We’ve lost the Afghan war, Russia and China will win
Talking point: As the West struggles to rescue its armies and economies, Cold War losers become the winners
ON 7 OCTOBER 2001 the first American bombs fell on Afghanistan as America and an international coalition sought to swiftly destroy the terrorists who had perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Ten years on, can there be any winners?
The pessimists proved prescient
Three weeks after the first American bombs fell in Kabul, two views on the war in Afghanistan started taking shape, blogs The Economist. One believed it would be short war which would soon give way to the task of nation building; and another that foresaw a long, complex and messy campaign. "The pessimists proved the more prescient."
The problem was that the US began the war with a "frightening simplistic view", says Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, quoted in the BBC. The US and Nato allies are "a little better than" half way to achieving their military goals.
It’s a fantasy to think we are winning, says former ambassador to Kabul, Sherard Cowper-Coles, in The Daily Telegraph. But our strategy is still fatally flawed. Despite, or perhaps because of the heroic enthusiasm of often ignorant armies, "we have never seriously addressed the politics of stabilising Afghanistan".
There is still time to correct the errors and omissions of the first 10 years, says Cowper-Coles. But it will require a "Herculean effort" of American-led diplomacy. "I do not know whether Obama’s America is up for it."
All is not lost
The outlook is not wholly bleak, says an editorial in The Independent. Afghanistan’s vast natural resources could still be a source of funding and stability. But the international community must help realise the potential. Western military stamina may be exhausted, but "we owe it to the Afghan people – particularly the women – not to abandon them".
The pull-out of British and American troops may actually help, as the Taliban will not be able to say they are fighting foreign invaders any more, says John Simpson for BBC News. It’s unlikely the Taliban will regain control, "as long as the western countries don't forget about Afghanistan yet again".
One thought still haunts Simpson. If the $120bn the Americans, and the £18bn the British spent on this war had been judiciously and wisely invested "it might have transformed everything."
It’s one of the Western powers' epic failures of the 21st century, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Every counsel of caution in dealing with Afghanistan was disregarded in America’s rush for vengeance. "The decade-long punishment of Afghanistan is an act of biblical retribution."
The irony, says Jenkins, is that the chief beneficiaries are likely to be those who lost the Cold War, Russia and China, "as the West struggles to rescue embattled armies and embattled economies from morasses of their own creation". ·
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