Monday, October 12, 2009

Looming Defeat In Afghanistan?

IT'S HARD TO SEE THE PRESENT SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN as anything other than a disaster for the occupiers. They are more hated, more attacked, more vulnerable than ever. Their supply lines are attacked, whether they originate from Pakistan or through allied Caucasian republics - like the fuel tankers that were stolen and then bombed by ISAF in Kunduz, in the north. As they try to fight against the insurgency, they end up killing civilians, making even more people hate the US-led occupation and the corrupt Kabul government.
While the insurgency - derisively called the Taliban but, in reality a much more complex, decentralized movement - is growing stronger, deeper roots, the Americans and their allies are in pretty serious retreat. The new strategy by the US - with a resonance in Britain - of shoring up bases of military and political support in the cities is a major retreat and a surrender of rural areas.
It also smells a lot like the Soviet's failed strategy: "Moscow's original intention was to secure the major cities and lines of communications, while stiffening the morale of the DRA forces. The Soviets apparently hoped that the DRA would do most of the counter-insurgency fighting... The Soviets soon found that the Kabul army was unreliable and often loath to fight. If serious fighting were to be done, the Soviets had to do it."
The Soviets with a nominal Afghan army of 300,000, plus 100,000 of their own troops under a single command structure were defeated. The present occupation has about 100,000 nominal Afghan troops and just over the same number of ISAF and US troops. The foreign component is made up of troops from 42 countries, formally under two command structures, making it much more vulnerable politically than the Soviet military. If one of the big contributors - like the UK or Germany - pulls out under the varying domestic political pressures they face, it could easily lead to a domino effect. With the current round of retreats, the ISAF alliance will be made even more unstable.
Already, there is a minor kerfuffle in Canada about the legislated end-date for the Afghanistan combat mission of July, 2011. The Tories have been successful, in the face of a complicit Liberal opposition, in playing a shellgame to avoid the political consequences of an unpopular war. They have extended the end dates more than once, moved Canadian troops back into their bases to avoid combat - and thus casualties - they have bullied the opposition with calls to "support the troops". But they have failed miserably at generating any lasting mass sentiment in favour of continuing Canadian involvement in the war, with a constantly rising popular opposition to the war: "A poll conducted over the summer showed 54% of Canadians opposed the Afghanistan mission. That number was only 20% in 2002 when Canada first started sending troops."
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