Sunday, 3 May 2009

Spring Place

Kentish Town, London, yesterday lunchtime. Like the previous painting, this was on paper I’d coated with colour before leaving home, green this time obviously.

When I saw this photo of soldiers in a poppy field on the front page of the International Herald Tribune a couple of days ago, I was tempted to have a go at copying it in paint. But instead you get the street sweeper vehicle and a car tail-light. See Abu Muqawama here and here for doubts on a poppylationcentric strategy in Afghanistan.

Also at Abu Muqawama: Bad Days for the British Army, which links to this FT editorial. The FT writes:
In an epic week of cack-handed decisions, tin-eared judgment and political misery for the government of Gordon Brown, by no means the least damaging move – for the country rather than the Labour party – was choosing to duck out of sending more UK troops to Afghanistan.

Let us be clear. There are huge problems with strategy towards Afghanistan. Local political development is warped by corruption and warlordism, but also by most economic development being in the hands of NGOs and foreign aid agencies. It is hard to see how the fight against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies can be combined successfully with a losing war on drugs. In geo-strategic terms, Pakistan’s soldiers and spies will not cease supporting jihadis as proxy warriors in Afghanistan (and Kashmir) until détente with archrival India is resumed. Clearly, there are also well-rehearsed differences between Nato allies about what fighting an insurgency means.

Nonetheless, if the UK is committed to the war in Afghanistan – and it is – it must will the means. Grand strategy aside, if the British government sends an expeditionary force to perform a difficult and dangerous job, it is an elementary political obligation to provide it with adequate resources. Unlike Iraq, this was not a war of choice.
The rest here. (If you have difficulties registering for FT articles it’s possible to view the whole thing by replacing the word ‘false’ with ‘true’ in the address displayed on your browser.) 

The one argument neglected by the FT is one raised by a commenter at Abu Muqawama earlier  in the year, that while fighting the Taliban in Pakistan may be essential in defending Afghanistan, holding Afghanistan could equally be essential if there is to be any chance of defending Pakistan from the Taliban. Extremism in Pakistan is a direct threat to Britain as well as to Britain’s allies. To help counter that threat the British government must be prepared to do everything possible in Afghanistan. Sending 700 temporary troops when the army wanted a long-term deployment of 2,000 more is not doing everything possible.

More on Afghanistan from Ghosts of Alexander, “thanks for the money, I’ll use it to kill you later,” and watching Rambo III. Earlier in the week from AM on  Pakistan, Kilcullen on the Pakistani Army, and also via AM,  Nicholas Scmidle suggests saving Pakistan by drawing a line along the Indus River. This suggestion in itself graphically shows how bad things are.

And via the SWJ, today’s Telegraph has a headline saying “US general says Pakistan could be just two weeks from collapse” though the article says something different, that General Petraeus is giving Pakistan’s military two weeks to act before coming to a decision on how the US should respond to Taliban gains. Newspaper editors, don’t you just love ’em?

Also today, in the Washington Post, Moment of truth in Pakistan, again via the SWJ:
“My experience is that knocking them [the Pakistani government and military] hard isn’t going to work,” said Mullen. “The harder we push, the further away they get.” For the crackdown on the Taliban to be successful, he said, “it has to be their will, not ours.” 
That’s Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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