[email protected]… Paddy Ashdown: What we must do to win this war in Afghanistan

Over at The Independent, former Lib Dem leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown argues that the history of the Afghan war is one of continuous mistakes, and outlines the key factors which can transform defeat into success. Here’s an excerpt:

I start from the proposition that the war in Afghanistan is one we have to fight and must win. The cost of failure there is just too great. It includes the certain fall of Pakistan and the possible emergence of the world’s first Jihadist Government with a nuclear weapon; the re-creation in Afghanistan of a lawless space open for the preparation and export of international terror; the consequent deepening of what is already the most potent immediate threat to the internal security of countries like ours; a possibly mortal blow to NATO, especially in Washington’s eyes. And, some even say, the possibility of a widening Sunni/Shia conflict in the Middle East, with potentially baleful geo-political consequences for all.

The problem is that we are not winning. …

The key principle through all this should be not to seek to do things “for” Afghanistan, but to increase Afghan capacity, especially at the local level, to do things for themselves, leaving the internationals to move increasingly into the background.

Lastly, success will depend on having a clear regional dimension, bringing in Afghanistan’s neighbours where this can be done. We may have to pay a high price to get Iran and maybe even China to play a role in Afghanistan’s future. But we are likely to have to pay a much higher one if we cannot do what needs to be done to turn things round there.

Judging by their words, I think President Obama and his team get most of this. But the question is will it be applied? And if so, why is it taking so long ?

Is it, then, lost in Afghanistan?

Not yet. We have to hope the new push in the south may begin to reverse the dynamic. On that, the jury is out. But if it does, it is imperative that we do not lose the opportunity that ensues. For we do not have many left.

You can read the article in full HERE.

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This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • There’s not been any comment on here about Paddy’s reemergence as (effectively) a party spokesperson on defence issues.

    I’m not alone in having had my differences and conflicts with Paddy over the years but this is something to be hugely welcomed as he brings unimpeachable authority to comment on military issues and starts from a genuinely liberal position.

    Now if we can bring Charles back into the fold having a General Election where Nick was backed up by a troika of Paddy, Charles and Vince would present a very strong team.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jul '09 - 11:19am

    Most of us are not religious and so cannot see how the battle against the Taliban ought to be fought as a spiritual battle and not a physical one.

    It is very clear how a simplistic and brutal stream has become dominant in thinking in the Islamic world, trampling down other streams. People in places like Afghanistan are very sincere Muslims and will listen and take the religious argument against the likes of the Taliban if there are brave Muslims who can put it. This can be done and would work far better than attempting to quash the Taliban and its likes by physical force.

    Some have said that what is needed in Islam is the equivalent of the Christian Reformation. This is to misunderstand the situation. Islam has had its Reformation – the Taliban and Wahhabi Islam are the fruits of it, arid and simplistic sola scriptura forms of the religion. What actually is needed is some form of Counter Reformation, in particular to reawaken and reinvigorate some of the older and more spiritual traditions of Islam.

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