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

Friday, December 7, 2007

Changes from 2005 to '007

Well, back in 2005 I was in (...) and went to (...) and (...) yeah, that was fun!
Feel free to fill in the blank spaces as you find it the most comfortable to imagine. But this here is of course not a blog about me, but, just take a look above at the title spot and you'll see, about Afghanistan. Primarily. Nowadays.
And nowadays is 2007, so here's one of the things that's changed in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, more exactly in the south of the country. Visualised by the UN, via the London Times.
That's something tricky to discuss. It's not funny at all, of course, so my intro to this post shouldn't lead you to think that I'm even trying to make fun of it. But what we see here is quite a complex result of changes and trends observable in the latter couple of years.
So while back in 2005 aid could get to a lot more places in the south of Afghanistan, nowadays it cannot reach large swathes of the countryside. Has the idea behind ISAF's expansion process to bring development to the Afghan South been a failure? Should they just pack up, go back home, or do something else like fix the Bamiyan Buddhas instead?
The answer can't be yes really, sorry to disappoint if some readers thought that's what I'm about to conclude. Or, well, not really sorry.
The two things that I'd conclude instead are the following:
1.) Simply, there are more Taliban in the south nowadays, as the infiltration of these areas has probably accelerated since 2005.
2.) Even if we would assume that an uncountered increase of the presence of the Taliban could go along with basic humanitarian aid operations continuing, it would be a challenging normative question to ask if that would mean that we should let the people in the south be ruled by the Taliban, and not work for providing to them the chance to receive development assistance?
And then you can even connect those two points. Humanitarian aid in the context of a lack of viable economic prospects doesn't construct healthy societies. It works rather as a facilitating condition for an insurgency and other forms of armed, subversive activities (like banditry).
So the question is rather that of whether ISAF's mission is proceeding in order. That's the really hard part. As long as it is needs in European capitals, and the Iraq factor for the US, that decides the level of international troop presence in the south and not the (potentially dynamically changing) needs on the ground in Afghanistan, chances are that the mission will not proceed at all. And that means there's neither significant development in (non-)expanding ink blot areas, nor humanitarian aid by NGOs caught up in an asymmetric conflict and facing no-go areas all around. That's good for the insurgency (albeit not for the majority of individual insurgents).

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