First, please read the attached article.
This got me thinking:
At the NATO summit last week (19th – 20th November 2010), Cameron announced that all British forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2015 and, starting in Spring 2011 and ending in 2014, that domestic security would be handed over to the 50,000 strong Afghan police force. Meanwhile the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, argued that a military withdrawal from Afghanistan should be “condition based” not “calendar based”.
Mao (amongst others) argued that insurgents can win asymmetrical war because their opponents are fighting on two fronts; against the insurgents and the public at home. This means guerrilla insurgents have the advantage because they simply have to survive long enough for western politicians to feel that their voters are not prepared to put in the time needed to win and so pull out.
Now consider the attached article. Given that Britain is increasingly engaged in conflicts that require political and social reconstruction afterwards, that politicians are clearly creating deadlines that suit the political situation in Britain rather than the military situation on the ground, and if the Afghan police force as bad as this article suggests, can Britain possibly succeed in leaving Afghanistan in a stable, self-governing state? The friend who gave the article to me said he was so surprised by the contents that he thought everyone should be made to read it, particularly because the state of Afghanistan’s self-governance is so rarely reported here, let alone that they might not be ready for it.
My question is – if Afghanistan isn’t ready for self-governance as suggested in the article but Britain is going ahead with the handover to their police force next spring and withdrawing in 2015, then is Mao right and the west can’t win an asymmetrical war because it’s not prepared to put in the time? Given that asymmetrical warfare is the British army’s current concern, why isn’t the media and the government doing more to acclimatise the public to the idea of long-term, peace-keeping wars? The public doesn’t seem to understand the complexities of the current role of the army, while the media propagates the public perception of ‘conventional’ war by only reporting new pushes into Taliban controlled territory or fire fights. There was little or no mainstream reporting of the recent elections on 18th November 2010 or the establishment of the first Afghan run blood donation service in Helmand in 2008, for example. Surely it would be better if the government and media could inform and educate the public of the realities of asymmetric warfare, so the public begin to anticipate a long term involvement. They might, consequently, be less surprised by the time frame needed to achieve military victory and restoration when the next conflict occurs. This might then prevent politicians assuming that the public want speedy troop withdrawal and give the army the time it needs to give stability to a country so that political regeneration can take place.
By Victoria Henshaw