Friday, April 13, 2007

Losing Afghan hearts, minds

What is most interesting here is the statement that as many as half the population do not believe the Canadians will win against the Taliban. This means that that population is in various ways obliged -- or feel they are obliged -- to make deals with the Taliban. Clearly, NATO forces have not yet persuaded enough of the local population that NATO will stay, that they are worth betting on. In fact, so far neither of the "occupying armies" -- in Afghanistan or Iraq -- seem oriented to the long period of time they will have to remain in place in order to "secure" the situation for the local government, more importantly for the local populations. In the early days there was less doubt about whether the government could hold the country. In Afghanistan, at least, there was a time (most of the twentieth century and before) when the army could not muster the combined firepower of the Pushtun tribes on whom it had to rely for support in extremis; the different then was that the tribes never united against the government at the same time. Now, the idea that the Taliban might again take over perhaps with the same pervasive and autocratic control seems be be still alive. That possiblity keeps the future, at least for many in the south, in doubt. Until that possibility is foreclosed some of those people will play their options on both sides.

Toronto Star
By Olivia Ward

"...Western countries are losing the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan while the Taliban is seizing the advantage, says a survey from a European-based think-tank [the Senis Council]."
"...nearly half of the men in Afghanistan's southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar where
Canadian troops are based believe the international community will lose the war against the Taliban. "
" 'The military forces are doing a remarkable job in extremely difficult circumstances,' said ... Senlis's Canadian founder, 'But woefully inadequate aid and development, and misguided counter-narcotics policies, are turning people against them and making their work much more dangerous.' "
"In Kandahar and Helmand provinces, 80 per cent of respondents said the international troops were not helping them personally, and 71 per cent believed the Afghan government was also unhelpful. "

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