Admitting Failure

November 2, 2006

The International Crisis Group (with whom yours truly briefly interned two years ago, on his way to the still unaccomplished feat of taking up and leaving jobs/internships at all of DC’s think-tanks) released its latest report on Afghanistan today:

“Countering Afghanistan’s Insurgency: No Quick Fixes”

As a whole the report conveys the bleak mood that generally surrounds talk of Afghanistan nowadays. It also conveys a sense of urgency -which is rather new.

First impressions (and this is by no means exhaustive -just a glance at the Executive Summary):

  • The report amounts to a big-bang of an admission coming as it does from an establishment think-tank: “Afghanistan needs a renewed, long-term effort to build an effective, fair government that provides real security to its people.” Renewed? “Fair” government? “Real” security? Insurgency?
  • Finally somebody has the sense and the courage to say that making deals with Taliban is a “bad idea.” DC is such an abyss of defeatism nowadays. Maybe it has to do with the elections season when every politician wants to sound as if they care about troops and want to brings them home; from Iraq, from Afghanistan, heck even from Japan and Germany -bring ’em all home. This report, though is clearly a slap in the face for the Brits who abandoned Helmand a short while ago (after a “secret truce” with the Taliban,) and for all those (like Senator Bill Frist, though he backtracked) who suggest that Taliban should be brought back into the government. Bad, bad idea -not to say it is also a terribly cynical and immoral approach. If anything, the impunity of the “Bloodstained Hands” is what has so many ordinary people riled up in Afghanistan.
  • Speaking of which, the report also takes a jab at those whose past records have been shoved under the rug. The report talks about a “culture of impunity” that best summarizes the official attitude towards all those who are demonstrably guilty of massacres of civilians, torture, rape, indiscriminate bombardment of cities and civilians, pillage of personal and national wealth, using human shields in conflict, and arguably of genocidal intentions. And corruption.
  • Which itself figures prominently in the report. The report refers to the widespread and corruption and bad governance as “five years of misrule,” one of the harshest indictments yet of the government. On corruption, the report singles out Police and the judiciary -both of particularly notorious repute: “The former are mostly a source of fear rather than security… The latter is corrupt or non-existent.”
  • The report also talks about the correlation between reports of prisoners’ abuse and deaths in Bagram airbase, at the hands of US forces, and the turning tide of public sentiments. Common common sense.

All in all, a strongly-worded indictment (or admission) of the failures -on all parties’ part- thus far. It is also a break to see a report that does not parrot the same lines of Al-Qaeda, drugs, more money needed. (Though it still does parrot the line about Pakistan’s disingenuity in fighting terrorism -which I still, franky, don’t understand.)