Afghanistan on the brink
November 28, 2007 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Stumbling into chaos: Afghanistan on the brink. A report from the Senlis Council think tank claims that the Taliban has a permanent presence in more than half of Afghan territory and the country is in serious danger of falling back into their hands. The Canadian and British governments disagree.
posted by homunculus (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

posted by dhammond at 11:38 PM on November 28, 2007

Let them have it.

We can't unconvert the populace.
posted by sourwookie at 12:01 AM on November 29, 2007

They're in their last throes. Just keep it out of the news until 20 Jan 2009.
posted by orthogonality at 12:08 AM on November 29, 2007

Or perhaps more NATO countries could be contributing to the mission. It's a huge job, considering the fact that Pakistan is effectively undermining NATO efforts. But, at the very least, we should be trying to develop infrastructure and provide alternatives to poppy growing. And we can't do that if the Taliban are there. We can "convert" the populace by improving their standard of living, improving access to medical care, improving access to schools.

On the flip side, it would be great if NATO troops could avoid shooting or bombing Afghani villages.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:21 AM on November 29, 2007

I was interested by the comments made by a returned British Paratroop Regiment officer in a lengthy and fairly informal talk at a press forum. He said that in Helmand more and more of the fighters are now coming in from across the border in Pakistan. His view was that general xenophobia among the Afghans would do the job his troops couldn't - there was some tolerance for the Taleban when they were local, but very few had much time for these outsiders. So while there might be fighters about, they're doing a worse job of hearts and minds than the government and coalition.
Of course, the officer in question is in the business of putting things in the best possible light I presume, but it seemed a credible line as presented.
posted by Abiezer at 12:32 AM on November 29, 2007

On the flip side, it would be great if NATO troops could avoid shooting or bombing Afghani villages.

Definitely. Karzai has asked the US to stop the air strikes because so many civilians are being killed.
posted by homunculus at 1:04 AM on November 29, 2007

It's not really worth talking about Afghanistan as one unit. The South is one thing, the North another, Central Highlands another, Herat a fourth. It's also, I'd say, not clear what "falling into [the Taliban's] hands" means - the areas outside the main markets will likely always be more or less lawless. The ruling elites over the past few centuries who have been successful have made it their business to control the market towns, and let the tribal areas govern themselves, buying off threatening tribal confederations and appeasing the mullahs or tribal chiefs as necessary (and not pissing them off by systematically destroying their major crop).
posted by YouRebelScum at 1:45 AM on November 29, 2007

How to solve Afghanistan's Drug Problem via Slate that's right : Legalise It as NATO would like to do. Unsurprisingly the US does not approve.
posted by adamvasco at 4:05 AM on November 29, 2007

Adamvasco - it won't work. Turkey had a government that functioned outside Istanbul - Kabul simply doesn't. I remember once going up a valley in Nangarhar with (unbeknownst to us) an eradication team coming up behind us. I asked the old grey-beards what was going to happen, and they just grinned their big toothless grins. There were a few kids with radios and Kalashnikovs sitting about, and a bunch of patrols walking through the fields, as well as a pick-up ripping up and down the road with something larger calibre mounted on it. They'd done their homework on the political will to eradicate in the Jalalabad governor's office, they'd evaluated their options and decided that if the police came out, they're best choice was to have a fight. In fact, next time we came up, we learned that the police had indeed had a go, realised the road was blocked and casualties were probable, and never came back.

You can't run a legal crop next to the illegal - the Afghans can't grow it competitively with the Turks or the Ozzies or the French at present, and if you pour money and effort into making Afghanistan competitive (training, better inputs etc), then that training and those inputs would be used for the illegal crop as well. As far as I can see, demand reduction by legalisation of use is the only way to stop it.
posted by YouRebelScum at 4:36 AM on November 29, 2007

posted by psmealey at 5:31 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

We can't unconvert the populace.

Keep in mind, the insurgency is almost purely a Pushtun phenomena. The Tajiks of the north are quite content and want nothing to do with the ongoing war (understandable, as they have won the last one). The people I work with in Kabul want peace, democracy, and security.

YouRebelScum nails it. If there wasn't an aggressive US/Canada/Brit presence in the south and east, there wouldn't be nearly as much resistance to the current regime.

And the Pakistan situation is bizarre. At least the Vietnamese insurgency was being supplied through wacky communist fellow-travellers. In this case, our main ally in the region is also the outside source of the opposition fighters... WTF?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:39 AM on November 29, 2007

All well and good to say that we should simply pull ou and let the Taleban run the place if this is what the people want. However, when Osama used Afghanistan for training camps, the Taleban would not close down the camps or allow us to capture Osama, and thus we invaded. As for the opium: latest reports suggest that additionaly, pot and has becoming a big crop.

As comments have noted: Pakistan seems key to changing anything in that part of the world and that country seems scarcely willing.
posted by Postroad at 6:10 AM on November 29, 2007

Postroad: I don't think we should pull out, I think we should hold the towns, and not piss off the tribal areas with agendas we can't win (counter narcotics and I'd tentatively say women's rights). As soon as we pull out there's a civil war and a hell of a lot of misery, plus the consequences you mention. At the moment, the Afghans' fire is being saved for squaddies from Glasgow, Newcastle [add US/Ozzie/Dutch equivalent here] etc. rather than other tribes/ethnicities.

Pot and opium are not necessarily mutually exclusive: pot's a summer crop. I know villages where they double-crop: opium nov-june; pot june-october.
posted by YouRebelScum at 8:33 AM on November 29, 2007

Postroad: Sudan offered OBL to the U.S. in the late 1990s. There wasn't enough evidence for DoJ to build a case against him, so they decided the best bet was to force Sudan to kick him out. This they did, he set up shop back in Afghanistan.

Fast forward to 2001. Summer and fall of 2001, the Taliban govt offers to turn OBL over to a neutral party or in fact even to the U.S. directly (their statements were various, but there were clear signs that his arrest could have been negotiated should anyone in the Bush administration have wanted it to happen). You invaded (or more precisely, you joined a previously existing civil war on the side of what was then the insurgent army) for reasons other than to capture OBL.

The Taliban government, OBL/Al Qaeda, and the present Taliban insurgency were all financed by the Pashtuns in North Pakistan and by the Pakistani ISI (intelligence service). You're quite right that Pakistan plays a key role in the future security of the region, but you're missing the fact that they have and continue to be active in this regard. They're quite interested in creating change in the region, just not always to the same ends that you, the U.S. or the Nato mission are interested in kindling. And note again that the reasons and ambitions for even those three parties may not always be in agreement.
posted by kowalski at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2007

Interesting link, homunculus, thank you.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2007

« Older Logic puzzles   |   Christmas + Tamales = Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments