I’ve pointed out many time previously the growing frustration over the lack of sizable efforts on the part of most NATO countries in Afghanistan. When discussing the Iraq campaign, critics like to say things like “everyone supported going after Afghanistan, but the US threw all that goodwill away when it invaded Iraq.” Except that the “support” from “everyone,” even our close allies, was often lip service at best. Actual, measurable, helpful support has been hard to come by from most of our supporters.
As the most powerful Afghan official in the troubled southern province of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai says he knows just how to tame the shadowy Taliban campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations that have raised the specter of a country sliding toward anarchy.
He wants more American soldiers on the ground.
“The Canadians are fine, but Americans are Americans — the mentality is different,” said Karzai, chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar where the Canadian-led military mission has struggled to contain the regrouped Taliban.
Now, I certainly think everyone should be careful about selling the Canadian short. Considering the size and condition of their military and strong opposition internally, they’ve actually had pretty solid success and are a vital part of Afghan strategy. They just don’t have enough boots on the ground to do more than try and hold the line, and the “support” they receive usually isn’t good enough. As they’ve shifted to more stability-type missions rather than direct combat, it has allowed the insurgency to keep up the fight while the Afghan military and police struggles to get itself online.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Canada will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan unless NATO sends reinforcements, his spokeswoman said.
Speaking by telephone Tuesday, Harper first thanked Sarkozy “for the assistance France has provided to Canadians seeking to leave Chad in the wake of the violence there,” spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an e-mail.
They then discussed a new report by a committee led by former deputy prime minister John Manley that urged Canada to keep its 2,500 troops in Afghanistan only if its NATO allies send at least 1,000 additional troops and equipment, including helicopters and drones, to bolster the Canadian force.
Honestly, 1,000 additional troops is a drop in the bucket. 1,000 would barely be noticeable. Sadly, 1,000 may also be undoable for NATO. Shameful, really.
Rice is in London holding talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband as the United States and Britain bid to draft in more NATO forces to help fight the resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
The talks come the week after Germany rebuffed US calls for more troops in the south, the scene of most of the fighting against the Islamist militia, in a tiff played out publically.
Rice said they were engaged in “a different fight than the one NATO was structured to do”, conceding: “It has taken some time”.
She’s a diplomat now, so it’s her job to lie lie lie while in negotiations. And she’s doing a fine job. Playing the part of the understanding and supportive friend while really meaning that most of Europe ain’t done jack must be a tough role.
Australia wants Europe to deploy more troops to Afghanistan. Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has said that the European countries should “ensure that we have the number of troops necessary to ensure we get long-term success in that country”. Australia is not a NATO member state but is supporting the mission with 1,000 troops and has no intention of sending more for the time being.
Australia isn’t even in NATO and has 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. Yet NATO can’t muster that number to keep Canada from pulling out in frustration?
And why is it that we’re constantly looking at the US, the UK, and Australia doing so much of the heavy lifting? Canada in Afghanistan is certainly welcome, and others have made efforts in certain times and places. But it’s basically been a US-UK-Australia war in many respects. [Clarification: By “war”, I meant the overall war against terrorism, which I generally refer to World War 4. Not just the Afghan campaign of the war.]
UPDATE: This just in:
Sounds good until you look at the fine print:
Germany will deploy around 200 combat soldiers in northern Afghanistan, but will not move its troops to the country’s more violent south, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
German troops will be sent to replace the Norwegian contingent scheduled to leave Afghanistan this summer. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung confirmed the deployment at a press conference, saying that it was important to maintain the quick response force.
And then there’s this: Afghan opium output may drop slightly in 2008: UN
Afghanistan’s vast and lucrative opium production may drop slightly this year from a record spike, but world-high cannabis output is likely to rise, a United Nations survey released Wednesday said.
Opium from Afghanistan, which makes up more than 90 percent of world supply, will likely earn Taliban insurgents tens of millions of dollars over the year, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chief Antonio Maria Costa said.
It will continue to be grown at an “alarming rate” in the insurgency-hit south and southwest, perhaps more than last year when it accounted for 78 percent of total opium cultivation in Afghanistan, said the survey.
A major problem that we’re faced with is that that potential for Afghanistan’s success as a nation is severely limited by the lack of solid economic potential. Iraq, for instance, has lots of oil and a strategic location. Afghanistan has neither prime real estate nor a sure-fire resource. Well, other than drugs.
It has been suggested that the US should buy Afghan opium for medical uses. I must say that I would be open to proposals for something along those lines.