This post caught my attention. The argument that Jeffrey Goldberg makes is that Afghanistan isn’t really a “central front” in any kind of war on terror. (An aside, once again, why are we fighting a tactic?Using current nomenclature we should call the Cold War the “War on Missiles, Tanks, and Submarines” or something.) Anyway, my quibbles with Goldberg’s wording aside, I think he raises a salient point: Afghanistan is a place where al Qaeda could train, but most of al Qaeda’s members come from elsewhere.
What this means is that NATO is caught in a place where there was little native impulse to attack NATO countries because the preceding regime had allowed al Qaeda to hide out there. NATO troops may be able to make some temporary improvements in the lives of women, but these seem not to withstand NATO’s withdrawal from any particular area. Reforms do not extend beyond the range of NATO arms.
It should now be readily apparent that all we are doing in Afghanistan is propping up a budding dictator in Hamid Karzai while creating native anger at the West by bombing weddings and destroying the poppy crop that provides a livelihood for many farmers.
Today we have further confirmation of the longstanding suspicions of many progressives, namely that the NATO mission in Afghanistan is likely doomed to failure. The report leaked to WaPo indicates that US Gen. McChrystal has serious doubts about the ability of NATO to overcome the Taliban insurgency. The one caveat he does give is that success (however he is defining it) could be secured by adding troops.
More troops from where?
Most NATO countries, including Canada, are lukewarm to the idea of pouring more forces into Afghanistan and the US itself still has major commitments in Iraq. In the meantime the accusations of corruption inside Afghanistan likely do little to invigorate anyone in NATO with the idea that democracy or human rights are being defended. Karzai is looking more and more like your average Western-backed pseudo-democratic puppet dictator.
We need to seriously ask what, if anything, we can do for Afghanistan.
Last night on CBC there was more talk about extending Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. Wait a sec, didn’t Harper panel of magical wizards foretell that by 2011 Afghanistan would turn into a democratic and stable society? It’s supposed to be totally different this time since supposedly this will be a development-focused mission, but really, how are you going to do that without security. We are stuck in a war that we cannot win in a place where a sizable chunk of the population resents us.
There is going to be a show on CNN called Narco State: The Poppy Jihad. As an aside CNN seems determined to ensure that no one can accuse them of not being more alarmist than Fox News. The problem, at least in the angle that CNN is promoting is that the Americans and their Afghan proxies are fixated on eradication. Additionally, they seem to equate the farmers with the Taliban.
Here are some thoughts: I don’t imagine that there’s much that grows in Afghanistan, it appears to be fairly hostile terrain in the pictures that are sent back here, what else are people to do in rural areas? If you have to farm, and poppies are the most (only?) profitable crop, what are the farmers reasonably expected to do? If the US or Karzai will not allow them to farm, from whom would they seek protection?
In other words, is it even remotely surprising that farmers are growing poppies and that they are doing so under the protection of the Taliban?
If the West is only going to eradicate poppies, it will lose the mainstream rural population in the poppy-farming areas Afghanistan. It’s really that simple.