Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 03:52 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 03:52 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The Afghanistan escalation


Sam Roggeveen


25 March 2009 15:22

Scott Burchill writes:

The war in Afghanistan was lost over 4 years ago. Given what has been dropped on and fired at them since late 2001, it is clear the Taliban cannot be eliminated: after all, they have nowhere else to go. There are no military solutions to the complex social, political and economic problems in the country. Victory cannot even be rationally or coherently defined by Western forces. An escalation of Australian and US troops, a consequence of the sensible reluctance of NATO member states to get further involved in such a futile conflict, will only further immiserate the people of this benighted country. This is why calls by Jim Molan and Carl Ungerer to send more Australian troops into harms way in Afghanistan are so irresponsible and counter-productive.

Given planning for the 9/11 attacks was conducted in Germany, the UAE and the US, the case for a war against Afghanistan was always weak. Now that everyone seems to agree that the al Qaeda and Taliban leadership is in Pakistan, arguments for an escalation of this war – and a continuation of the suffering of the Afghan people — does not exist. Two-thirds of the Australian people recognise this even if a retired General and a conservative think tanker do not.

Scott may be right that an escalation is the wrong plan, but assuming that the status quo is also unacceptable, that only leaves withdrawal. Therein lies the agony, because for all the suffering coalition forces have inflicted on Afghanistan, they have also made modest economic, humanitarian and human rights gains. Can anyone seriously see that situation improving if the coalition withdraws?

In short, those of us who doubt the strategic justification for this mission have to face up to what withdrawal would mean (h/t Sullivan):

Is it possible to honor our promises to those who have chosen our side in Afghanistan if we decide that we no longer have a strategic interest in preventing a Taliban victory? Isn’t it important to keep such promises? In Vietnam we betrayed many of them, or honored them to some extent by granting US entry visas to a lot of people from the Republic of Vietnam. It seems absurd to think that anything similar could be done in Afghanistan. So what do we offer to the girls whose schools will be closed, the police and army officers who will be executed, the NGO volunteers who will be whipped when the Taliban jeeps roll into Kabul? Nothing? “Sorry”?