Alex Massie

The Afghan Conundrum

Text settings

Joe Klein has been to Afghanistan, so that puts him one up on me. Still, having spent some time pointing out the (widely-acknowledged) complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, Klein concludes his piece with this sweeping pronouncement:

The first step toward resolving the war in Afghanistan is to lay down the law in both Islamabad and Kabul. The message should be the same in both cases: The unsupervised splurge of American aid is over. The Pakistanis will have to stop giving tacit support and protection to terrorists, especially the Afghan Taliban. The Karzai government will have to end its corruption and close down the drug trade. There are plenty of other reforms necessary — the international humanitarian effort is a shabby, self-righteous mess; some of our NATO allies aren't carrying their share of the military burden — but the war will remain a bloody stalemate at best as long as jihadis come across the border from Pakistan and the drug trade flourishes.

Well, now that Joe Klein's pointed this out, Tommy Taliban might as well acknowledge that the game is up. You've been rumbled. Time, lads, for a spot of "lifelong learning" and "skills" training for other, alternative means of employment. After all, now that we know it's as simple as a) telling little Mr Karzai (such a disappointment, don't you know?)to sharpen up his act and b) ending the drug trade (!!) we can all rest easy knowing that there is a map, even if the only thing written on it, albeit in pleasingly large letters, is VICTORY. As maps go, that's pretty bloody useless.

Perhaps I'm being unfair on Mr Klein. Perhaps the strictures of TIME's house-style require him to keep the punters happy and feed them a sufficient dose of trite policy prescriptions that, in the unlikely event some heel mentions the bloody war, will help them survive their next social engagement.

One other thing: "Some of our NATO allies aren't carrying their share of the military burden". Well, that's become the prevailing view and I dare say there's some truth to it. Some troops probably could do with operating under more robust terms of engagement and all the rest of it. But all of them, regardless of nationality, would be better served by a strategy that had clear and realistic goals. Or to put it another way, if I were a Pomeranian, I'm not sure that it would be head-slappingly obvious to me that Afghanistan is worth the bones of any (or any more) of my grenadiers...

Anyway: Mike Crowley's article in TNR is a much better, if gloomy, analysis of the problems Afghanistan is going to pose President Obama.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyafghanistan