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

Saturday, May 5, 2007

On the return of the Australians and more

MStFB commentary
I was glad to receive an informed comment from "Pim" on my Uruzgan series post. So in today's first post I'll react to it first. I find the assumption that the Australians might have just taken a breather and come back for the guerrilla season to Uruzgan very realistic. In fact, they might possibly be taking over the leading military role in Uruzgan after mid-2008. As a friend of mine, Péter Wagner, pointed out, they might be a more likely candidate for the job than Norway. I also think, however, that for that the Australians will probably need to wait for delivery of more Eurocopter Tiger combat helicopters that they have already ordered, if they really want to do more in Uruzgan. And either till then, or even beyond that time that those arrive, Dutch Apaches may still remain deployed I guess. Some Norwegian staff might come in to help out the remaining Dutch military component in keeping itself serviceable.
And I also agree that it would be unrealistic to expect the Dutch Battle Group to just roll out and take places like Chora Valley Rambo-style. There really isn't a critical mass of Dutch troops in Uruzgan, and in fact, as Dutch minister Bert Koenders pointed out in his CSIS speech which I covered on this site, one can't be too sure if there is a critical mass of ISAF and OEF troops in the whole of Afghanistan. (The only thing I found irritating a little bit was when some military officers started bragging about the soft version of the ink blot strategy being the best, when in fact it was designed taking account of the constraints faced.)
The ink blot strategy, if combined with operations to deny safe havens to hostile forces, can also be a good one, though, because it's just wrong to think that Talibs are some kind of totally alien force in Afghanistan, and that so they would have to be shot one by one to call it mission accomplished. That wouldn't be possible, either, given the refuge they can withdraw to in Pakistan's tribal areas. So something lasting will have to be built in Afghanistan for the West to be able to say this is what we can do. As I heard from someone who spent a long time in Afghanistan, you can sit down have tea with a carpet vendor and if you show real respect he will let you take a carpet even if you can't pay for it on the spot. History just won't tell Afghans to trust the outside world this much in questions of far more significance than a simple business deal.

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