James Forsyth

Far more than shallow speech

Far more than shallow speech
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In debates about Afghanistan, and previously Iraq, people like to puff themselves up and declare that ‘there is no military solution’ and that ‘we must talk to those who are prepared to give up violence’. They then rest back in their chairs and wait for everyone to applaud their wisdom. But in fact they have merely made two obvious and shallow statements.

In his speech to the Munich Security Conference, General Petraeus pointed out the flip side to these statements of the obvious. On the first point, while there is not a purely military solution there can be no solution without the military. In these kind of conflict / post-conflict situations only the military can provide security. Without security, no sustainable progress will ever be made.

When it comes to talking, we should—obviously—be prepared to talk to those who are prepared to give up violence, accept the new realities and work within the political process. This has been done to great effect in Iraq in the last two years. But equally, those who will not have to be defeated, as Petraeus puts it:

“True irreconcilables, again, must be killed, captured, or driven out of the area. And we cannot shrink from that any more than we can shrink from being willing to support Afghan reconciliation with those elements that show a willingness to reject the insurgents and help Afghan and ISAF forces.”

Progress in Afghanistan is going to be a long and hard road. But as the recent poll indicates, where there is more security there is more confidence in the government and the political process. Providing greater security is going to require more troops and a willingness to deal forcefully with those who will not give up violence.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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