Afghanistan, now an unwinnable war?


by guest
27th July, 2010 at 2:55 pm    

guest post by Ghaffar Hussain of Quilliam Foundation

So Wikileaks has published a ‘treasure trove’ of classified documents on Afghanistan which has got journalists very excited. But what new information has been revealed? Civilian causalities are being under-reported? Pakistan and Iran have been assisting the Taliban? Taliban leaders are being hunted and killed without a trail? Things are generally going badly?

None of this is news and it merely confirms what has already been reported in the past. However, that doesn’t mean that these leaks are insignificant. In fact, they are very significant in the realm of public perceptions.

The Afghanistan campaign has been compared to Vietnam in the past, often much to the irritation of military officials. But that comparison will become very difficult to ignore now with this leak. In 1971, the New York Times published excerpts of a secret document called United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense.

This document, amongst other things, revealed that the Johnson administration had systematically lied to the US public about the reasons for the Vietnam War and their continued presence in that part of the world. This revelation galvanized the anti-war movement like never before and street protests followed.

Similarly, it is highly probable that this leak could spell the start of the end for the campaign in Afghanistan as far as public support is concerned. The revelations about civilian causalities being under-reported, is perhaps the most damaging of all and almost certainly will have a huge impact on public perceptions.

It will also become a propaganda tool for al-Qaeda and the Taliban recruiters.

Some may point to opinion polls which suggest that the vast majority of Afghans do support the presence of coalition forces in their country.

But that misses the point. Without support from the British and American public this campaign cannot be successful and these leaks will go a long way towards undermining that. The unwinnable war may just have got a bit more unwinnable.


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31 Comments below   |  

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  1. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: Afghanistan, now an 'unwinnable' war? http://bit.ly/aLgoky


  2. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: Afghanistan, now an unwinnable war? http://bit.ly/aLgoky


  3. earwicga

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post: Afghanistan, now an unwinnable war? http://bit.ly/aLgoky


  4. luke cowdrey

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Afghanistan, now an 'unwinnable' war? http://bit.ly/aLgoky


  5. Quilliam

    Quilliam's Ghaffar Hussain gives his views on the Afghanistan war – http://fb.me/Co4AbfhF


  6. Amil Khan

    Ghaffar Hussain of #QuilliamF makes much missed point. #wikileaks Afghan cache is about perceptions not new info. http://tiny.cc/lvzbb


  7. Aaron Andrew

    RT @QuilliamF: Quilliam's Ghaffar Hussain gives his views on the Afghanistan war – http://fb.me/Co4AbfhF


  8. blogs of the world

    So Wikileaks has published a 'treasure trove' of classified documents on Afghanistan which… http://reduce.li/j16xhr #an




  1. damon — on 27th July, 2010 at 4:32 pm  

    I’d say it’s unwinnable, because even if there was some kind of stability and the NATO forces left, the regime left behind would be very vunerable – just like Mohammad Najibullah’s government was in 1992.
    I still haven’t heard how the Afghan army is going to control the Pashtun part of the country. The last I heard, it was still overwhelmingly made up of Tajiks.
    http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2009/11/28/tajik-grip-on-afghan-army-signals-new-ethnic-war/

    And even if the ANA was half competent, if the Taliban are still around and want to fight, how could the ANA do what NATO cannot manage at the moment?

  2. MaidMarian — on 27th July, 2010 at 7:37 pm  

    Afghanistan is a nut house, simple as that. Whatever good was done there was done years ago. Western forces should have left and if the locals want to kill each other, well that is their look out.

  3. Rumbold — on 27th July, 2010 at 8:20 pm  

    Good piece.

  4. George — on 27th July, 2010 at 9:33 pm  

    I am horrified by the reaction of the western ruling classes to the leaks . they are only worried about the likelihood of more attacks on the soldiers (from over a dozen Euro countries). UK does not apologise but ‘laments’ the revelations. What does this mean?

    Not one western leader will comment on the central point of the leaks: to reveal the huge number of unreported civilian casualties and the callous treatment by the Euro soldiers. To them, Afghans, Pakistanis, any non-Euros are just many worthless insects – a carry-over of the colonial attitude to the natives.
    Will any Christian leaders chide the West for its conduct of the war?
    And for that matter, will the South Asian governments utter a word of condemnation?

  5. MaidMarian — on 27th July, 2010 at 9:45 pm  

    George – OK, untwist your underwear.

    I’m fed up with cobblers like that comment.

