What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Update on the issue of the Dutch approach

MStFB Afghanistan Update
Carl Robichaud from the Century Foundation issued a new post on the Dutch approach in Afghanistan. He received some responses for coming down easy on the Dutch - one of those may have been mine, actually :-) - but anyway, among those, he received an e-mail from a Dutch reader who has recently traveled around in Uruzgan and that reader had this to say about the issue: "I’ve spent a lot of time traveling in these areas, and devoted quite a bit of effort to finding out exactly what the Dutch were up... I can find very little to praise in the attitude that the Dutch are taking... The terrain in Uruzgan is such that they have the luxury of avoiding the larger-scale clashes that are tying the Brits down in Helmand, but this doesn’t give them the right to preach in the way that they have been doing."
Well, geography might certainly play a factor here. To let you see that, I'll qoute an article here that recalls a veritable 'rural legend' about just how rural and remote some parts of Uruzgan are: "For years until the Australians arrived, Taliban fighters and local militias had sought safe haven in Oruzgan province far from the reach of the Karzai Government or from coalition forces. So remote are parts of Oruzgan that when an Australian SAS patrol stopped late last year in a remote valley they were asked, when they stopped to talk to a village elder, "Why has it been so long since the Russians returned here?" The old man had not heard that the Russians had quit Afghanistan in 1989 and thought the Australians were members of a Russian occupying force."
So how many Talibs are there? This source puts the number at 300-400, and describes them as freely roaming between Uruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand. If that's right, you have the extent of the negative spillover that I've been blogging on, right there, in that figure.
You may also want to check a UN area accessibility map here, from June, 2006. There you can see exactly which areas are regarded as risky by the UN. The whole of Uruzgan, actually, is either in the high or the extreme range, just as the areas bordering on it (except for a small, brighter patch in Ghazni). It would be nice to have a more detailed map, of course, showing you where each valley lays and so on, nevertheless it's still a good indicator of an overall bad situation.

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