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The West's war in Afghanistan is failing: Crisis Group


November 27, 2010 — A leading international think tank Sunday issued a damning review of the US-led war in Afghanistan and said NATO plans to end its combat mission by 2014 would lead to the Kabul government's collapse. The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the coalition's strategy to break the Taliban, build popular support among civilians, woo disenchanted rebels and boost Afghan security forces was failing...

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The West's war in Afghanistan is failing: Crisis Group

By Claire Truscott , AFP

November 27, 2010

KABUL — A leading international think tank Sunday issued a damning review of the US-led war in Afghanistan and said NATO plans to end its combat mission by 2014 would lead to the Kabul government's collapse.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the coalition's strategy to break the Taliban, build popular support among civilians, woo disenchanted rebels and boost Afghan security forces was failing.

More than 140,000 US-led troops are waging a counter-insurgency campaign mostly in the south and east of the country amid dwindling support for the war back home as the fighting returns a record number of coalition casualties.

"There is little evidence that the operations have disrupted the insurgency's momentum.... The Taliban are more active than ever and they still enjoy sanctuary and support in Pakistan," said the ICG report.

The Taliban and other militants tied to Al-Qaeda are believed to hold rear bases in the tribal areas across the border in Pakistan, with rumours rife that they operate with the tacit consent of some Pakistani intelligence officials.

Coalition forces have lost 662 troops this year, according to an AFP tally based on that tracked by the independent icasualties.org website, the highest annual toll since the US-led invasion in late 2001. Last year 521 NATO soldiers died.

The number of Afghans civilians killed in the conflict rose by a third in the first six months of 2010 to 1,271, with the vast majority of deaths caused by insurgent attacks, according to UN figures.

But the think tank's report, entitled: "Afghanistan: Exit vs Engagement", said the planned drawdown of international troops, agreed at a landmark NATO summit in Lisbon last week, was not the answer.

The Afghan security forces "have proven a poor match for the Taliban," it said.

"Without outside support, (President Hamid Karzai's) government would collapse, the Taliban would control much of the country and internal conflict would worsen, increasing the prospects of a return to the destructive civil war of the 1990s," the report said.

The think tank also slammed a peace strategy being pursued with the Taliban, whose leadership have so far shunned repeated overtures by Karzai to come to the negotiating table.

The ICG said the idea of bringing the Taliban onboard served to inflame rivalries between various Afghan groups and increased insecurity for ordinary people.

"The current rush to cement deals with the insurgents will not help Afghans nor will it address the very real regional and global security concerns posed by the breakdown of the Afghan state," said Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group's South Asia Project Director.

Billions of dollars are being spent by the Afghan government's Western allies on development in a bid to safeguard the country's future, but the ICG said the money is simply plying corruption networks and fuelling competing power centres among Afghan elites.

The report also criticised US diplomacy for alternating between rebuking and embracing Karzai, who it said was increasingly distancing himself from his Western allies as he juggles various power factions to stay in power.

Instead, the ICG said the allies should focus on strengthening Afghanistan's political and judicial institutions and work to overcome the "pervasive atmosphere of impunity".

"Parliament is ignored. The courts are manipulated. The army and police are little more than pawns in an elaborate game of chess between multiple regional powerbrokers," said the ICG.

The focus of the US-led campaign is moving towards boosting Afghanistan's army and police force in order to hand responsibility for security to the national forces by the end of 2014.

There are currently about 80,000 police officers and US and NATO forces hope to bring that number up to 134,000 by October next year, alongside the 170,000 personnel planned for the army by the same date.

But the ICG said the police were "corrupt, brutal and predatory", the army was being manipulated by various strongmen, while both forces suffered from a lack of training and low retention among the ranks.

The Pentagon admitted in a report last week that progress had been "uneven" in the war in Afghanistan, but in public top US officials and military leaders have said the US military has gained the initiative on the battlefield.

After the Lisbon summit US President Barack Obama said: "We are achieving our objective of breaking Taliban momentum."





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