    Sure, we must hold ourselves accountable 100 per cent of the time, but when the local Taliban start rounding up people in football grounds I presume that you will see that as all somehow morally superior. Scream, ‘colonialism,’ often enough and anything suddenly has a veneer of acceptability, right?

    Moral equivalence is the standard tactic of those caught in the ethical vaccuum.

  6. George — on 27th July, 2010 at 10:06 pm  

    Hey,MaidMariam – why are you hiding behind these fancy phrases – ‘moral equaivalence’. ‘ethical vacuum’. How do they illuminate your argument? Would you use such terms to talk to the typical Afghan or Karzai himself or even the vacuous Manmohan Singh?
    The Third World excel at killing themselves; should westerners join in and add to the atrocities? Haven’t they committed enough pillage, massacres and genocides the world over?
    History cannot be forgotten – we need to remind the Christian West of their crimes and instill some sense of guilt and remorse in them – and demand compensation.
    Meanwhile I am attending to my underwear, at your request.

  7. MaidMarian — on 27th July, 2010 at 10:10 pm  

    ‘Would you use such terms to talk to the typical Afghan or Karzai himself or even the vacuous Manmohan Singh?’

    That would depend whether they were genuine or whether they were, like you, using it as a hobby horse for political axe-grinding.

    ‘History cannot be forgotten – we need to remind the Christian West of their crimes and instill some sense of guilt and remorse in them – and demand compensation.’

    Tempting bait, I’ll give you that. That appears to be a priori moral condemnation based on nothing other than where people are from. There are words for this. One of them begins with R.

  8. Kulvinder — on 28th July, 2010 at 2:27 am  

    Afghanistan, now an unwinnable war?

    Depends on your definition of ‘win’. I never took it to mean the decisive military defeat of the taliban. Afghan opinion polls have consistently showed the people have no appetite for a return of the taliban. The taliban strongholds lie in Pakistan not Afghanistan; and even at their peak the Afghan taliban needed the active input of the ISI.

    Broadly the right of afghans to choose their own path, to elect their own leaders and make their own decisions – which may be in disagreement with NATO – is a victory.

    The underlying premise seems to be the idea that the taliban will ‘takeover’ afghanistan if NATO leaves. I’d argue that whilst it might make life for the afghan government and ana substantially more difficult it would put afghanistan in a similar position to pakistan – where a punjabi (as opposed to tajik) dominated military is taking on a predominantly pashtun taliban, ethno-nationalist separatists in Baluchistan, and sectarian violence in Sindh.

    I.e. if the argument is that Afghanistan ‘will collapse’; then why not Pakistan?

  9. Niels Christensen — on 28th July, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

    #George
    “‘History cannot be forgotten – we need to remind the Christian West of their crimes and instill some sense of guilt and remorse in them – and demand compensation.”

    And now from what point at the history timetable should compensation be paid ?

    Of course we should leave Afghanistan and Pakistan alone, and at the same time deny immigration to the west in a given period, until they have sorted things out.

  10. joe90 — on 28th July, 2010 at 11:30 pm  

    So now they want a way out, the combined forces of nato failed in afghanistan. Their multi billion dollar military machine did not even make a dent apart from the poorest paying with their lives as usual. The western government will never learn, you cannot place a western blueprint and expect people from poor nations to adopt it when they have nothing in common with you in the first place.

  11. Lamia — on 29th July, 2010 at 10:07 am  

    “Taliban leaders are being hunted and killed without a trail?”

    How dreadful. It will really disgust the odd minority of people who believe that the NATO should behave like a police force not an army, and simply arrest, rather than fight and kill, their armed enemies.

    Meaning that by contrst the majority of people will be quite satisfied to hear that members of the Taliban, an enemy military force with a habit of

    a)providing a base for Al Qaeda
    b)beheading captives,
    c)murdering schoolteachers and burning schools down
    d)executing adulterers and homosexuals
    e)throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women

    are being hunted and killed.

    Presumably in WW2 the British shouldn’t have been killing those poor Nazis, either, just arresting them? I notice that during the Battle of Britain Luftwaffe pilots didn’t get a trial before they were shot down. Shameful.

