26 September Another piece on Afghanistan:
Key recommendation for Afghanistan: US hang on until it can be internationalised.
President Obama has inherited two "Vietnams" ["now we're in, how do we get out with minimum damage"] from G W Bush - one in Iraq (on-going, NOT resolved) and the other in Afghanistan. Probably any US president would have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 given the Taliban government's refusal to oust Bin Laden and co. But the invasion of Iraq - as so many of us military and diplomatic professionals foresaw in 2002 - had disastrous consequences not only in Iraq but world-wide. The first and worst being to end Afghanistan's priority for money, troops, and expertise so putting the success o the occupation at grave risk.
That was disastrous as no occupation remains popular for more than 3 or 4 years. Having lost because of "Iraq" the astonishingly wide international support Bush had for the invasion, the swift rehabilitation of Afghanistan - essential for stabilising the country - failed. In the ensuing eight years. According to our sources there - the US and NATO have simply made themselves as unpopular as we personally saw the US was in Vietnam. NATO has lost its prestige by this out-of-area intervention and its European public sees US appeals for help as a request "to pull G W Bush's chestnuts out of the fire".
What is to be done? A premature tail-between-the-legs withdrawal would have very grave consequences - worse than the precipitate rush from Vietnam. So sending sufficient extra troops to Afghanistan to hold the fort was pretty well inevitable.
If Afghanistan is to be stabilised it must be internationalised by rebuilding as far as possible the consensus G W Bush threw away in Iraq. This is not impossible because virtually every major player has considerable national interest in Afghan stability and in containing international terrorism. Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Europe, the Arab world, the wider Muslim world, Israel all share this major interest.
International cooperation will only be possible if the US shows clearly - even tacitly - that it really has renounced the Cheney/neo-conservative aim to create a uni-polar world (the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century). But Obama does seem intent on doing just that, and his whole approach is towards the resolution of the great world problems by starting on a new era of cooperation made possible by the end of the Cold War.
So the US needs to hang on while this immense diplomatic task is gets underway.