another Afghan misadventure


“The enterprise has proved to be a model of how not to go about such things, breaking all the rules of grand strategy: getting in without having any idea of how to get out; almost wilful misdiagnosis of the challenges; changing objectives, and no coherent or consistent plan; mission creep on an heroic scale; disunity of political and military command, also on an heroic scale; diversion of attention and resources [to Iraq] at a critical stage in the adventure; poor choice of local allies, who rapidly became more of a problem than a solution; unwillingness to co-opt the neighbours into the project, and thus address the mission-critical problem of external sanctuary and support; military advice, long on institutional self-interest, but woefully short on serious objective analysis of the problems of pacifying a broken country with largely non-existent institutions of government and security; weak political leadership, notably in subjecting to proper scrutiny militarily heavy approaches, and in explaining to the increasingly, and now decisively, sceptical domestic press and public the benefits of expending so much treasure and blood.” The history of Afghanistan is littered with examples of misguided foreign interventions, from the massacre of British imperial forces at Maiwand in 1880 to the Soviet invasion and retreat a century later. The west’s latest foray into the Afghan morass began in 2001 as a punitive US-led mission to destroy the al-Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks and topple the Taliban regime that harboured Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group. It has since morphed into an altogether more ambitious venture: to establish a client state with a semblance of democracy in a hostile region with no tradition of strong independent institutions or basic human rights.

more from Lionel Barber at the FT here.