Monday, 16 November 2009

The short of it

Copyright © Chris Riddell.

The above cartoon by Chris Riddell from Sunday’s issue of The Observer was picked out by Flesh is Grass. She writes, Abandoning Afghans doesn’t mean ‘peace’, and points to a post at Harry’s Place, Abandoning Afghans: Not in my name.

She also mentions watching for what I have to say.

The short of it: I agree. Some fighting is necessary. Failure is not an acceptable option. A more terrible war awaits if this one ends badly.

The last couple of Afghanistan posts here have been links to rather long videos of discussions on how to work towards political progress and reconciliation. I’ve been doing more listening than writing on this, partly because of work pressure, but also because the complexities are such that it seems more interesting to point to people with direct knowledge.

That said, it should still possible to form a view on basic principles despite not having personally grown a beard and walked the length of Afghanistan drinking tea with the tribes.

There is an old chestnut that never goes away about there being no military solution in a conflict like this, only a political one. And it’s half true.

The problem is with the other half, the half made up of an enemy which believes very much in a military solution, or a terror solution. Before anyone can negotiate with them, this enemy has to actually recognise that there is no military solution available to them, and to reach that point they will have to be fought. Fighting them isn’t the solution in itself, but it’s a necessary part of creating the conditions for a political solution, or as may be more likely, the multiple political solutions necessary in a conflict this complex.

There are many things that can go wrong, but the worst would be for leaders of the 42 countries contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan to lose heart. Some of those leaders are of course more vital than others. Many are facing a hostile press and a doubtful public. The response by UK and US leaders has been to emphasise the terrorist threat. But as Steve Coll of The New Yorker spells out, a repeat of past terrorism isn’t the half of what we may face if we fail.

Now more links:

First, here’s another long video, David Kilcullen and Andrew Wilder speaking at the United States Institute of Peace on Theory Meets Practice: Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, from the beginning of August. There is particular detail on problems in the aid effort, problems in political structures, and of course corruption, corruption, and complexity. More recently David Kilcullen appeared on BBC World Service Radio’s The Forum. (Via AM.)

And finally The Canada-Afghanistan Blog on Malalai Joya, and Ghosts of Alexander on Biden Plan in inaction in Nuristan. Speaking of which, may I suggest the Biden Plan be renamed the Gaza Plan for Afghanistan? Y’know, abandon the ground and the population to the enemy and then try to contain them with air strikes and hit and run operations. No fence though, so no tunnels. And a much bigger territory. Oh boy.


Roland Dodds said...

Well said Kellie. The Riddell piece is especially good.

Flesh said...

Thanks Kellie. You're particularly good on this.