Canadian Television summed up the conclusions in the Senlis report this way (all emphases in quotes throughout are mine):
*** The Taliban are winning hearts and minds in southern Afghanistan; the international community is not. NATO-ISAF troops are forced to fight in an increasingly hostile environment because of the international community’s blunt political errors.
*** The absence of comprehensive development aid plans has given a strategic advantage to the Taliban.
*** Time for a well-planned village by village hearts and minds campaign to re-engage the Afghan population and make NATO’s mission a successful one.
What's that? A "hearts and minds" campaign to "re-engage" the population against the native opposition? Where have I heard that kind of language before?
Meanwhile, the Reuters article elaborates:
If NATO, the lead force operating in Afghanistan, is to have any impact against the insurgency, troop numbers will have to be doubled to at least 80,000, the report said.
Despite the alarms and the suggestions, the Taliban is likely to retake Kabul next year.
Senlis said its research had established that the Taliban, driven out of Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion in late 2001, had rebuilt a permanent presence in 54 percent of the country and was finding it easy to recruit new followers.
It was also increasingly using Iraq-style tactics, such as roadside and suicide bombs, to powerful effect, and had built a stable network of financial support, funding its operations with the proceeds from Afghanistan's booming opium trade.
"It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when," the report said.
Putting it all together, we can see that like its neighbor to the east, Pakistan, Afghanistan is headed for greater turbulence and a higher amount of Western intervention -- although perhaps we should drop the polite language and call "intervention" by its real name: invasion.
The "hearts and minds" language, when combined with the call to double troop presence, points to plans for a large-scale military counterinsurgency campaign, as in Vietnam... or in Iraq. Such a campaign cannot really win popular support in the target country, as a prominent international humanitarian representative explains:
David Curtis, head of mission for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Somalia, explains: “When military and humanitarian groups are doing similar work it is hard for people… to differentiate between them. Yet the objectives of the two are utterly dissimilar; humanitarian agencies aid the population without taking sides and based on need, while the US military serve their own political and military objectives alone. The two are incompatible.”
Why U.S./NATO Troops Must Withdraw from Afghanistan
The U.S. "war on terror" has always been a cover for imperialist maneuvering between Western nations, the drive to secure capital markets and natural resources, like gas and oil, and to beat out your opponents while doing it. For instance, despite their putative "alliance," the U.S., France, Germany, and the U.K. all have strong reasons to see the other nations of the group as competitors, particularly the U.S. and Germany.
The one thing that keeps them together is a lingering fear of Russia, and the political decision that the time has not yet come to split the alliance (as France almost did five years ago over Iraq). Well, I suppose there's also the profits, as a Daily Kos diarist noted the other day:
More than $20 billion in U.S. Government contracts for work in Iraq and Afghanistan has gone to "... foreign companies whose identities – at least so far – are impossible to determine, according to a new study from the Center for Public Integrity.
The sufferings of the Afghan people has been immense. The Taliban are a truly awful political organization, one which will enslave much of the population in barbaric medieval religious laws and institutions. But the U.S. and its allies are incapable of "liberating" this country, as the predatory Iraq War has made clear to all Muslims in the region.
Only the complete defeat of the political leadership in the U.S. and Europe, and the institution of a new one, dedicated to punishing the militarists, politicians and businessmen, particularly those responsible for the illegal intervention into Iraq and the use of torture throughout the region, will begin the massive repair job needed to truly win the "hearts and minds" of impoverished and oppressed people around the globe. Such an overturn in leadership and political policy will not be without its reflection within the countries undergoing such change, and there will be both pain and sacrifice, and a feeling of liberation and a future free of fear.
For now, 2008 looks to be a year of further defeats on the battlefield for Bush and the neo-cons, followed by strained attempts to ratchet up the military machinery in the most explosive corner of the world. It is not too late to throw out this rancid bunch, but I fear the current political opposition is too subservient, too inured to a sterile electoralist platform, and too afraid, frankly, of necessary change, because too indebted to the large corporations that feed off the military machine, to lead as it should.
The conclusion will be messy, but as always in history, unforgiving, especially for those candidates and politicians that cannot embrace impeachment and immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan -- Withdrawal from Afghanistan?? you cry. Yes. NATO cannot save the anti-fundamentalist opposition in Afghanistan. They are ensuring a Taliban victory. They are irrevocably tainted by war crimes and torture. If a truly domestic opposition is to form and beat the Taliban and the warlords -- and I strongly oppose both Taliban and the vicious warlords and obscurantist mullahs -- then the U.S. and its allies must pull out.