervous about NATO's continued presence in Afghanistan...? You think that Iran would be reassured, if it could train the Afghan police. Besides this would help the Afghan police and burden sharing with NATO. Okay, but how would the Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan react to that? Would the Northern Alliance approve of having Iran train the police? Do the Afghans want Iran to train the police? Pakistan would not like it. How do you want to reassure India, Russia, and China? If India gets involved in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will be even more concerned. China might be suspicious as well, since Indo-Chinese relations are not the best. Re Afghanistan's neighbors: Germany uses an airbase in Usbekistan. And the US and France use an airbase in Tajikistan, I believe. Surely, there must be some kind of reassurance, Afghanistan policy consultation and cooperation with those countries. Otherwise they would kick out the NATO troops.

pen Name on :

I do not know for certain how to re-assure any of these states since I am not a statesman (I picked Iran as an example) but I would think that NATO under UN flag would have been appropriate. The states that you mentioned: Usbekistan and Tajikistan are permitting US, France, and Germany as individual countries to use their facilities and not as members of NATO. At any rate, they do not carry strategic weight - others do.

2020 on :

No strategic weight? The Pamir in Tajikistan is "Russia's" most important geographical border to the south-east, Tajikistan is something like central asia's South Africa - and it has uranium. Tajikistan is in many ways a center piece of any central asian balance.

pen Name on :

Look my friend Tajikistan is a bunch of valleys (like Switzerland) that are occupied by various Persian tribes and very weak central government. Its location might be strategic - say like Malta - but as a state it is not weighty. Usbekistan also suffers from (Turkic) tribalism and a weak dictatorial central government. It is not as weak as Tajikistand but neither its economy nor its polity is capable of doing much beyond keeping the rickety structure of the post-Communist state going. It has very liitle strategic weight in terms of its ability to influence the course of events beyond its borders.

Yank on :

Odd. No mention here of all those "innocent civilians" killed by European troops. Not worth mentioning? Not the evil deed of evil European nations? Why? It's plain to see that it's because they aren't Israelis or Americans. If they were, all the comments would about THAT, venting outraged "humanitarian concern" in the form of demonization.

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