A rather interesting development in Kabul. The French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaînė (France's Private Eye) claims that the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has told the French that the war is lost. According to Le Canard:
The British ambassador and his deputy have in turn contacted me to pass on their analysis of the situation before the Franco-British meeting on Afghanistan. These were their main points:
The British Ambassador also told the French:
The reinforcement of the military presence would have a perverse effect: it would identify us even more clearly as an occupying force and it would multiply the number of targets (for the insurgents).
Now, of course, a) this may not be true and b) is only one, admittedly well-placed, man's view. Nonetheless, let's suppose that this is an accurate summary of the British Embassy's views. What does it mean?
At the very least one might hope it will cause some people to ask some questions. We like to think of Afghanistan as the "good" war. But what does that mean? Allied troops have been in Afghanistan for six years now and a military victory remains elusive. Is this merely a matter of resources? If it's not, then how useful are promises to pour more troops into Afghanistan? And what does victory look like anyway? How sustainable are current operations? In fact, are we more concerned with "winning" the "war on drugs" than with pacifying the Hindu Kush and Helmand province? To what extent is the drug war compromising our ability to achieve our other objectives? Furthermore, what sort of threat does the Taliban (and a rump al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan pose to the non-Afghan world? Is it containable absent a military occupation? How long should our current occupation last? Dare we tell the public? Can we win? What are the adverse consequences, if any, of winning?
I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions. But I'd be interested in seeing them asked in Washington and London and Paris. The Ambassador, if he's been quoted correctly, may well be wrong. But what if he's right?
[Hat-tip: Art Goldhammer]