Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kai Eide: Afghan Strategy Doomed

Eide does not mention the recent attempt to buy off the Taliban. This actually seems to be a policy that is at odds with the military strategy that Eide criticizes. It as if the new policy has many different features that includes more training of Afghans a policy Eide supports. However the question will be where the emphasis will be. The new reconciliation policy is unlikely to be very successful absent a clear withdrawal plan that will convince the Taliban that long term the foreign occupation will end.

Afghan strategy doomed: UN envoy
Tom Coghlan From: The Times

THE military strategy in Afghanistan is seriously flawed and is doomed to failure without major adjustments, the outgoing head of the UN there has warned.
Kai Eide, who will stand down as UN Special Representative in March, was withering in his assessment of the Afghan surge recently set in motion by US President Barack Obama.

He warned that the military focus was at the expense of a "meaningful, Afghan-led political strategy" and that Western troops and governments had left Afghans feeling they faced "cultural invasion".

Speaking before last night's conference on Afghanistan, being held in London, he said the international community must stop operating according to "strategies and decisions that are taken far away from Afghanistan".

"Very unfortunately, the political strategy has become an appendix to the military strategy," he said. "The strategy has to be demilitarised - a political strategy with a military component."

...Mr Eide said he supported the arrival of more US and NATO troops but they had to be used to train Afghan forces. He said the latter were better than international forces because Westerners still struggled to understand the sensitivities of the country.

He expressed deep concern at the tactical approach of British and other Western troops, which aimed to remove the Taliban from an area, hold it and then develop local infrastructure and security forces.

"The so-called clear, hold, build, military strategy has serious flaws," Mr Eide said.

"First of all, we are not able to `clear' when our opponents are insurgents one day and a normal inhabitant of a village the next day.

"We are not able to `hold' because it takes time to train and put in place police and sub-national governance.

"And we are not able to `build' because we cannot expect civilian development agencies to come into what they feel is a military campaign."

Mr Eide's tenure as Special Representative has been controversial. He was accused by his US deputy, Peter Galbraith, of effectively colluding with President Hamid Karzai during last year's elections, which were marred by allegations of vote-rigging on a massive scale. Mr Galbraith was dismissed but several senior political advisers to the UN mission in Kabul resigned over the episode.

However, his views on the West's tactics in Afghanistan will find support among many civilian agencies and NGOs working there. Eight aid agencies, including Oxfam, Afghanaid and Care International, issued a warning this week that military-led aid undermined long-term aid work and endangered aid workers and civilians.

Mr Eide said his criticism went beyond issues such as civilian casualties and night raids, both of which have sparked angry protests in Afghanistan.

And he expressed scepticism at the significance of a recent BBC poll, seized upon by Western political and military leaders, which suggested support for Western forces in Afghanistan was growing. "We must guard against an impression that what we have done up to now is the right recipe," he said. "I think serious adjustments are necessary."

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