US and allied forces are about to lose Afghanistan: The anti-terror and anti-Taliban efforts as well as state- and institution building are bearing no sustainable fruit.
The democratic institution-building process initiated by the Petersberg Conference in 2002 has indeed initiated the build-up of state-institutions based on electoral choice by a vast majority of Afghan citizens. The current Karzai government however is fragmented, inefficient and torn by corruption. What is more, its authority is weak beyond Kabul and rests with rogue warlords in the provinces. Civic reconstruction is slow, under-funded and only partially directed. Infrastructure investment is far below desired levels and support for sustainable small- and medium sized enterprises is almost non-existent. Rural inhabitants’ reliance on drug-plants thus is reasonable and is all the more enforced on the locals by organised crime (most often linked to regional warlords) and islamist fighters. Co-operation between terrorist cells and organised crime is strong.
Western policies on Afghanistan lack vision and comprehensive efforts as well as financial commitment. The military operation within ISAF, less so in the framework of Operation Enduring Freedom, lacks sufficient personnel and equipment. The Taliban threat has increased over the past 14 months, particularly in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar; terrorist activities however are occuring also in other parts of Afghanistan. Allied troops are involved in fierce battles with brazen onslaughts by Taliban fighters. In this struggle allied fighters increasingly lack the support of the local population. The allies are losing the fight for the hearts of the Pashtun tribes in the south and the east of Afghanistan.
What is most threatening, however, is the build-up of large training camps of Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists in neighbouring Pakistan. The Musharraf-government is either unwilling or unable – most likely both – to prevent terrorists from controlling the Waziristan, Baluchistan and Bajaur provinces. Terrorists are constantly trespassing the borders to Afghanistan to strike against allied forces. What we witness are emerging ‘failed provinces’ and collapsed Pakistani state authority in the tribal areas.
Allied efforts to save Afghanistan from sliding into anarchy again needs stronger and sustained military efforts, the fusion of ISAF with the operation Enduring Freedom, stronger financial support for reconstruction, increased pressure on the Karzai government to deal with corruption and inefficient governance.
What is most important, however, is strong pressure on the Pakistani government to dealwith terrorist camps in their North-western provinces. Musharraf ought to be threatened with allied air strikes on Pakistani territory if Pakistani forces are not willing to deal with the problem themselves. For sure, this would mean a serious potential for destabilization of Pakistan. But doesn’t this indicate that the preconditions of military victory are undermined by political constraints?
If the battle for Afghanistan were to be lost, allied credibility will be wrecked and terrorist threats to allied countries will be dramatically on the rise. Allied military action against the rogue Pakistani provinces should therefore be seriously considered. This, however, will be difficult to be sold to war-wary domestic audiences. The military fight against terror is on the verge of being lost not only on the battleground, with the nations liberated – both the Iraqi and the Afghan people – but at the home front as well.
Allied societies and elites hoewever need to realize, that we are in a serious clash for civilization with backward societies and cultures. The dilemma of this fight is, that we are forced to make compromises with moderate elements of backward polities and cultures in order to make our defence of enlightened and human values feasible.