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

Friday, September 7, 2007

On the Indonesia question

MStFB may have found the Uruzgan update it was looking for
It seems like my reasoning yesterday regarding what role, if any, Indonesia might take on in Uruzgan may be correct. Consider the following example.
In July I remember having read a news report, this one from AFP, that says that Canada is looking to cooperate more with the United Arab Emirates in Kandahar, to bring the UAE in both as a financer of projects and in other roles. The paper calls the expected contribution "symbolic", while at the same time it goes on to say that it would include four tanks, two self-propelled 155-mm guns and some other items... Some of the content of the AFP report is familiar from before, from April, actually. You may read at the Uruzgan Weblog that part of it that originates from earlier (not word by word, I mean). In July then, a day or so after AFP wrote its report, based on a Toronto Star story, a major Pakistani paper has carried the story, too. For context, it should perhaps be noted that the UAE since years now also provides Canadian Forces with a regional forward logistics base on its territory, and Canada's The Globe and Mail wrote about this as "the worst kept secret in the Persian Gulf", in an article that the Persian Gulf Online was happy to re-publish later on. The Globe and Mail was of course right about this thing not being much of a secret when for example shopkeepers around that base were ready to tell anyone at the time how nice those Canadian and U.S. soldiers dropping by to do some shopping there are.
Another, more interesting thing to note is that many of the above mentioned sources talk of the possible deployment of UAE troops as the first such Afghan deployment for an Arab country. But with Google as a given, it's easy to do a check on whether that's really so. In one of its posts, the Instapundit published these remarks from an e-mail on UAE troops, back in February, 2006 (scroll down for them patiently if you want to see the source): "I managed some cooperative efforts with the UAE Special Forces troops stationed at Bagram. They did some patrols in the area I was responsible for, and more importantly, they did some humanitarian assistance missions. The Afghans absolutely loved the UAE troops. They were thrilled to have SOMEBODY from the Arab world (besides our excellent Egyptian hospital) come out and HELP, rather than hinder." One could go on and mention then that the UAE is present in Uruzgan, too, with some 150-170 troops (probably not under ISAF's command). This article from Radio Nederland Wereldomroep was published at the end of last October discussing the UAE's role in Uruzgan in detail (interestingly, Radio Netherlands' Arabic service seems to have published the article first, back on October 25, 2006). Apparently the UAE's presence is not much of a secret for the people of Uruzgan, either, given how they even got small gifts for Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan from UAE soldiers. And yet, even so, the issue in general seems to have been treated as something that wasn't particularly in the need of being advertised.
So this latter factor just shows that while it sounds nice in theory that for a change some Muslim (as opposed to non-Muslim) foreign soldiers could come to do service to the people of Afghanistan, given how they are not likely to commit mistakes like for example this one, discussed in detail at Afghanistanica, it is also something that doesn't really seem possible to me on a large scale at this point, except, say, for a country like Turkey (they have more than a thousand soldiers in Afghanistan, and they are operating the Wardak PRT, but probably there, too, there would be enough domestic objections against taking on a role larger than the current one). Giving aid is of course another issue (e.g. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan).
If this is part of some wider scheme of putting generally more of a "Muslim face" on ISAF's operations, I'll be interested to see what might change in the equation I tried to shed some light on. Meanwhile, as to who will take on what role in the south of Afghanistan, I should also mention by the way that the Netherlands are now raising the stakes. This week they have formally asked Germany (along with much less reluctant Norway) to contribute troops to the Uruzgan mission. That should help intensify a discussion that just has to take place.

No comments: