Features

While we weren't looking, the Taleban surged back in Afghanistan

Fifteen years of western intervention achieved no more than the pretence of a stable state

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

Amid all the chaos in the Middle East, the breakdown of borders and states, a new threat is fast emerging. The key strategic bulwark to stabilise the region is a strong Afghanistan. But after 15 years of occupation by western troops and a trillion dollars spent, it now appears to be going the way of the Levant.

A weak government in Kabul has proved unable to forge a political consensus. The Taleban is resurgent, while other similar groups control much of the Afghan country-side. And this — with the potential spread factor of Isis — means that Afghanistan is probably worse off today than when foreign forces intervened in 2001. You will read very little about this problem, because Afghanistan is now regarded by most western leaders as an old problem, one that dogged their predecessors, one that they don’t want to confront. But expect to hear more about Afghanistan over the next year, because a bad situation is turning much worse.

Britain joined the United States mission in Afghanistan for a simple reason: to depose the Taleban and introduce a new, stable government. At the time, it was argued that the fanatics had managed to seize power in Kabul but there were plenty of moderate players who would, given a nudge from the West, take power again and return the nation to stability. It took more than a nudge: 456 British soldiers died during this mission and more than 2,200 Americans. The best that was achieved was the pretence of a stable government – which, it was hoped, would last for long enough for troops to withdraw.

The Taleban are now on their way back and recently captured their first city since losing the country to US forces in 2001. Kunduz, with a population of 300,000 and a strategic position on the border with Central Asia, had been under siege for much of this year, but a surprise attack by a few hundred Taleban just after a religious holiday overran its defences, and the security forces needed two weeks to retake the city.

Meanwhile, horrific bombing by US aircraft of a Kunduz hospital run by the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, in which 30 people were killed (including 13 staff and three children), caused outrage around the world. The organisation rejected a US apology and demanded an international investigation. The Americans, lacking in ground intelligence, had mistaken the hospital for a Taleban compound. If such a mistake was possible, it could be repeated — a thought that has led to a large-scale evacuation of UN staff, western aid agencies and diplomats, further disabling humanitarian relief and jobs for Afghans across the country.

So how safe is Afghanistan now? American diplomats now travel only by helicopter for meetings even inside Kabul. The Taleban control almost all the major road systems in the country, which they could shut down when they choose, thereby isolating Kabul and other cities and preventing the supply of foodstuffs and trade from six neighbouring states.

Afghans now make up the second largest contingent of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe. According to UN statistics, they constitute almost 15 per cent of the total number of 650,000 who reached Europe between January and August. Many of them are well–educated middle-class families who held down good jobs as long as foreign forces were in their country.

And what are they fleeing? The world was shown a glimpse of it this last month when footage emerged of a young woman being stoned to death on charge of adultery. Once, such tales were recounted by western leaders as reason for intervening in Afghanistan. Now they are examples of what many Afghans fear is the state to come. Afghans who can afford to leave are doing so; some purchasing fake death-threat letters from the Taleban for as much as £700. Some 160,000 Afghans are expected to emigrate by the end of this year, quadruple the number of two years ago.

Officials in Kabul tell me that the Taleban pose a grave threat to more than half of the country’s 34 provinces. Of those, a half-dozen are in danger of falling completely into Taleban control, possibly when the spring offensive starts. They include Helmand in the south — the province that was under British control for so many years. Then there’s Faryab, an isolated but strategic province in the north-west bordering Turkmenistan; Farah in the south-west, bordering Iran; and Badakhshan and Kunar provinces in the north-east, bordering Pakistan and China. The fall of any one of these provinces would cause further panic in Kabul.

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President Barack Obama’s decision in October to keep 5,500 US troops in Afghanistan beyond 2017 — when he had previously pledged that all US forces would leave before his term expires in just over a year — will ensure that the country is somewhere on the international agenda, but will not actually help defeat the Taleban. The promised number is little more than half the current strength of 9,800, which has been unable to stop the Taleban making their dramatic gains.

Some 4,000 Nato forces will also stay. Britain is one of several European countries that has pledged to maintain a small military presence alongside the Americans — probably around 500 troops. Sadly, Obama’s legacy to his successor is expected to be exactly the same as his from George W. Bush — an unresolved war and a critical military situation that threatens to destabilise the region.

The temporary loss of Kunduz triggered widespread alarm, especially in Central Asia, with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan deploying troops on their respective borders with Afghanistan. There is evidence that foreign fighters from Central Asia joined the Taleban for its attack on the town. Groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Front (made up of Chinese Uighurs) are anxious to secure northern Afghanistan so that they can penetrate their own homelands. President Putin, speaking in Kazakhstan on 16 October, called on other ex-Soviet nations to be prepared to act together to repel a possible attack by ‘terrorists’ now seeking sanctuaries in Taleban-held areas of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile attempts by Pakistan to broker talks between the Kabul regime and the Taleban have collapsed after just one round taking place. After years of bitter antagonism between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his co-ruler, Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, had improved relations with Islamabad. And for the first time the powerful Pakistan military seemed anxious to end the neighbouring war and help broker a peace deal. The first round of talks, held on 7 July, was endorsed by China, the US and all of Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours. But further talks have been suspended amid the deteriorating military situation and disputes within the Taleban itself.

For the movement’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the current offensive was a shrewd political move. He faced internal opposition to his leadership — partly because he and six other Taleban kept it a secret that founding leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had died more than two years ago. Mansour had been ruling in Omar’s name for two years and building up his power base. But once the news broke, he lost the trust of many commanders and was shot during peace talks with them.

The divisions have already led to the emergence of several new splinter groups, with the power to denounce a peace process. Also accumulating territory and power in at least three provinces is Isis. They are largely made up of former Taleban disgusted with their own leaders, but they do seem to have connections and financial help from Isis leaders in Syria.

Meanwhile, lacking jobs or an effective state, Afghan refugees in Iran — mostly Shia Hazaras — are being recruited in large numbers by the Iranian military to fight in Syria alongside President Assad’s forces. They draw a monthly salary and have the chance of obtaining permanent residency in Iran. The Afghan military unit called Fatemioun is now the second largest foreign force in Syria after the Lebanese Hezbollah. Thus Afghanistan has, of its own account, crept into the Levant.

The tragedy is that the Afghan government is too weak to take advantage of the Taleban’s fragmentation or stop its citizens fighting other people’s wars. Though Ashraf Ghani’s government was formed following elections a year ago (which resulted in the power-sharing agreement with rival Abdullah), he has yet to appoint a defence minister or other ministers.

Daily governance has been brought to a standstill, with crucial projects such as scheduling parliamentary elections on indefinite hold. Meanwhile, the government has failed to tackle corruption and bolster the economy, and is literally running out of money. There is a large-scale flight of capital from Afghanistan — especially to the Gulf, where many citizens have bought houses. In Kabul there is intense political squabbling and many members of parliament are calling for the government’s resignation and the summoning of the ‘Loya Jirga’ (tribal body) to create a new interim government.

Unlike its Iraqi counterpart, which has largely collapsed in the face of Isis offensives, the regular Afghan army has proved it can fight. But it has taken heavy casualties: more than 5,000 Afghan security personnel have been killed so far in 2015, twice the number of the same period last year. Meanwhile, there are too many different security forces — regular troops, special forces, village guards and a variety of militias — leading a lack of central leadership and effective lines of command. The Afghan army also urgently needs more air cover. There is no proper Afghan air force and western governments have failed to provide one.

The West has lacked an overall strategy to contain the Taleban and help create a stable political order. This follows its earlier failure to convince Pakistan to abandon the Taleban many years ago. Obama has shown little personal interest in Afghanistan beyond doing what he has to do to prevent the total collapse of the state. Meanwhile, David Cameron and other European leaders have shown no initiative of their own.

At a regional conference hosted by Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad on 9 December, all of Afghanistan’s neighbours including Pakistan pledged to take steps to end terrorism in the region and to help bring the Taleban to the table to hold talks with the Kabul government. It was the first time that Afghanistan’s President Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had met and made up since the breakdown of their relations in July over Pakistan’s alleged continued support to the Taleban.

However, the day before the Taleban launched an attack on Kandahar airport where US and NATO forces are based. The fighting continued into the next day before all 14 of the attackers were killed. At least 37 Afghan civilians were killed and many more wounded. There were no reports of Western troop casualties.

At the same time – emphasising the growing fragmentation within the Taleban – there was heavy fighting in Afghanistan’s western Herat province in which more than 100 fighters were killed. The clashes were between between the mainstream Taleban group and a breakaway faction led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool.

Nonetheless, barring an unexpected return to the peace table, the spring will likely herald a nationwide Taleban offensive. The West is unlikely to come to the Afghan government’s rescue. The possibility of a Taleban return to power – in its southern heartland, at the very least – is no longer improbable.

The result will be further destabilisation of Pakistan and Central Asia, creating the perfect conditions for the expansion of the Islamic State. It’s not something anyone in London or Washington will want to admit, but after hundreds of lives lost in Afghanistan, and billions of dollars spent, the worst may well be yet to come.


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Show comments
  • Fraser Bailey

    Those of us with more than two brain cells i.e. anyone who isn’t a politician or a pundit, knew this would happen.

  • Roger Hudson

    Didn’t that turn out well?
    British lives and treasure wasted , for nothing !!

  • William Matthews

    Well, I hope all the moaning Lefties are happy. It was after all, their endless rhetoric about oil and American imperialism and British kowtowing to the Americans, that pressured us to leave. Well, now we’ve left and the nice fluffy peaceful heroin dealing Taliban war lords can re-wrap all the women in bin bags, ban dancing and sport, and get down to serious business of murdering homosexuals, stoning women, subjugating all none Muslims and planning terror attacks on the West without fear of Oil worshiping imperialists harming a hair on their filthy murdering heads.

    • smoke me a kipper

      Why do you think we should go around invading far off countries? To spread democracy through a point of a gun?

      • William Matthews

        Do you have a better alternative? Let them die, perhaps?

        • smoke me a kipper

          If foreigners want to kill one another, that’s up to them

          • William Matthews

            Didn’t work for us 600AD – 1095AD. Especially, them lot.

          • smoke me a kipper

            Presumably 1095 is a reference to the first crusade. A big mistake, as we are still fighting that war. 600 AD not sure what you are referring to. At that time England was a collection of Anglo-Saxon states

          • William Matthews

            Some of the the crusades were a mistake but not a big mistake. We delayed islam long enough for Islam to turn on Islam. If we hadn’t put up some sort of fight, the Arabic Islamics would have had us. Europe was a disjointed, egotistical mess. (Sound familiar?) Today’s Islamics are in response to the Americans Culture bomb of the 1960/70/80s. (Music TV basically) They now hate western ideals, they thought we, the West, were invading and destroying their culture, and so Islam responded. Could have been worse, they could have all turned to Communism as was suspected in the ’60s. So, from Britney Spears to Obama to Spectator Magazine (Heaven forbid), they hate everything about us. Me, you, all of us. If they unite, it will be a f**king mess. We have to keep kicking them in the nuts, just to stay ahead. Just my opinion of cause. No offense.

          • smoke me a kipper

            Non taken. Tbh they are to busy fighting one another

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            None taken
            Non-event

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            And the first crusade was in response to what exactly……

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Political pressures over land rights.

          • LittleRedRidingHood

            #islamicexpansionistaggression.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            That’s what you want, yes, and?

  • Baron

    Our mistake was, still is, Ahmed, to think one can destroy an idea by just killing those who hold a gun in its defence.

    • post_x_it

      Is anyone really that naïve? The trouble is, there is no sure fire way of destroying an idea. The best you can hope for is that one day it will go out of fashion and stop being a problem. Or do you have any examples to the contrary? Take communism; nobody destroyed it. It took a century for all its inherent faults to play out until it finally imploded of its own volition, and yet an astonishing number of people still think that it was a jolly good idea we ought to continue to aspire to.
      But in the absence of a better option, the people holding the guns need to be dealt with if we are to survive.

      • Baron

        The operative word in Baron’s posting was ‘just’, post_x_it, otherwise no argument.

  • Guilttripjunkie

    Surprised not me, The sorry saga of Afghanistan shows the folly of interfering in Muslim civil wars. The West will never impose a ‘civilised’ democracy in these places which are still stuck in a medieval mind set.

    • Dominic Stockford

      No, it is worse than that. It is a logical impossibility to ‘impose’ successful democracy on a country. Those int he country will learn that to get what they want force is the way to do it – and then you get a series of imposed ‘democratic’ governments. We can see the way that government was changed by force in Ukraine, Egypt and various other places. The West calls what is there now ‘democracy’, but it isn’t really.

  • Australian Inquisitor

    You mean to say that dropping bombs and “boots on the ground” didn’t work???

    Well that IS a surprise.

    • Daidragon

      It worked when the focus was on destroying Al Qaeda but as ever, the follow up attempt at regime change and imposing alien political systems is failing.

      • Australian Inquisitor

        Al Qaeda is alive and well FYI

        • Gilbert White

          Shaker and his enablers are beginning to strut their stuff. Why not send him to Afghaniztan to stand trial?

          • Australian Inquisitor

            If the US had any credible evidence at all, they would have tried him themselves.
            They didn’t.
            They still kept him for 13 years though.

          • post_x_it

            The evidence may well be highly credible, but if there were dodgy methods involved in obtaining it, it won’t stand up in court.
            Were people really kept in gitmo on ‘no credible evidence at all’? I doubt it’s that straight forward.

          • Australian Inquisitor

            I’m quite sure it’s exactly that straightforward.

  • Cyril Sneer

    Oh so they didn’t want democracy in the end? Well at least there is still Libya as a fine example of regime change bringing peace and stability… oh hang on a sec…

  • Fasdunkle

    Western forces worked to maintain the ideology at the root of the Taliban as the ideology of Afghanistan with severe restrictions on other ideologies. As we pulled out the Saudis moved in to fund that ideology on a huge scale.

    What else did anybody expect?

  • smoke me a kipper

    Well there’s a surprise. Not!

  • K2 Unleashed

    There is a solution to Afghanistan. Let Pakistan annex the whole country and fix it. In return the international community can assist Pakistan diplomatically and economically. 70% of Afghan Population shares religion, language and culture with their Pakistani counterparts. There is actually no border between the countries. After 40 years of war, it literally cannot get worse for either country. Pakistan already took millions of refugees, and 10s of millions more of their offspring are now Pakistani born. Afghanistan is at its weakest and in complete shambles and will always rely on Pakistan because its fully landlocked and doesn’t trust their other Shia neighbor. With one government, their will be no conflicting interests and Pakistan is much larger and powerful enough to handle the task with the help of the Afghan army and Nato. Its much better and cheaper than dealing with an ISIS ruled Afghanistan.

    • Headstrong

      Pakistan is part of the problem (THE problem, actually), not part of the solution. Pakistan harbours delusions of adding Afghanistan as a fifth province (which is in effect what you are suggesting), Failing that, they would want the Taliban in power as they are ideologically aligned and would go along with Pakistan’s dream of achieving ‘strategic space’ in Afghanistan. That would allow the Taliban to enforce their version of Shariat ie, stoning women, banning music and dance while themselves enjoying the national sport of bacha baazi, and generally plotting havoc in Xinjiang, Iran and the Central Asian states.
      If these were to be the end result, why intervene in Afghanistan in the first place?
      PS – you really think the Afghans would like the Pakis to take over? The Afghans absolutely hate the Pakis – in fact, refused to even acknowledge their independence for quite some time. Also, the Durand Line is still disputed. Fat chance of your suggestion being heeded to!

      • K2 Unleashed

        You are incredibly naive or clearly have something against Pakistan for refusing to acknowledge their interests, especially considering the massive non existent border that affects both countries, aka Durrand line. I have been to Afghanistan. The Government controls Kabul and thats just thanks to Western forces. The villages outside Kabul don’t even know what Pakistan is. They reject ALL governments, including their own. Your ridiculous notion that Afghans hate Pakistan does not reflect ground reality. You dont appreciate how much the successive Afghan governments have failed their people. They are completely isolated from the world, lack all amnesties and most actually use Pakistani currency without realizing it because they are illiterate.
        In fact, the rural areas as so isolated that they still think they are fighting Russians. The so called “hate” for Pakistan is irrelevant and meaningless to anyone who knows what they are talking about.

        • Headstrong

          And you are clearly deluded if you believe Afghans love the Pakis. Afghans blame the Pakis for supporting the Taliban and reducing their country to the state that it is in. They recall with horror the period the taliban was in charge in the late 90s and dread the possibility of it happening again – which is a possibility given that the Afghan government is being pushed to ‘talk’ with them, even as the Taliban continues to create mayhem every other day. If not for Pakistan hunting with the hounds and running with the hare, the Taliban could have been finished.

        • voidist

          go and unload your Pakistani crap elsewhere……we know your Kind…
          you are the real reason we have terrorism

    • Dominic Stockford

      That is about the worst solution I have ever heard.

    • voidist

      you are a real Joker…..Pakistan created taliban……will it really destroy i ts own child..?
      to the contrary Afghanistan was lost because of Pakistans backing of taliban….
      a larger islamic Pakistan means a larger Terrorist threat…you must be Pakistani ..

  • Swivel-eyed loon

    The ‘Rules of Engagement’ were a contributing factor in the failure to resolve this war. If we adhered to this nonsense in WW2, we’d still be fighting.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Not only has the Taliban surged back since the US military left but it has splintered into the ‘Afghani Taliban” and the “Pakistani Taliban’. They are also using IS like methods.
    IS got most of her methods from the (Hindu) Tamil Tigers and the 30 year long war in Sri Lanka including
    -extensive use of the suicide vest (Tamil Tigers used the suicide vest the most till IS)
    -advanced weapons in an offensive manner (Tamil Tigers had an air force, navy and a lethal military where her cadres wore a cyanide pill attached to a necklace in case of capture)
    -Captive population
    -Human shields
    -The Birth of the Islamic Caliphate. comes at the heels of the demand for Elam which had it taken place would have been a “Hindu Theocracy”
    (“India Shattering the Illusion. The Birth of New Nations. Kashmir to Eelam” By Columbus Falco)

    • Headstrong

      The Tamil Tigers had no religious agenda, Bernie. Prabhakaran himself was an atheist. This was a purely ethnic clash, pitting Tamils against the Sinhalas for recognition and non-discrimination. But your pathological hatred for India and Hindus makes you bring in religion into all your comments. For you the ISIS are the good guys, as long as they target those you hate – Indians, Hindus, Liberals in Washington, Jews, Black Americans….
      Quote – “Sooner than later there will be bomb attacks in your Hindu India. WHEN (and not if) that happens and HINDU women, children babies and adults are BLOWN UP I am going to celebrate. DIE DIE DIE YOU FILTHY HINDUS I HOPE ISIS GETS TO YOUR INDIA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I WANT TO SEE THOUSANDS OF YOU HINDUS BLOWN UP”
      The above is Bernie’s post in the Asia Times article – After dodging war crimes probe, Lanka focuses on truth, reconciliation
      http://atimes.com/2015/10/after-dodging-war-crimes-probe-lanka-focuses-on-truth-reconciliation/
      Not to forget his anti-Brit rant – Quote: “Go run along to one of your British mosqes. The Muslims will give you a penny for a blo job”
      “Do you realize buggring sheep were done by you British a long time ago and well before the Romans did it?did you also realize that you British wear girly skirts which are called kilts and it is because it is easy to buggr the sheep when one wears a skirt with no underwear?”
      His comments on http://atimes.com/2015/11/paris-attacks-brings-back-haunting-memories-to-mumbais-2611-victims/ are quite illustrative too of his bigotry and hate mongering

      Quite the psycho our Bernie is….

      • Gilbert White

        Bernie has put you on a FBI watch list for this?

        • Headstrong

          Yup. Quaking in my boots, that’s what I am!

  • Davedeparis

    Afghanistan is in no way a lost cause unless we really truly want it to be and (the US principally) capriciously withdraw the after-sales support the Afghans both deserve and require as unfortunately they did to both RSVN and Iraq afrer winning similar victories there. Afghanistan is lightyears ahead of all the doom and gloom predictions all the “experts” were making for Afghanistan from day one.

  • Dominic Stockford

    “A weak government in Kabul”

    Is this not the root of the problem? Whatever intervention people have attempted over the centuries will always fail because of the factionalism endemic with the geographical area.

    Sadly, as with alcoholics, sometimes the only option is to leave people to hit the bottom, because otherwise they will never see the need to act differently. If a saviour always shows up to ‘tidy things for a few years’ then those who live there will never learn from the relative chaos they live in.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    “Fifteen years of western intervention achieved no more than the pretence of a stable state..”
    Fifteen years? Let’s add to that the previous three Afghan Wars starting in the mid-19thC. Would anyone care to calculate (approximate will do) the value of blood, treasure, time and effort expended on this ghastly dustbowl by other countries, starting with the Empire? And would anyone be surprised by the apparent lack of any lasting, useful result? Good grief. And now various gung-ho types want us to commit similar resources to another such ghastly dustbowl in a far-off place, without any realistic expectation of any better result – exactly the same types of Establishment folk who have failed utterly, dismally, catastrophically to stem the tide of immigration into our country by huge numbers of people from such places, people who cannot assimilate and seemingly do not want to.
    And some thought both Alice in Wonderland and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were fantasies.

    • Treebrain

      Brilliant comment!

    • davidofkent

      The ‘Fertile Crescent’ was never and is not a dust-bowl. It is where civilisation started and it is still an important part of the world. Sadly, that part of the Middle East has fallen on very bad times. Even so, it cannot be compared with Afghanistan for sheer pointlessness.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Please don’t take my words so literally… Syria, Iraq etc might be in the “fertile crescent” but culturally, politically and so on they represent a dustbowl, a flushed toilet of Western-style aspirations, a nadir of democracy & liberty. UK energy self-sufficiency is imperative since I can see no reason other than oil for us to take much interest in the Middle East so long as it and its people stay at arm’s length from us.

  • Treebrain

    “But after 15 years of occupation by western troops and a trillion dollars spent, it now appears to be going the way of the Levant.”

    Which is precisely what anyone with the slightest glimmer of understanding of Afghanistan predicted would happen!

    So as the West finally acknowledges reality and prepares to ‘cut and run’, how have the multiple Western military ventures in Africa the Middle East and central Asia over the last few decades turned out?

    Afghanistan, Iraq (twice), Libya and Syria are all classic examples of failed states where Western intervention has only made things worse.

    Before that it was Somalia (Black Hawk Down?), the list could go on and on.

    Every single one an complete and utter failure and now Cameron, having failed to commit the British military to fight against Assad alongside ISIL has now committed them to fight FOR Assad alongside Hezbollah!

    Already military strategists are saying that ‘bombing for peace’ will not work and ‘boots on the ground’ are needed?

    Little wonder that the views of the SNP and Jeremy Corbyn are starting to make sense to more people.

    The P5+1 deal with Iran showed that diplomacy is far more effective (and so much cheaper) than military action.

    How can austerity Britain possibly afford to spend over £100n replacing Trident
    yet cannot maintain the flood defences vital to protect people from the effects of the global warming that the government has been talking about for so long?

    Time to get your priorities in order David Cameron?

    • LittleRedRidingHood

      I’d wait a little longer before pronouncing the deal with Iran a success.
      I suspect it will anything but in the end.

      • Treebrain

        Well it is certainly going well so far!

        The Iranians have far more to gain by adhering to it than breaking it.

  • davidofkent

    We didn’t need to look. It was perfectly obvious that the Taliban would return once we had all pulled out. The important question is, “How much of our taxpayers’ money are we still providing for the ruler(s) of this corrupt, failed state?”

  • LittleRedRidingHood

    It just shows that most people are more intelligent than politicians.
    It’s not exactly rocket science is it to understand that when you don’t win a war the war continues.

  • crazydave789

    and russia is again providing helicopters to a desperate afghan govt, just think if the CIA hadn’t created the taleban afghanistan might have settled down, the soviets went in to hold up a left wing govt who themselves rose up to stop themselves being purged by a right wing one.

    the only things the socialist afghan govt did wrong (besides being a socialist one in the eyes of the US) was to try and reform too fast taking power away from the tribal warlords and giving women education and the vote.

    the only way to stabilise afghanistan is to nuke pakistan or declare an independant pashtunistan giving the south east of the country away and settling down in the north west. similar the best way to stop isis is to let them go after the saudis.

    islam needs its reformation and wont moderate until it does.

    • Todd Unctious

      The Afhgan episode cost the West £675 billion. It would have been cheaper to offer every Afghan adult a £50,000 bribe to behave.

      • crazydave789

        same with the iraq invasion, they sacked the army out of principle forgetting their own ww2 lessons. they could have employed every man at 8k a year (a doctors salary before the invasion) and saved hundreds of billions and hundreds of thousands of lives.

      • voidist

        thats thanks to bush/kerry terrorist ally called pakistan

    • voidist

      not one word of what you have said has been wasted……..the best way to kill taliban
      is to nuke Pakistan…..
      the Karma wheel has turned a full circle and the islamic phsycopaths that we created
      have come back to haunt and kill us

      • crazydave789

        taliban are pashtum which is maybe a third of afghanistan but two thirds of pakistan, hive that off into an islamic state and let the rest of pakistan and its nukes migrate back into india where it should never have left.

  • rwisrael

    0bama’s strategy in Iraq was so successful that he would like to duplicate in Afghanistan. The man like Chaos so much, we may need Maxwell Smart, 99 and Control back.

  • StrategyKing

    What to do about Afghanistan. This is a problem. Unfortunately, it looks like we will have to return. This time drop the velvet glove, and forget all this democracy nonsense. Begin a policy of complete occupation and reeducation.

    • MickC

      No, “we” won’t!

      If you want to, feel free….

  • voidist

    with Pakistans Support all things are possible for taliban…..Pakistan , Saudi and Turkey..
    will always short circuit our efforts by backing extremism….with friends like These who Needs isil?

  • fivefoottwo

    We need to exit Afghanistan. This is a no win war.

  • ilPugliese

    ISIL is already engaging the Taleban for supremacy in the east. Al Jazeera has an excellent documentary video on this. But the mistake the Western powers in Afghanistan made was the assumption that democracy is just an elected government, even a stable one. This only works if there are solidly established institutions of administration which are trusted by the vast majority of the population, including those of law and order and justice. Countries in perpetual civil war have no hope of this.

    • fundamentallyflawed

      Our glorious leaders believed that deep down they are just like us and want flat screen TVs and Big Brother with a token democracy.
      The reality is that these countries are rooted in traditional Islamic culture with reverence for Imams over politicians etc.
      You can’t simply impose a western style of government

      • ilPugliese

        This tribalism is evident in other less-developed cultures as well. If there are elections, then people tend to vote for tribe-based parties.

  • Jacobi

    Afghanistan is a country you stay well clear of . We Brits have learned that the hard way over some centuries, which is why we have now but a derisory 200 personnel there.

    This particular war against Islam must be fought by the West elsewhere. Iran, I am sure is capable of holding its (Iran’s’ ) eastern borders, and the Pakistan army while hovering helpfully on the frontier, know better than to actually get involved.

    As for refugees or religious migrants, whichever they choose to be, I am sure Iran, or Pakistan, would suite them very nicely as it has their forebears, particularly in Pakistan although that that will no doubt upset the Sindhis, who can’t stand them.

    In the meantime let’s get on with dealing with the Saudi/Sunni/ISIL/Turkish threat.

    • sidor

      Britain, in spite of its long and disastrous experience in Afghanistan, failed to learn the strategic significance of that territory. It simply got involved in a conflict the meaning of which is still remaining beyond its comprehension.

  • sidor

    15 years of a phoney war between the US and Pakistan which is a Saudi proxy. Both are officially proclaimed “allies in a war against terror”. The US foreign policy has always been a great comedy.

  • Bristol_Boy

    Given Britain’s ill advised, incompetent, not fit for use political pygmies was it ever going to be thus? instead of leaving well alone, go in and make it worse! not once but three times, and having not learnt from this they insanely blunder into a Syria conflict.
    And people still vote for these appalling parasites, it truly beggars belief that so many are so stupid.

  • victor67

    One wonders what the lessons for Syria might be.

    • sidor

      One simple (and very old) lesson: don’t get involved before you understand what is going on.

  • sidor

    A historical problem of Britain is that it never had any consistent strategy in its foreign policy. The correlation time in its policy line doesn’t exceed 2-3 decades: in the time-scale beyond that it is a random walk (Markov chain). This is in a sharp contrast with France who still follows a strategy defined over 300 years ago.

  • http://www.ophiuchuscube.com/ Hendrik

    It seems too many people in that area want this type of literal islam.
    Let’s face it: the religion is brainwashed into children’s minds from the moment they are born.
    The ideology has shown time and again that it will not mix with any other type “-isms”, that includes freedom of thought, and gender equality.
    This “-ism” is the toughest one yet.

  • boonteetan

    What does one mean Taliban is back? They have always been around everywhere in Afghanistan. Many are ordinary Afghans in the day but Taliban at night. That is why US has to withdraw in a rather undignified manner.

  • Paki Terrorist

    The US funds Pakistan, and Pakistan funds the Taliban … straight and simple … !!

    • voidist

      and taliban kills americans…….you are so right…..when will those knuckleheads
      n US realise this ?

  • Leonidas

    A very depressing article from a journalist with impeccable contacts. How one feels for the widows and mothers of those killed in this wasted venture

  • voidist

    taliban have a ” made in Pakistan ” stamp on them……. i ts Pakistans most consistent Export…
    as a matter of fact there is not much else in Terms of gdp

    • Paki Terrorist

      Pakistan’s most successful and profitable exports so far has been terrorism … it brings in tens of billions of dollars, all in the name of WOT … over $31.0 billions since 2001.

  • Cobbett

    Leave Afghanistan to the…Afghans.

  • Beddoun Issm

    Let’s put things in the right perspective !
    1. Afghanistan was used against USSR during the Cold War, by whom…………….. The United States and European countries in their block. At the end, USSR withdrawal marked the disintegration of USSR, Fall of Berlin wall and hence end of the Cold War ! US and Allies simply vanished from the scene and expected Pakistan to clear up the mess and feed the 2.5 million Afghan Refugees on their own !

    2. From 1991 till 2001, Afghanistan remained a ‘No Man’s land’. Iran and India have been covertly and overtly supported the Shia conglomerate of various ethnic groups under the banner of ‘Northern Alliance’. The natural Afghan Sunni Pashtun resistance emerged in the form of Taliban. Luckily or unluckily, the Taliban proved to be a formidable power and controlled Afghanistan for 5-6 years.

    3. After September 11, the Untied States was rather unfortunately bluffed, by Indians to assume that, their version of Afghanistan, was probably the correct one. It daunted onto Americans very late that, only it was not ! India had been instrumental in forging up the same old ally named ‘Northern Alliance’ into an Afghan interim Government under the leadership of a puppet named Hamid Karzai. The aim was to destabilize Afghanistan, keep Pakistan under pressure and give Americans this false expectations that they are doing the right thing !

    4. For the past fifteen years, India has been very successful to drain the United States from hard cash and was able to waste around $ 60 Billions in the name of training / capacity building / reconstruction of Afghanistan. But as we know their partners, which include the Uzbeks, Hazaras, Uighurs and Tajiks, the same terrorists groups that have been named by President Ashraf Ghani, proved to be the most inept, corrupt and highly mismanaged Government in Afghanistan. My profound condolences with the United for losing their soldiers and so much money on towing the line of Indians in Afghanistan.

    5. Under this regional setting, Pakistan and China ‘Iron Brothers’ joined hands to clear up the mess and relieve the Afghans from the devious shackles of Indo-US clout that that destroyed their country, ruined their economy and virtually crippled Afghanistan from every possible resource. US desperately wants to get rid of Afghanistan. India simply wants to use them to project their self assumed dominance and leadership in the region. Unfortunately both Indians and Americans have failed poor Afghans !

    6. China being the stable, sane and serious emerging global power is the right candidate to assume the position of leadership in the region. With allies like Pakistan / Iran and Russia, China is in a much better position to determine the future course of action in Afghanistan. All efforts rendered by the Chinese to bring development, peace and prosperity in Afghanistan must be thoroughly appreciated.

    7. It is in the best interest of Afghans to realize the Geo-Politics of the 21st century and figure out that their over dependency on Indo-US alliance has brought them nothing except destruction. Afghan Govt and inadequately trained ANSF by India and US, will never be able to handle ISIS without having Taliban by their side ! The international community can only hope and pray that this wisdom shall prevail in Afghanistan and help them have a better future ! Or Afghanistan will remain divided, unstable and breeding ground for ISIS if the follow the diktats from New Delhi ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    • voidist

      and pakistan supplied the world with terrorism,,,,,,,and now you as a pakistani

      as usual are blaming the US INDIA AND ISRAEL…… fortunately the world

      sees you for what you are…by the way i love the way your chinese

      friends have taken care of thier uighur problem…….

      somehow you and the chinese deserve each other….

  • Enri d’Aith

    “Britain joined the United States mission in Afghanistan for a simple reason: to depose the Taleban and introduce a new, stable government”. Why? The Taliban were no threat to us and, once Al Quaeda had been kicked out, we had no real cause to attack them. The Taliban were and still are an unpleasant if not evil force but so are plenty of other regimes around the world.

    • Lawrence James.

      Indeed. In other words, the last war followed the course of the British invasions of 1839 and 1878 and the Russian of 1979. After the second Lord Roberts remarked that you can only ‘rent’ an Afghan which was and is true. They wanted and still want to be left alone and live their lives according to their own codes, which means, among things, that we shall see a return to clan and family feuds.They are also prone to religious revivals, particularly when infidels invade.Leave well alone.

  • Richard Young

    Isis and the Taliban are involved in a fight to the death.I know what Joe Stalin would have done and he was rather good at it.Allow our so called enemies to drip blood and then wipe the detritus clean.And our so called strategy is what again??

    • Enri d’Aith

      Your last sentence states the strategy, which is: “our strategy is what again?”. In somewhat less tortuous English – we haven’t got one.

    • Autolocus

      Keep attending conferences and fiddle the expenses.

  • Kasperlos

    Anyone with two functioning brain cells would recognize the script as Vietnam redux. It has the usual attributes of corruption, squandered lives, money, emigres, lost-hopeless cause. After the Vietnam war U.S.businesses got cheap labour from which all manner of goods are sold in the U.S. All that for the mere cost of 60,000 dead Americans and hundreds of billions lost in the jungle along with 1,000,000 refugees – including some Viet Cong along the way. About the the only thing that Afghanistan has to offer for exports is heroin, people, and terrorism. Not worth the fight! Let Afghanistan defend itself, and deport the emigre Afghan men now loitering on their backsides at European cafes who demand that Cameron, Obama, Hollande, Merkel ‘do something’, meaning to spend their money and waste more Western lives.

  • cartimandua

    Why wont men name the elephant? Muslim culture is failed state culture. Where there is gender apartheid there is overpopulation conflict hunger etc.
    Muslims also have to back “civilization”. They cannot hand off that struggle to others. The police besieged in Sangin have backed it with their lives and yet we get journos and pundits talking up the enemy.
    Shame on you.

  • cartimandua

    “Talks” only work when the population can be supported by available resources without anyone resorting to gangsterism and crime
    to survive.

    • http://www.ukipforbritain.co.uk/ ukipforbritainwebsite

      I have my suspicions that enormous numbers of takeaways do not make their money from selling curries and other eatables.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    Neither the US nor any Western nation has ever succeeded in bringing peace to the Middle East – nor have they won any wars against them. It was an ill advised idea to even try. History has shown time and time again, it just will not work! The UK’s intervention alone has cost £billions. It is high time to pack up the bags and leave them to their own way – their ways are none of our business! There are several countries across the World where there is unrest and turmoil – but I guess there is no oil in those countries to attract attention, and that they are too poor to purchase arms from the Western States!

  • 22pp22

    Afghanistan and Pakistan are Islamic hell-holes. They are only a threat to us because of our insane immigration policies.

  • rjbh

    Western Colonialists tire give up and go home…the Afghan warriors know this… its only a matter of time… praise be indeed to those who defeated the West, Again!

    • cartimandua

      You realize that Islam makes failed states and very short lives yes? Afghanistan went up 20 years in life expectancy thanks to the UN intervention.
      Why do you hate the Afghans so much you want them to have nasty brutal and very short lives? Under the Taliban they were on the bottom of every list except the highest maternal and child mortality.

  • boiledcabbage

    ‘The key strategic bulwark to stabilise the region is a strong Afghanistan’

    eh?

    until Pakistan’s ISI got hold of it?

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