Monday, 20 June 2011

Why we are losing the war in Afghanistan

Having blundered in, the west found it had unwittingly taken sides in the complex Afghan civil war that has been running since the 1970s, siding with the north against the south, town against country, secularism against Islam, Tajiks against Pashtuns. We installed a government and trained an army that in many ways discriminated against the Pashtuns. It is the largest ethnic group in the country yet, under Karzai, Pashtuns from the south make up only 3% of the Afghan National Army. Not surprisingly, almost all Pashtuns supported the insurgency.

The evidence of failure lay all around us. Kabul remains one of the poorest capitals in the world. The US has poured around $80bn into Afghanistan, but almost all of it has disappeared into defence and security, and the roads of Kabul remain more rutted than those in the smallest provincial towns of Pakistan. There is no street lighting and apparently no rubbish collection. Less still is there security. The newspapers sometimes give the impression that Helmand is a frontline, separating Karzai's Afghanistan from the border areas ruled by the Taliban. In reality, the Taliban controls more than 75% of the country and Karzai's government holds just 29 out of 121 key strategic districts. 

From the Observer's review of Cables From Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign by Sherard Cowper-Coles. More here.