Afghanistan: grim prognoses from NATO leaders

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of a “downward spiral” in Afghanistan if trends continue in comments Oct. 9. “The trends across the board are not going in the right direction,” he told reporters. “I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.” (NYT, Oct. 10) On Oct. 6, the departing commander of British forces in Afghanistan said he believes the Taliban cannot be defeated. Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, told the London Times that a military victory over the Taliban is “neither feasible nor supportable… What we need is sufficient troops to contain the insurgency to a level where it is not a strategic threat to the longevity of the elected government.”

Carleton-Smith said his troops had “taken the sting out of the Taliban” during clashes in Helmand province, but at a heavy cost. His brigade suffered 32 killed and 170 injured during its six-month tour of duty. The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment alone lost 11 soldiers, most of them killed by roadside bombs or other explosive devices. (London Times, Oct. 6)

A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, predicting that the campaign against the Taliban will fail, and saying the best solution would be installing an “acceptable dictator.” François Fitou, the French deputy ambassador in Kabul, quoted Cowper-Coles saying, “The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust.”

The two-page cable—sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2—was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which printed excerpts in its Oct. 1 issue. The cable said the NATO-led military presence was actually making it harder to stabilize the country. “The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Cowper-Coles was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.” For the next five to 10 years, the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,” the cable said, adding: “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome. (IHT, Oct. 5)

See our last post on Afghanistan.

  1. Gates wants more NATO troops for Afghanistan
    From the New York Times, Oct. 9, link added:

    Europe Asked to Send Afghanistan More Troops
    OHRID, Macedonia — The United States defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, on Wednesday called on America’s allies in southeastern Europe to expand their troop commitments to Afghanistan, where NATO is struggling to combat an emboldened Taliban.

    “As the situation on the ground in Iraq continues to improve, I urge you to consider sending your military forces to Afghanistan,” Mr. Gates said at a meeting of the Southeast European Defense Ministerial, a group of countries that includes Italy, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania and Macedonia. “Your assistance will not only help Afghanistan better protect and care for its citizens, it will also reinforce your important role in ensuring peace and stability around the globe.”

    The countries represented at the meeting, not including the United States, have contributed about 5,000 troops to the NATO force in Afghanistan. Only one member country, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has no troops there. The United States has 34,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 15,000 that are part of the NATO mission.

    In a sign of the growing urgency in Afghanistan, where commanders have said they need as many as 12,000 more troops, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed Tuesday to send an additional 1,000 soldiers to the country, but they will not be deployed in the south, where most of the heavy fighting between insurgents and NATO troops has been taking place.