Britain’s foreign secretary David Miliband has admitted that the eight years of Western occupation of Afghanistan has built an unstable regime that would fall without the support of foreign troops.
Miliband said, “If international forces leave, you can choose a time—five minutes, 24 hours or seven days—but the insurgent forces will overrun those forces that are prepared to put up resistance and we would be back to square one.”
The growing clamour to bring the troops home from Afghanistan has increased the pressure on Labour ministers.
And the intensifying violence, with 297 US troops and 98 British soldiers killed so far this year, has added to the crisis in the two countries’ governments.
The reinauguration of Hamid Karzai as Afghan president last week highlighted the deep-seated failure of the occupation.
Fraud and vote-rigging were employed to ensure his victory in the election.
Corruption lies at the heart of his government. Billions of dollars have disappeared from reconstruction budgets.
And while the vast majority of people live in poverty, government officials live in luxury mansions.
Warrants were issued for the arrests of two Afghan ministers this week on charges of theft and fraud.
Karzai has not yet announced his new cabinet, but he appeared with two ex-warlords at a recent press conference, raising fears that these people will remain at the heart of his regime.
Karzai wants to be seen as a unifying figure in the country, bringing together tribal and local leaders to undermine the Taliban, while enjoying US and British support.
He put forward these two messages in his inauguration speech.
His main emphasis was on his “five year plan”—to have Afghan police and army running the country’s security within the next five years.
This was a signal to the US and Britain, and to the people of Afghanistan, that the current situation will eventually come to an end.
But the growing resistance to the occupation and his government prove that this is an over-optimistic expectation.
In response to Karzai’s speech, Miliband said, “Artificial timetables just give succour to your enemy. We are going to transition, and transition is a better word than exit.”
The continued presence of occupying forces is making the problems worse in Afghanistan.
The US is trying to overcome this with its Community Defence Initiative (CDI), where it bribes people to back the occupation.
This programme involves paying local leaders who have “renounced” the Taliban to police their own areas.
The financial incentives mean that the initiative is already tainted with corruption.
And this is not something particularly new.
The US has paid tribal leaders to stay onside and help beat the Taliban since the occupation began in 2001.
Stanley McChrystal, the new US commander in the country, backs the CDI.
But it has been kept a secret from non-US forces.
The US has budgeted $1.3 billion for the aid for reconstruction that groups will be given in return for their cooperation with US Special Forces.
Some of the CDI militias will build upon the 12,500 strong militia that the discredited politician Arif Noorzai helped to set up this summer in the run-up to the presidential elections.
This move shows that the US is thrashing around in an increasingly desperate effort to solve its problems in Afghanistan.
Barack Obama is still considering how many additional troops he will send to Afghanistan as part of a new “surge”.
But the US’s strategy looks increasingly like that pursued by the Soviet Union at the end of their attempted bloody occupation of the country.
The war is ever more doomed to failure, with only death and destruction as its legacy.
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