Sunday, 22 June 2008
From the Times
Stop killing the Taliban – they offer the best hope of beating Al-Qaeda.
The British expedition to Afghanistan is on the brink of something worse than defeat: a long, low-intensity war from which no government will dare to extricate itself. With the death toll mounting, battle is reportedly joined with the Taliban at the very gates of the second city, Kandahar. There is no justification for ministerial bombast that “we are winning the war, really”.
What is to be done? In 2001 the West waged a punitive retaliatory strike against the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11. The strike has since followed every law of mission creep, now reduced in London to a great war of despair, in which the cabinet can do nothing but send even more men to their deaths.
In seven years in Afghanistan, America, Britain and their Nato allies have made every mistake in the intervention book. They sent too few troops to assert an emphatic presence. They failed to “hit hard and get out”, as advocated by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary. They tried to destroy the staple crop, poppies, and then let it go to warlords who now use it to finance suicide bombers.
They allowed a corrupt regime to establish itself in the capital, Kabul, while failing to promote honest administration in the provinces.
They pretended that an international coalition (Nato) would be better than a unitary command (America), which it is not. They killed civilians and alienated tribes with crude air power. Finally, they disobeyed the iron law of postimperial intervention: don’t stay too long. The British ambassador threatens “to stay for 30 years”, rallying every nationalist to the insurgents.
The catalogue of western folly in Afghanistan is breathtaking.
Britain went into Helmand two years ago on the basis of gung-ho, and gung-ho still censors public debate. Yet behind the scenes all is despair. A meeting of Afghan observers in London last week, at the launch of James Fergusson’s book on the errors of Helmand, A Million Bullets, was an echo chamber of gloom.
All hope was buried in a cascade of hypotheticals. Victory would be at hand “if only” the Afghan army were better, if the poppy crop were suppressed, the Pakistan border sealed, the Taliban leadership assassinated, corruption eradicated, hearts and minds won over. None of this is going to happen. The generals know it but the politicians dare not admit it.
Those who still support the “good” Afghan war reply to any criticism by attempting to foreclose debate. They assert that we cannot be seen to surrender to the Taliban and we have gone in so far and must “finish the job”.
This is policy in denial. Nothing will improve without the support of the Afghan government, yet that support is waning by the month. Nothing will improve without the commitment of Pakistan. Yet two weeks ago Nato bombed Pakistani troops inside their own country, losing what lingering sympathy there is for America in an enraged Islamabad. Whoever ordered the attack ought to be court-martialled, except it was probably a computer.
We forget that the objective of the Afghanistan incursion was not to build a new and democratic Afghanistan. It was to punish the Taliban for harbouring Osama Bin Laden and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for Al-Qaeda training camps. The former objective was achieved on day one; the latter would never be achieved by military occupation.
A moment’s thought would show that any invasion that replaced the Taliban with a western puppet in Kabul would merely restore the Taliban as champions of Afghan sovereignty. The Americans sponsored them to be just such a puppet in the 1980s, funding some 60,000 foreign mercenaries to join them against the Russians. Intervention reaps what it sows.
Two things were known about the Taliban at the time and they are probably still true. First, under outside pressure their leaders were moving from the manic extremism of their “student” origins, even responding to demands to curb the poppy harvest. The present Nato policy of killing the older leaders and thus leaving young hotheads in charge is daft.
Second, the Pashtun Taliban are not natural friends of the Arab Al-Qaeda, despite Bin Laden being given sanctuary by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Bin Laden helped the Taliban by murdering Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader, but that put a Tajik price on his head, which no man wants. Then the 9/11 coup made the Taliban pariahs even within the region.
I have yet to find reason to doubt the Afghan experts who predicted in the aftermath of 9/11 that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda had become “unwelcome guests” in 2001 and that his days in Afghanistan, and probably on earth, were numbered.
Seven recent books on relations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban discussed in the current edition of The New York Review of Books scream one policy message: do not drive Al-Qaeda, set on crazy world domination, into the arms of the Taliban, set only on Pashtun nationalism. Do everything to separate them. Western strategy has done the precise opposite.
Posted by TONY @oakroyd on 22.6.08
Monday, 16 June 2008
Guards said they routinely beat their prisoners to retaliate for al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks, unaware that the vast majority of the detainees had little or no connection to al-Qaida.
Former detainees at Bagram and Kandahar said they were beaten regularly. Of the 41 former Bagram detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, 28 said that guards or interrogators had assaulted them. Only eight of those men said they were beaten at Guantánamo Bay.
Because President Bush loosened or eliminated the rules governing the treatment of so-called enemy combatants, however, few US troops have been disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and no serious punishments have been administered, even in the cases of two detainees who died after American guards beat them. Link
Posted by TONY @oakroyd on 16.6.08
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
100 British soldiers dead for nothing and don't the Army know it. The Canadian century of deaths is just a week or two away and for what? How many civilians dead? NATO dont know or care, ISAF ditto. See previous posts for the tip of the iceberg on the collateral carnage.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Britain is now using the disgusting unmanned aircraft the Americans use to blast targets in Afghanistan. We all know how accurate ISAF and NATO are in bombing 'terrorist compounds'regularly killing civilians. Who are the compound people anyway who live in 'compounds' rather than houses? More often than not they are civilians who the military want to dehumanise to justify their incompetence and increasing 'collateral damage'. Even the puppet Karzai, the Mayor of Kabul, is sick of it. Now the Brits can do it more easily. Link
Posted by TONY @oakroyd on 4.6.08