Monday, October 29, 2007

Top British Politician: "We have lost" Afghan War

Lord Paddy Ashdown, a leader of the British Liberal Party, who has been proposed as the new U.S./UK "super envoy" to the Afghan government, and most recently was UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, spoke about the war in Afghanistan before a NATO meeting in Holland the other day. It was reported by the UK paper, the Telegraph:

Lord Ashdown said: "We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely"....

Lord Ashdown added: "I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite [Shia], Sunni regional war on a grand scale.

"Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this [failure] to match this magnitude."

Of course, I could find nothing of this in either of the papers of "record" (who knew the term would gain such Orwellian irony?), the New York Times or the Washington Post. Meanwhile, an article in the British Independent makes the point that fears of a loss in Afghanistan, along with problems within the "coalition of the willing", are raising fears of a hike in UK troop presence.

Fears that Britain could be forced to send more troops to Afghanistan grew after Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a desperate appeal to Nato partners to share more of the burden of the war against the Taliban....

The lack of reinforcements is making it harder for the 41,000-strong force to consolidate gains against the Taliban. There are shortages of helicopters and the Americans are furious with Britain for allowing farmers to produce a bumper poppy harvest for the heroin trade....

Lord Ashdown, the former international peace envoy in Bosnia, has warned that a defeat in Afghanistan would be worse than defeat in Iraq, and trigger a regional war.

Former American ambassador Robert Hunter said on BBC radio: "I think it's premature to say it's lost. I asked him (Lord Ashdown) to try to go to Afghanistan and try to do what he did in Bosnia. He answered with a short phrase that I cannot repeat on the radio."

Of course, you wouldn't know any of this if you read the U.S. press, or followed the U.S. presidential race, where platitudes about "supporting our troops" vie for vapid commentary about health care reform, gay marriage, and, well, god knows what.

A catastrophe of historic proportions is gathering around us, and yet the body politic is incapable of rousing itself from some kind of enchanted torpor. When Lord Ashdown, a very educated man, makes an analogy with the First and Second World War, likening them -- incorrectly, I believe -- with regional civil wars, and applies it to the middle east and southwestern asia, you can believe that he is correct on at least one matter: the devastation and killing will be immense. It's hard not to see the U.S. being drawn in.

I've long believed that the Iraq War was about more than oil, though it's about that too. It's about establishing bases and a strategic bridgehead and center of military operations in a part of the world where all hell is expected to break loose in the next five to twenty years.

From Saudi Arabia and Iran to Pakistan, India, and the former Soviet republics on the southern border of Russia, a cataclysmic war is building. Or rather, it's already begun. But the American people are not part of the discussions around this process. They are kept blissfully ignorant by the corporate/government press and the kept intelligentsia.

Brig Lorimer, commander of UK troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, told the UK Telegraph last August:

"This is a counter-insurgency operation which is going to take time. It could last a decade. The counter-narcotic problem, which is huge, could take another 25 years. The British ambassador has said it will take 30 years. He has often said that this mission is a marathon, not a sprint and he is absolutely right."

It's not that nothing is being reported in the U.S. press. There was this in today's WP:

This year has been Afghanistan's deadliest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 5,300 people have died so far due to insurgency related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

The number of attacks on aid convoys have also spiked, increasing six-fold this year over 2006, said Rick Corsino, the country director for the U.N.'s World Food Program. There have been 30 attacks on WFP food convoys so far this year, mainly in the country's south, compared with five attacks in the whole of 2006.

Meanwhile, Bush is asking Congress for another $46 billion dollars to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Certain people used to be fond of calling the Soviet Union the "evil empire", and when the old CPSU crumbled in the early 1990s, it was widely perceived that Soviet foreign military commitments, such as the intervention in Afghanistan, bankrupted the economy, bringing a precipitous end to that "empire".

Whatever the reasons the Soviet Union finally imploded, it is true that foreign conquest tends to degrade the society that follows such a path. With the trillions in debt proposed by Bush and, so far, voted affirmatively by members of both U.S. political parties, it may be that as the Soviets in Afghanistan, the U.S. will find the days of its short-lived empire truncated in the bleak gray granite mountains of the Hindu Kush.

Also posted at Daily Kos

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