The Times has a great editorial out today notes that if southern Afghanistan and the whole country in general are going to rise from the ashes of the Taliban then the NATO forces have got to be able to do what they've been sent their for which is securing the countryside. I'd have to say if the military commanders in NATO read and hewn to the following recommendations by the editors, Afghanistan will rise much like the mythical phoenix:
Bridges can be built under fire, but tend not to last. It may be true that the battle for hearts and minds, another phrase politicians love, can be won only if people see clear improvements in their lives. But in southern Afghanistan those same people urgently need to be convinced that Nato can get al-Qaeda and the Taleban off their backs.Now while I have some qualms about some of their arguments with regards on how to deal opium production , I have to agree that sometimes such realism is a must for forces who serve in such a inhospitable place like southern Afghanistan. So here's hoping that the NATO forces achieve their objectives for their own sake or the Afghan people.
So long as they fear their return, and their vengeance, villagers will hedge their bets. They are the more inclined to do so because Kabul is little trusted in the largely Pashtun south — and distrust has been compounded by corruption, incompetence and irresolution among local officials appointed by the Government of Hamid Karzai.
Nato's aim is rapidly to create and then expand secure zones in each of the six provinces, which it hopes will become magnets of opportunity and relative prosperity. This "new Afghanistan" strategy will work only if President Karzai can forcefully be persuaded that competent civil administration is imperative, and that he must curb his dangerous propensity to cut deals with local strongmen and militias.
Nato has a hard enough fight on its hands without also arousing hatred by immediately eradicating opium poppies which are close to being Helmand's sole source of income. Nato would be wise to be imaginative in a battle that cannot be won without a better strategy, one that may need to include licensed poppy cultivation for pharmaceutical purposes. Nato's job in Afghanistan is to create the conditions for peace. Without military and politics realism, however, the notion of stability here will be a fantasy.