Views of Angela Clague– 2009
“The American strategy is doomed to fail,” said Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan. Over the course of the Bush Administration, waging war against the Taliban in Afghanistan had been the government’s lowest priority next to Iraq, and the results are beginning to show.
The bleak report is due to the mounting evidence the Taliban is rising in strength, violence is increasing, the Afghan government is weak and corrupt and the Afghan people are disenchanted by the United States involvement.
The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces have succeeded in killing or capturing Taliban military leaders, but the Taliban has proven resilient. Before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban controlled about 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory. In November 2007, the Senlis Council estimated that the Taliban maintained a “permanent presence in 54 percent of Afghanistan,” and continued to influence regions outside the central government’s sphere of control.
The public reaction to the Taliban is not entirely negative. Although their rigid social standards fostered antipathy, the Taliban has cracked down on government corruption, affecting the country for years. Taliban-controlled areas in the past have provided stability for civilians suffering from infighting between warlords. Even now, the Taliban provides a semblance of stability in regions where coalition and government officials failed to restore order and provide basic services. “Once, people would look to the government for justice,” said Abdul Quadoos, a businessman and tribal leader in the Kandahar province, “Now they go to the Taliban.”
Ending all Taliban and insurgent efforts in Afghanistan will prove difficult. Despite the fall of senior leaders, the Taliban continues to successfully influence the populace. According to the United Nations, the Taliban was accused of rallying the local police in organized crime and narcotic trafficking schemes. Insurgents intimidated local officials into cooperating with their cause, which is often due to the current Afghan president’s unpopularity. The Afghan Independent Human Right Commission states Afghan civilians who sympathize with the Americas cause or have a positive view of the current government are subject to systematic intimidation and violence.
Many important Afghan Taliban leaders crossed the border to Pakistan for a safe haven from the U.S. military. The Pakistani Taliban has crossed the borders to combat the American military in Afghanistan. “Islam doesn’t recognize boundaries,” explained Baitullah Meshud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani government isn’t fairing well against the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Many tribal areas have been taken over and major cities are becoming affected. “ They’ve had a chance to regroup and reorganize,” said a Western military official in Pakistan, “They’re well equipped. They’re clearly getting training from somewhere. And they’re using more and more advanced tactics.” Pakistan’s military is considering pulling back, leaving the U.S. government with the pivotal decision of whether or not to send troops against the Pakistani government’s wishes.
Bribery and corruption are prominent in Afghan’s new American-supported government. In a report by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 60 percent of surveyors found the current administration more corrupt than the Soviet-backed government in the 1980’s or the Taliban-run government in the 1990’s. The group said it interviewed 1,258 Afghans for the study. Corruption in Afghanistan is fueled by low-paid government employees who add to their salaries by demanding bribes to process simple paperwork. Money can also buy government appointments, bypass justice or evade police.
President Obama planned to make Afghanistan a bigger priority, and increased the number of troops. He believes it’s imperative that the Afghan army and police are trained and equipped by the United States and that the U.S. should increase non-military aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion. Yet, General McKiernan says the “ultimate solution in Afghanistan is going to be a political solution, not a military solution.”
Although written in 2009 her premise is still relevant today.