Saturday, September 12, 2009

The British in Afghanistan

James Fergusson (A Million Bullets: The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan) has reported from several trouble spots in the world besides Afghanistan, which he has visited several times since 1997. Fergusson was a supporter of the invasion of Afghanistan, and accepted the line about the democratization of the country. Yet he concludes:
It’s all over. We’ve lost the consent of the people. It’s finished.
The troops were sent on “a fool’s errand”, he says, because all the options were not properly considered before the military one was chosen. The aim of democratization given as the purpose of the intervention required the winning over of the people.
It’s not good for winning hearts and minds when you keep bombing wedding parties. How would you feel if it happened in this country? One Taliban commander said, “Supposing thousands of Afghans had invaded your country and bombed your villages and killed your wives and children, what would you do?” You’d be furious. Each one of those people affected by such atrocities is a recruit for the Taliban. They all have fathers, and brothers and sisters. Yet it keeps on happening.
The occupation of Afghanistan is bound to fail, and the use of air power is a disaster, Fergusson says:
It’s part of the problem not part of the solution.
Moreover the strategy called “decapitation”—despite appearances, not literally the blowing off of Afghan heads, whether they are Taliban fighters or women and children—but the targetting of the leadership is counter productive, he tells us, because they are replaced by younger men who are bitterer, more fanatical, and less likely to compromise than the old guard. Carrying the war into Pakistan is also futile and counter productive, Fergusson thinks:
It’s turning into a honey pot for global Jihad, and that’s our fault!
The Taliban and Al Qaida ought to be treated as separate entities, but the west conflates them. The Taliban are not monolithic, and were not, at least initially, concerned with the west. They had no foreign policy. Their revolution was internal, and divided on many issues. They are uniting against the western invaders. Al Qaida’s, on the other hand, was entirely a foreign policy—to defeat the west.

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