  12. Kismet Hardy — on 29th July, 2010 at 11:07 am  

    Yeah, only the British killed a lot of Germans as well as Nazis. You know women, kids, innocent men just popping out to buy bananas for the mother-in-law’s banofi pie, people like that. Only the nazis were decent enough to wear uniforms. But these damn ragheads all dress and look the same, so best not leave a trail when we hunt em and kill em…

  13. Lamia — on 29th July, 2010 at 11:39 am  

    “But these damn ragheads all dress and look the same, so best not leave a trail when we hunt em and kill em…”

    I didn’t say or imply anything like that, I indicated it was stupid to assume that in a war the Taliban should be put on trial rather than killed. They are enemy combatants. Mostly they will tend to be killed in action rather than arrested. That shouldn’t surprise, intrigue or outrage anyone.

  14. me — on 29th July, 2010 at 12:14 pm  

    “Meaning that by contrst the majority of people will be quite satisfied to hear that members of the Taliban, an enemy military force with a habit of

    a)providing a base for Al Qaeda
    b)beheading captives,
    c)murdering schoolteachers and burning schools down
    d)executing adulterers and homosexuals
    e)throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women

    are being hunted and killed.”

    funny because the same majority of people would 30 odd years ago have been quite satisfied that the very same people were being supported by the west in their noble war against communist Russia.

  15. damon — on 29th July, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

    Killing the Taliban footsoldiers in large numbers is not a good idea, as they all have extended clans and families, but I can’t see what’s wrong in theory in going after and killing the leadership. It makes perfect military sense. The problem is the drones they use and the innnocent civilians that get killed as well.

    Joe90, this sentence of yours is highly dubious, as the people you talk about could be living in England tomorow.

    … you cannot place a western blueprint and expect people from poor nations to adopt it when they have nothing in common with you in the first place.

  16. me — on 29th July, 2010 at 12:40 pm  

    damon
    “Killing the Taliban footsoldiers in large numbers is not a good idea, as they all have extended clans and families, but I can’t see what’s wrong in theory in going after and killing the leadership. It makes perfect military sense. The problem is the drones they use and the innnocent civilians that get killed as well.”

    shouldnt we have dealt with IRA terrorists in the same way?

  17. joe90 — on 29th July, 2010 at 1:13 pm  

    damon post#15

    your comment is highly dubious because it has no link to my comments.

    The point stands the nato mission is a failed one, except in the view of last remaining neo cons who still consider the war a success.

  18. damon — on 29th July, 2010 at 1:37 pm  

    Me, are you blah or Munir or whatever his name was?
    I think that MPACUK would be better suited to your views. I think that it would have been OK to kill a few top provos yes.

    Joe90, I agree that the Afghanistan mission might be doomed to failure – but it’s not just neo-cons who supported it. Sunny himself did, and there were plenty of good reasons for hoping for the best from the NATO stragegy.

    I still wait to be convinced as to why new Tory MP Rory Stewart has been wrong in his assesments about Afghanistan over the last several years.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/14/rory-stewart-tory-mp-penrith

  19. secretQuilliamFoundationmemo — on 29th July, 2010 at 1:48 pm  

    The Quilliam Foundation writes to Coalition government and advises them on who to talk to.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/34834977/Secret-Quilliam-Memo-to-government

  20. Lamia — on 29th July, 2010 at 5:54 pm  

    “the very same people”

    They were not the very same people, no matter how often you and other liars repeat the lie. The Taliban began in the 1990s. Their main enemies in Afghanistan have always been those who largely made up the Afghan Mujahideen of the 1980s, i.e. roughly the later Northern Alliance, who are not much better than the Taliban, certainly, but who are still not the Taliban.

    In any case you are using a tu quoque fallacy which has nothing to do with today. Even if it WERE true, it would be about as useful as arguing from some kind of moral ‘principle’ that since the British government had appeased Hitler up until September 1939 it was ‘hypocritical’ to fight him thereafter. It is the moral reasoning of the madhouse.

  21. joe90 — on 29th July, 2010 at 9:29 pm  

    damon post#18

    I agree a lot of liberal commentators did support the afghan invasion in the beginning, but they did so because of human rights violations as main reason and the whole 9/11 thing. But with drip drip of reports showing nato forces involved in civilian massacres, torture, rendition flights, etc and recently wikileaks and other sources showing the reality of what was going on a lot of them have changed tune.

  22. pete — on 30th July, 2010 at 12:48 pm  

    Of course Damon thinks Afghanistan and Ireland are different: the Irish are white and Christian while the Afghans are non-white and non-Christian.

  23. r — on 3rd August, 2010 at 4:12 am  

    it seems premature to say it is an unwinnable war, and I am unsure how this release will really affect things one way or another. All of the juiciest info is at the end of the day raw intelligence which is riddled with questions and caveats.

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