Insight : Afghan war
"The US has broken the second rule of war. That is, don't go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia. Rule one is don't march on Moscow."
[Field Marshal B. L. Montgomery, quoted in 'Montgomery of Alamein' by Alun Chalfont, New York, Atheneum, 1976]
On 7 October 2008, the war in Afghanistan has been raging for 7 years. After initial success, the so called "Operation Enduring Freedom" (OEF) and the companion Nato ISAF (International security assistance force) armies are facing escalating difficulties.
The number of acknowledged coalition fatalities is increasing every day totalling 1,000 troop deaths on 24 October 2008 (see enlarged Fig.1 chart); daily fatalities of coalition troops are now more numerous than in Iraq. Numbers of wounded are not rendered public. Civilian deaths are not officially reported or validated but are estimated to a cumulative 10,000 to 30,000 since 2001 (see enlarged Fig.2 chart). This seems intolerable in the context of a mission supposed to endeavour for the people's good. The amount of territory effectively controlled by the government and ISAF is steadily shrinking. The conflict tends to spread to neighbouring countries and take a regional scope. Meanwhile, all coalition members moan and grumble about the unaffordable costs of the war, and the weight of their individual share of the burden. Whining is understandable, considering that the cost of the operation adds up to $171.7 billion, cumulative 2001 to 2009 budget bridge, for the US alone.
History may not repeat itself, nevertheless it seems that the success of foreign interventions in Afghanistan is anything but enduring.
The current prospects of the Nato powers look very much like an additional chapter of the same story book. Many western analysts, including top ranking military and diplomats, are saying aloud that victory is moving out of reach as days unfold. Some say that the issue is essentially a military one, and the war can still be won, provided forces are duly upgraded and Afghan neighbours play ball. Others object that a sheer military victory is doubtful, and a political solution must be implemented, encompassing military power, but also diplomacy and "winning the hearts and minds" of the Afghan populace. Then there are those who contend that a victory – military or otherwise – is a daydream, the only option available being to cut losses and come to an arrangement with the Taliban.
Reports tend to confirm the idea that a less bellicose and more pragmatic scheming is in the making:
Time for western rulers to mind the old lesson exposed in such succinct terms by Montgomery.