Monday, November 9, 2009

British withdrawing from Helmland

In retrospect Steve Coll seemed to sense what was in the offing when he wrote, "The territorial achievements of the Najibullah government -- no forcible takeover of the Afghan state by Islamist guerrillas, continuous control of all the country's cities and major towns -- might look attractive today to the United States as a minimum measure of success."

The latest edition of the 'Times' reports; "According to a senior Nato source, Western military commanders in Afghanistan are considering a radical shift in policy that would see British and US forces conduct a tactical pull-out from most of northern Helmand, including the town of Musa Qala." The troops would then be used to stabilise the highly populated central areas of Helmland. Not to worry that this would mean that Mullah Abdul Salaam, a former Taleban commander, who switched sides to become district governor of Musa Qala, would be thrown to the wolves and there is already concrete evidence to suggest that the "international community" will, indeed, be contenting itself with the territorial achievements of the Najibllah government.

Of course, the writing is on the wall and despite the first part of Steve's "jigsaw" already falling into place it it very difficult to follow Mr Coll's reasoning for the second part of his solution, namely a stable Pakistan, is far from being achieved and I do not see how Pakistan will stabilise a 1,500 mile border, which Pashtus on both sides of the 'Durand Line' consider to be their land. Moreover, what is the military sacrifice really for? geopolitically it just doesn't make sense for the allies to content themselves with Najibullah's "achievements". No, the evidence would seem to suggest that this is the beginning of the retreat and at the end of the day "Uncle Sam" will be happy to content himself with the Soviet's achievement and a orderly withdrawal. However, with today's news in the 'Times' indicating that that might happen some time before the number of Soviet dead (15,000) is reached, perhaps, the allies will indeed be contenting themselves with a little bit more at the end of another fruitless, useless, destructive war on the Hindikush. For that to happen they will need to get out sooner than later. Yesterday's, news was, hopefully, just the beginning.

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