Sunday, 5 October 2008

War on Taliban can't be won, says army chief


In an interview published today, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said "we're not going to win this war" and the aim was not total victory but reducing the insurgency to a low level, something which could involve talks with the Taliban.

Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said the objective was to enlarge the Afghan army so it could take over the security of the country.

While paying tribute to his troops in Helmand province, and describing successes against insurgents, the brigadier told today's Sunday Times: ""We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army."

And the Taliban's position is that they will not negotiate until all foreign troops have been removed from Afghanistan.

Yes, they are indeed appalling - but so was the IRA. And indeed every other group of guerillas willing to impose their views on their own country by force of arms.

Canada's position is that we will stay until 2011 - and then someone else has to take on our job. In other words, tacit acceptance that occupation - as in Iraq - will continue indefinitely. This is not something we can afford to do, nor will the position in 2011 be very much different to what it is now. Our troops have been there4 for far too long and they are not a peacekeeping force. They are a token from our government to enable the US to keep more troops in Iraq, since we at least once upon a time had the ability and spine to maintain our own foreign policy.

It is time to bring our troops home. The Afghans need to determine their own future. It may well be not one we would like, but it is not our choice to make for them.


sgt.turmeric said...

After reading "The Places in Between" by Rory Stewart (about his walking trip across Afghanistan in 2002) I came to the conclusion that this "war" cannot be won.

Stephen Rees said...

The British couldn't "pacify" Afghanistan. Neither could the Russians.

I read "The Kite Runner" more recently, and that tended to confirm my view.

The Afghans do not want to be told by outsiders how to run their own country. But that does not mean they will agree among themselves how to run it either. In fact not too dissimilar to the situation in many places that others have tried to occupy or colonise by taking advantages of internal faction fighting.