The war in Afghanistan has already become the longest one ever fought by the United States. It was, without a doubt, a necessary, legal and just war, based on the inherently right that every country has of self-defense. The tyrannical regime of tThe Taliban was not only violating the basic human rights of its citizens, but was also providing a safe heaven to the terrorists that planned and executed the most daunting atrocity in recent years.
Yet, despite its initial wins and the quick overthrown of The Taliban, allied forces have lost those gains. The new policy and strategy sought by, now disgraced General McChrystal, to win the hearts and minds of Afghans is essential in achieving NATO’s goals and alienating them from the insurgency, but it is also essential making the government, its leaders and institutions strong and accountable to the citizens. This has become a cliché-repeated in every speech and war report delivered.
The distrust they have towards their government, along with a rampant corruption, gives renewed forces and strength to warlords-many linked to governmental officials, including Karzai’s brother. There’s also the Afghan army itself. After having spent billions of dollars, allied forces cannot rely on this institution because corruption and rivalry between its leaders. The two top leaders, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and army chief Bismillah Khan, are sworn enemies; while bribery and recklessness is endemic. There is even a popular video on youtube where soldiers are filmed smoking marihuana. Along with this, there’s The Taliban and their safe heavens in southern Afghanistan, where allied troops have had a difficult time in “whipping them out.”
A complete military solution will not solve the problem; The Taliban should be brought into the political arena-with extreme care and meeting certain conditions, as well as giving them benefits for joining the game. Controversial President Hamid Karzai has made the first steps towards this goal with the installment of the jirga, which has some people skeptic of its results. Nonetheless, it is a positive step that could bring a bit more confidence in a troubled government that many Afghans do not trust.
Nation-building is important, and General McChrystal improved in this area by reopening closed schools after The Taliban shot them down, for example. But state-building is equally important as a national government-better if it is a unitarian one-should be capable of delivering the so called social contract to its citizens and have an army that will firstly, be able to keep order inside the institution, and then, safeguard Afghans and their schools, highways and commodities.
If the jirga gives concrete results and some top Taliban leaders renounce violence, that could give the world a little space to better maneuver the situation, and Afghans themselves, as this will give local governments more space to operate whilst warlords could see the power diminished. Furthermore, if the central government becomes more robust, perhaps the military could have a serious, unified leadership and be able to take more responsibilities from NATO troops-whose governments want to withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible. It is an approach that needs to come in a “happy meal,” like those from a famous fast food restaurant: all inclusive, all together and at the same time.