Friday, February 06, 2009


6 February 2009.  We have been asked to comment on the present situation in Afghanistan.  We should grateful for comments and suggestions at

(This short note incorporates information from that country.
It is similar to our blog today on Alternet's Afghanistan item).
G W Bush's occupation of Iraq ended any likely possibility of US success in Afghanistan - he lost (as ex-British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook warned he would) the astonishing political and financial support of the world after '9/11' - and also the dynamic needed for early success. [In September 2002 we gave demoting Afghanistan were Iraq invaded our No 1 reason against].

So, since 2003 the Americans have been slowly extracting defeat from the jaws of their initial victory. The generous decision of NATO's other members to declare 9/11 an attack on the US amounting to an attack on all members, led to the NATO deployment in Afghanistan. But now these NATO members see themselves asked to pull G W Bush's chestnuts out of a fire he has let blaze out of control while distracted by the fire he lit in Iraq. It is late in the day to undo this predicted error. 

 Afghanistan though, has one thing going for it:- all its riparian neighbours (notably Pakistan, Iran, and China), plus Russia, India, the Muslim states, Europe, Turkey etc etc. have a major interest in its stability.

So - while trying to "hold the fort" militarily, the US must, (in humility now) launch a major diplomatic campaign to turn this worldwide interest into solid backing (diplomatic and financial) for an Afghan settlement. Very difficult - but just possible. American troop withdrawal would be one "carrot" on offer.

One heartening consideration: if pressed hard by the other key countries - Iran and at least tacitly) Pakistan could, if acting together together, achieve a lot towards stabilising Afghanistan. This of course means negotiating with Iran on Afghanistan as well as on Iraq and its nuclear policies.

 Fundamentally the sine qua non for any possible success is for the US (at least tacitly) to abandon the Cheney/Bush neo-con dream of American world hegemony (that ill-starred, ill-planned "Project for a New American Century") and to embark on the new era of international cooperation that the world needs and which has been possible since the end of the Cold War.

Despite Taliban successes, the Afghans themselves for the most part don't want the Taliban back - at least not in its old extreme form (which they are now again exhibiting). This majority sentiment can be built on, especially if "collateral damage" can be ended. More and more Afghans would also like to have their agriculture turn to other crops than opium and more farmers are interested in alternative crops - this could be supported to the detriment of the Taliban.

An international fund for development, if intelligently organised, could do a lot to split the Taliban - some leaders wanting a piece of a real cake rather than a return to their pre 2001 ideological cruelty and dreariness. Successful precedents for countering terrorism and extremism have concentrated on splitting such groups as there are always some who seek political and financal reward in a stable prosperous society.

So much common interest in Afghanistan's stability could perhaps lead, after a determined well planned diplomatic campaign - to an Afghan version of the Congress of Vienna - a humbled US taking the part of Napoleonic France. Don't forget Talleyrand's diplomacy won a great deal for defeated Revolutionary France just 200 years ago!

With the Obama administration and  its emphasis on "smart power" involving the resurrection of US diplomacy, there is at last a real opportunity for such a solution - but the Bush era of confrontation will not end without powerful lobbying by all of us working for the new era of cooperation so essential if, not just the Afghan war, but the existential challenges to humanity are to be resolved.