Fighting the wrong war in
Afghanistan By Dad Noorani
KABUL - In the lead-up to an anticipated
Taliban spring offensive against the Afghan
government, international assistance to the
war-torn country has increased.
States recently committed US$10.6 billion, which
includes $8.6 billion to beef up the country's
security forces. It will also contribute armored
vehicles and light arms to the Afghan National
The European Union has
promised a 600 million euro (US$786 million)
assistance package for Afghanistan for 2007-10.
package will focus on three
key priority areas: reform of the justice sector;
rural development, including alternatives to poppy
production; and health.
contribute $100 million toward reconstruction. In
addition, the United Kingdom has promised to send
800 additional soldiers to take on the Taliban,
while US President George W Bush has decided
officially to boost US forces in Afghanistan by
delaying the departure of a 3,500-unit combat
brigade that had been scheduled to return home
This will leave a record
24,000 US troops deployed in the country. Of
these, about half operate as part of a
34,000-troop North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) peacekeeping force and the rest under
separate US command.
From the very first
day the Democrats took control of the US Congress,
they declared that the US will refocus attention
on Afghanistan and increase its military and
non-military assistance to the country. Thus top
party members Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi
visited Afghanistan last month.
this renewal of commitment to Afghanistan is
welcomed, the overwhelming emphasis on winning
peace by military means is not likely to succeed,
as has been the case in the past.
Afghanistan's mounting problems cannot be
solved by military means alone. It needs much
greater assistance for reconstruction, development
and improvement of governance.
problems are not purely home-grown. Sustainable
peace in Afghanistan depends on the destruction of
the vast terrorist support infrastructure in
Pakistan and the arrest of the Taliban and
al-Qaeda leadership hiding in that country.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda have operational
bases in Pakistan's Balochistan and North-West
Frontier Province, from where they plan attacks
against Afghan security forces and Western troops.
This raises the issue of whether more
assistance largely spent on non-development
priorities will actually help to improve the
situation in Afghanistan.
A study of donor
policies over the past five years has convinced
many analysts that if the international donor
strategy concerning Afghanistan continues to
operate on the same assumptions, there will be
little reason to expect the security situation to
The widely promoted assumption
that more NATO troops and increased US military
action are the only way to defeat the Taliban is
both naive and dangerous.
The more NATO
expands its operations in Afghanistan and the more
the US military pursues its myopic hunt for
Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, the more it risks the
lives of its own soldiers and the fewer resources
the international community has to invest in ANA
and the Afghan National Police (ANP), and in
reconstruction and fostering civil society.
Each NATO soldier costs an average of
$5,000 a month to maintain in Afghanistan, while
the average ANA soldier takes home $60 a month. A
pay raise plus a more robust training program for
ANA and ANP personnel would surely attract more
Afghans to serving the national security force
and, for those who are already part of it, reduce
the high rate of desertion. The resources spent on
an expanded NATO and US military mission should
therefore be replaced with a new strategy.
The most difficult part of such a strategy
is that it requires the moral authority and
courage of the US to end its "hunt" for the
Taliban and al-Qaeda. NATO cannot assert itself as
a stabilizing force in Afghanistan as it did in
Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina if the US Defense
Department is waging its own, parallel "war on
terror" in Afghanistan.
this contributed by The Killid Group.)