"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The long haul in Afghanistan

Show me where the roads end, and I will show you where the Taliban begins
Lt. Gen Karl Eikenberry, U.S. commander in Afghanistan

In Sunday's Washington Post, Jim Hoagland makes a very important point: If the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan, wary after 25 years of war, dictatorship and unrest, don't believe that the NATO allies are there for the long haul, the post-Taliban project will fail. Hoagland writes:
"The biggest challenge that U.S. and NATO forces face is not on the battlefield. It lies in building confidence in the country's rural tribes and sparse urban population that Western governments will stay deeply involved in Afghanistan for a decade or longer. If Afghans do not believe that, they are unlikely to take the risks of vast social and political change being demanded of them today."
NATO capitals should therefore commit to "providing a long-term military presence and significant development funding to Afghanistan as a matter of routine and strategy, rather than as a temporary military emergency". The multinational coalition must show the Afghans that the changes (for example, its new Constitution and democratic government) brought about so far will be deepened and made durable. Let us hope this is the guiding imperative being impressed on those on the ground by those in power in Washington, London, Ottawa and Brussels. The signs, at least based on public comments, from Canadian prime minister Harper's visit there last week are hopeful. The "previous injustices, miseries innumerable disasters" (to quote from the Preamble to its Constituton) which have befallen Afghanistan, and the goal of, eventually, allowing it take its place among the nations of the world are sufficient reminders of the task at hand.

Update (Mon. Sep 25th): Although I don't agree with some of what he says, John Kerry at least makes the same broad point.


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