Losing Afghanistan


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.

5 thoughts on “Losing Afghanistan”

  1. The situation in Afghanistan is quite troublesome. What has complicated the allied effort is the initial half-hearted effort the US had rendered by committing a limited number of military forces, and by allowing OBL to escape in Tora Bora because of the presence of the princes of Dubai.
    It was always obvious that any intervention in Alfhanistan would require a sustained and superior military commitment. American politics has unfortunately thwarted this military incursion.
    In addition, the chaotic social conditions in Afghanistan would require a super human approach. To bring a primitive society, that has never been successfully led by anyone into the 21st century, would require patience and considerable financial investment. One is reminded of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, who described in Germania, the nature of the primitive Germanic hordes. Therein lies a ray of hope even for Afghanistan. The Germanic masses had been described, a thousand years ago, to be just as
    barbaric as the Afghan people are today. If the West continues to work with Afghanistan, it stands to reason, that even they will one day join Western society in reaping the fruits of liberty. Since Afghanistan is rich in natural gas,
    the West will never completely foresaken it; this is of course not for altruistic reasons, but rather to feed the greed of US corporations to gain access to the
    wealth of Afghanistan.
    Pakistan plays a pivotal role in destroying Al Queda. President Musharaf, although willing to rid himself of the Al Queda presence in his territories,
    has only limited control in that matter. The West needs to continue to work with him. For, life without him in that region, would be infinitely more difficult.

  2. US commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan has been weak right after the overthrow of the Taleban government. This was a terrible mistake; however, this did not result from misguided concepts but from deliberate ignorance to the process of nation-building. The US has already abandoned Afghanistan like it had done after the Soviet withdrawal and the start of the tribal infights immediately afterwards.

    Given the current US backtracking in Iraq it is highly likely that the next stage the US will leave is Afghanistan. ‘Enduring Freedom’ may come to an early end.

  3. Could it be, Dr.Mangott, that the US corporations welcome a chaotic situation in Afghanistan in order to bargain as cheaply as possible for recovering the dormant wealth of Afghanistan?

  4. To a certain degree this could be a working hypothesis. However, US corporations need a resonably stable political environment and minimum standards of security. This requires a sustained military presence of US and allied forces. I am however, not convinced whether the current or a future US administration will maintain its military engagement in Afghanistan. There won’t be any cut an run, but I expect a phasing out within the next 3-5 years.

  5. “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.”
    Am I wrong, or did the US at first support the Taliban? Just like Irak? And why do they lose this country, which assumes that they must have owned it and there an overwhelming mistake in the formulation of a dubious conscousness is buried.

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