10 More Years in Afghanistan

August 5, 2009

If John Key thinks that further NZ military involvement in Afghanistan would be part of an ‘overall exit strategy’ from the country then he surely must think again. Such a naive position can only be a result of either ignorance or wishful thinking.

Although Western leaders are loathe to admit it in public, because it invariably goes down badly with voters, the military presence there is going to go on for a long time yet – if it is to end successfully.

A very good indication of this came yesterday from someone who no longer has to fear public opinion on the conflict: the former German Defence Minister Peter Struck.

His opinion is that German troops will be needed there for ten more years: ‘It would be nice if it were less, but we cannot kid ourselves’.

The conflict is receiving hightened media coverage here due to the upcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan, the elections to the German Bundestag end of September, and rising casualty rates.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “10 More Years in Afghanistan”

  1. Red Rosa Says:

    The definition of ‘success’ in Afghanistan is a tricky one. When the US armed the Taliban with Stinger missiles against the USSR helicopters, the result was touted as ‘Russia’s Vietnam’ and Russia’s loss counted as the West’s gain.

    We all know how well that turned out.

    The Vietnam analogy has some disturbing aspects today, 40 years on. A weak, corrupt central government almost totally dependent on US support, a countryside left wrecked by 20 years of war with no real reconstruction under way, the US coercing reluctant allies into an unwinnable guerrilla war……

    And like Vietnam, the war has to be seen in the wider context. Then, the extension of the Cold War; now, the battle for oil across the Middle East.

    After the ‘loss’ of Vietnam, it may be that a similar ‘loss’ in Afghanistan may not be the predicted disaster either.

    The British in their Imperial heyday were usually content to let compliant locals rule, rather than commit occupation troops for any length of time.

    And it may well be that this ‘solution’ is the only realistic one. Certainly, with memories of the various Afghan Wars, the British Foreign Office of 100 years ago would have thought so.

  2. MarkF Says:

    Henry, I doubt John Key is either wishful or ignorant on this one… he has good advisors in the DPMC and MOD who know a lot about the realities of the Afghan conflict. All of the Western governments would love to get out of the ‘graveyard of empires’ but can’t because the potential consequences of failure are way too high. All this stuff about ‘exit strategies’ and ‘timelines for withdrawal’ is media-generated nonsense. The West won’t leave Afghanistan unless they lose.

    @ Red Rosa: As you point out there is a wider context to the Afghan conflict, just as there was with regard to the Vietnam war. However I’m not sure that the main reason why the West wants to prevail in Afghanistan is energy security. It is more likely that ‘domino theory’ is once again in vogue, and with good reason.

    Kenneth Waltz once wrote something along the lines of ‘terrorists can be terribly bothersome, but they don’t have the ability to seriously threaten modern states.’ Taleban governments in Kabul and Islamabad would definitely have that capability. I don’t like war at all, but I recognise that the stakes are high this time.

    Back to the Vietnam analogy – the Indochina conflict started in 1945 when Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of independence was rejected by the French and the Americans. The war went on in one form or another until 1975. In comparison, the Afghan war has only been going on for 8 years. There is a wee way to go yet!

  3. Red Rosa Says:

    Mark F – I’d have to agree that a Taleban government in nuclear-armed Pakistan is a scary thought. But Pakistan has been a US ally for many years now, and its nuclear capability derives from US support. So hopefully it won’t happen.

    And let’s not forget that the US armed the Taliban, as graphically portrayed in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’. Sometimes Hollywood does these things well.

    Gorbachev pleaded with Reagan ‘don’t arm these people, you have no idea what they are capable of’ but to no avail.

    So to return to the Vietnam – Afghan analogy, the 30 year Vietnam war has some parallels if we date the latest Afghan war to the early ’80s…getting on for 30 years now and not over yet?

    And the sad prediction, again based on Vietnam, is that win or lose, the US will walk away and the civilians will be left with the mess.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: