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Afghanistan ten years on

Almost ten years to the day since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the fighting has yet to stop, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

One article that has confirmed me in this depressing train of thought is an offering from Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, deputy commander of US Forces in that country from 2009 until earlier this year.

Writing in the current edition of heavyweight international relations journal Foreign Affairs [£], Rodriguez repeatedly insists – with how much heartfelt conviction, I do not know – that the strategy of Afghanisation is working.

Afghanistan now has its own 143,000 strong army and nearly 120,000 police officers. Sometime in the next year or two, Rodriguez believes, the US and its allies will be able to ‘take their hand off the back of the bicycle seat completely’, to use a suitably paternal metaphor.

If I was at home and had access to my library, I’m sure I could find parallel optimistic statements from US officers during the Vietnam war. But as history now affirms, Vietnamisation was not enough to prop up the rotten regime in Saigon.

The question facing US strategists right now is how long the endemically corrupt rule of Hamid Karzai would survive after dad lets the kids pedal on alone.

In a passing comment that jars with the upbeat perspective maintained in the rest of the piece, Rodriguez suggests that the best that can be hoped for is an endless, if low level, round of guerrilla war.

‘It is unlikely that [Afghan forces] will ever be able to completely deny insurgents a haven, kill all their leaders, or interdict all the routes they use to infiltrate the eastern provinces,’ he casually remarks.

In other words, if the Afghans are lucky, they will continue to be ruled over by a ballot-rigger who is complicit deeply complicit in criminal activity that even the US ambassador privately describes as ‘paranoid and weak’, locked in an unwinnable struggle with reactionary theocrats.

Heaven help them if their luck doesn’t hold.

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