The rather splendidly named fighting season in Afghanistan is almost over. The relative calm of winter, as the Taliban retreat south, will provide a chance to rethink what increasingly appears like a lost, or fast losing, cause. The murder this week of a Christian AID worker in Kabul is only one in a lengthening line of indicators that the west is having its already weak grip on the country unpicked. To begin this process of rethinking, the Observer’s Jason Burke, who has spent much of the last couple of years in Afghanistan has written an article based on original reporting and interviews, criticising the US and its allies for misreading their Taliban opponents:
“The first error was thinking that the Taliban are somehow not “Afghan.” Speaking to Prospect in October, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, spoke of the west’s mission to “help the Afghan people defeat the Taliban.” In Berlin in July 2008, Barack Obama said that “the Afghan people need our troops… to defeat the Taliban.” This is a dogma that has been entrenched since 2001. It forgets that the Taliban are part of Afghanistan, not an outside scourge.”
Read the piece here.
We are also lucky enough to have a related piece on what to do next in Afghanistan, from CNN terrorism analyst and fellow at the New America Project, Peter Bergen. He quotes a source describing Nato operations in the south of the country as “mowing the lawn”—”every year, Nato forces go in and clear out Taliban sanctuaries, only to have to go back the following year and cut back the new growth.” Bergen’s piece gently disagrees with Burke’s contention that the Taliban are fundamentally an Afghan phenomneon, arguing that “the Taliban are not simply an Afghan movement. They are supported by a growing cast of foreign fighters, including Arabs, Uzbeks, Punjabi Pakistanis, and even Europeans.” He then goes on to speculate about how the coalition might attempt to transplant in Afghanistan the success of both the Iraqi surge, and the related Sunni awakening movements, which many cite as the key reason for the surge’s success. Read it here.