Afghanistan Might Not Turn Into A Hellhole. At Least Not In The Way The US And Britain Seem To Think
Ossie Makepeace writes from Kabul: Lots of people these days insist that the coalition forces should have never gone into Afghanistan. These members of the Let’s Get Out Now brigade are basically saying: to hell with the Afghans, let’s pull out. President Hamid Karzai, they add, can go to hell as well. As you can see it from here in Kabul, he won’t have far to go.
As for British and American soldiers, they’re being picked off, one by one, either by the Taliban or by Afghans dressed in military or police uniforms who are either ‘demented’ – the convenient ISAF excuse – or who have supposedly been insulted and humiliated in front of their colleagues and lost it. So bring our boys back home by Christmas, say British legislators in the House of Commons – or at least some of them say that.
Everyone knows it’s a mess and those who really know a thing or two also understand that logistically and practically it’s impossible to get the brave boys and gals home in time for mince pies and Santa. The British Foreign Secretary, the increasingly sad looking William Hague, said that the NATO decision to scale back patrols with Afghans will have what he called a ‘minimal’ impact on UK strategy.
But wait a moment, Mr Hague! Since when is the UK fighting a private war in Afghanistan? Come now, why not admit that policy is being made on the hoof. That’s pretty standard in a war. What is a little disturbing is that the Americans are panicking – again, pretty standard stuff in war.
That panic was relayed to ISAF and without much consultation, the Americans told ISAF to postpone joint patrols. So much for the coalition of the willing. The Brits are the other main joint patrollers and have suffered much from insider killings. It is clear that as ever, the Americans totally ignored the Brits. Instead they’re saying they have had enough and they’re doing what they have a record of doing in these imperial and colonial war things – giving up. Remember Vietnam if nothing else.
The British Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, is a reasonable man with a poisoned chalice. He’s presiding over the most mismanaged defence cuts in generations and knows full well there are going to be more so far unannounced reductions in British defence funding. Pulling out of Afghanistan, as much as he would like everyone home safely, will do nothing much more than allow the Treasury guys into his ministry with a slash and burn policy on major projects such as the two Royal Navy carriers and, what’s more – the public will support the Treasury. Not much of a job really.
So, when Hague and Hammond say nothing that’s going on at the moment will change British strategy they talk amazing self-important nonsense.
Everything in Afghanistan and Washington is moving too fast for Hammond. He was in Kabul a few days ago and told President Karzai that it was up to his people to get a grip on the ANA and police recruiting. In other words, it’s Karzai who must do something to stop green on blue. The Americans are not so daft as Hammond. The Americans know full well that Karzai cannot deliver his own crap to the pan as a cold-eyed colonel put it to me.
Karzai is due to go in 2014, the year his real minders in the form of the coalition forces skip the country. So who will run the country when he goes? Some think he’s lining up his brother for the job. Those same people point out that his brother is corrupt. This is the land of corruption, so what’s the big deal? Anyway, Karzai doesn’t really want his brother in the job. If that came to pass, Karzai might just as well get on the last helicopter out in 2014 – Vietnam style. His days would be numbered if his brother forced his way in.
Come the day, the people who have to sort themselves out are the Taliban. The old guard want their jobs back that they had post-Soviet occupation and the new idealists want a say in the country’s future – don’t forget it’s potentially a very mineral rich state. The problem is with the hoodlums who’ll have no status once the war is over. Parochially, Northern Ireland is a prime example of that as Hammond knows full well.
What will happen? Afghanistan will be partially governed and in desperate need of outside help. Once the main coalition brigades are gone they promise to leave a rump coalition left to continue training both military and civilian middle management – company commanders in both senses. A nation trying for peace cannot survive without its middle-class in everything it does. That should be the real Hague ambition – to provide just that.
The money therefore has to be on the idea that what’s happening now is something you could have guessed would happen and it will not change the long term way to a different Afghanistan. A grim Taliban takeover? Not entirely and in truth not really. There is no Eldorado for Afghans at the end of this but as long as Pakistan, India and the Central Asian Republics don’t squabble over the spoils of this war, Afghanistan will assume the grand status of an emerging nation. That’s not so bad.
And that’s why all the American panic and the British puffed-up ego don’t matter a bit. Mentally, they’ve already abandoned the place.