Taliban Upsurge Challenges Britain in Afghanistan

As the change of guard takes place in 10 Downing Street, London, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair handing over his ministry to Gordon Brown, think tanks are scurrying to “redefine” policies tailored to Brown’s approach. Mr. Brown told reporters at Downing Street he would introduce a “new era” in British politics, a “new government…

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DR. FATIMA SHAHNAZ

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As the change of guard takes place in 10 Downing Street, London, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair handing over his ministry to Gordon Brown, think tanks are scurrying to “redefine” policies tailored to Brown’s approach. Mr. Brown told reporters at Downing Street he would introduce a “new era” in British politics, a “new government with new priorities” in the domestic sector. “I want the best of chances for everyone. That’s my mission. Let the work of change begin.”
The 56-year old Mr. Brown is recognised as Britain’s most successful and longest-serving Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, while promising “change,” lately Brown’s lapses in mentioning Iraq have been significant regarding his real motivations for bringing about “change.” Although he’s walking a tightrope to avoid Blair’s servility to the U.S. and unpopular support of the Iraq war, skeptics are starting to speculate on any substantive changes in British policymaking. Indeed, the propaganda spin to promote Brown’s career is now in danger of being reduced to ‘whitewash’ if status quo policies prevail behind the political rhetoric.
The US-led wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan are facing local insurgencies, and in Afghanistan, a resurgence of the Taliban promises to be a major threat to the incoming British Prime Minister. Will Brown make radical shifts from Blair’s policies? is now the key question. Blair admitted in his final address to the House of Commons that Iraq had been a “divisive” issue. But Brown had, in his earliest public statements, justified the Iraq invasion, while acknowledging “mistakes” had been made. This flip-flopping, or ambivalence, leaves loopholes and grey areas regarding Britain’s policies both in Iraq, and Afghanistan, where a looming humanitarian crisis with rising civilian casualties are ominous challenges for Brown.

BRITISH FAILING AFGHANISTAN
A new report (June 2007) on British foreign policymaking (which describes the changing political dynamics) has been issued by the Senlis Council Security and Development policy group in London. Titled “Taliban Politics and Afghan legitimate Grievances,” the report sends a grave warning to Brown about the Iraq scenario replayed in Afghanistan:  “Gordon Brown must exemplify the leadership and vigour to overcome failed polices and pave the way for a coherent, Afghan-oriented mission.  Afghanistan is being lost – there is no time to waste,” the report states. It goes on to stress that the British are as mired in Afghanistan as the Americans in Iraq:
“The British presence in Afghanistan is under threat. To gain the trust and support of the local population and achieve its mission in the country, the UK must define a new coherent strategic course.  Without a clear articulation of well-defined objectives and course of action, the UK will fail Afghanistan and the British public back home.”
But based on the ground realities, critics find these specious warnings deceptive, since the real issue focuses on occupation itself: Under the pretext of driving out the Soviets and Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, the U.S.-led forces entrenched their own occupation, just as they have in Iraq. Embattled NATO commanders were alarmed by the Taliban resurgence that saw record numbers of suicide attacks and roadside bombs in 2006.
A booming drugs trade and rising death tolls among British and American troops, plus aerial bombings by foreign forces on Afghan civilians has turned the Muslim nation into a ‘narco-terrorist’ training camp, with a well-organized insurgency against the foreigners, just as in Iraq.  Last year, the Iraq Study Group warned,
“We must not lose sight of the importance of the situation inside Afghanistan and the renewed threat posed by the Taliban.  If the Taliban were to control more of Afghanistan, it could provide Al-Qaeda the political space to conduct terrorist operations … it is critical for the U.S. to provide additional political, economic, and military support.”
The U.S supplied half of the 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the British providing a substantial portion as well. This is in addition to the U.S. military presence in the region of Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. The professed goal of these Anglo-American troops is to deter the interference of Syria and Iran in Iraq; but the covert threat is to Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has already sent Washington warnings regarding NATO’s eastward drive.

NEW POLITICAL DYNAMIC FOR TALIBAN
With regard to the Taliban upsurge, the 2007 Senlis report states:  “Taliban politics causing an upsurge in violence and insurgency:  Afghanistan is ravaged by a huge increase in violent attacks in recent months.  Critically, violence is now spreading geographically to the relatively secure northern and western parts of the country.
The legitimate grievances people hold in the country are benefiting the Taliban and threaten to turn the Taliban into becoming a legitimate political force.”  Since 2001, when the U.S.-led foreign forces fought Taliban resistance, the political dynamic has radically changed, with “the remaining core of fundamentalist Taliban [benefiting] from a widespread, often legitimate, set of grievances – economic, political and social.  This has given birth to a resurgent, grassroots Taliban movement.” The diverse factors for the Taliban revival include the isolation of the Karzai Government under threat due to its alliance with foreign forces:
“Instability and corruption within Government are effectively leading to a governance crisis,” the Senlis report surmises.
“The deterioration of the security situation, lack of provision of urgent development and the support of aggressive counter-narcotics operations have led to widespread resentment towards the Afghan Government.  Karzai is losing the support of his own people.” The Senlis report further comments, “The legitimate grievances of the Afghan people are successfully maximised by the Taliban in their propaganda campaign.  Critically, this could allow the Taliban to progressively become a legitimate political movement in the southern part of the country.  The united Kingdom and the international community risk losing what has been achieved so far in Afghanistan.” The well-steered propaganda campaign by the Taliban have exploited the Western polices that have turned Afghanistan into a failed state: “Decades of internal fighting and foreign intervention have disrupted the rule of law and allowed for illegal activities and corruption to flourish.  At present, the reality in Afghanistan is that of three interacting crises – security, poverty and narcotics,” the Senlis document adds.
“Peace and stability in Afghanistan will not be achieved by military means alone.  Lagging development, a booming illegal drugs trade, widespread corruption and the steady increase in civilian casualties are challenges that the UK is called upon to urgently address. Public resentment towards the Karzai Government and international forces are on the rise, with violence now spreading across Afghanistan’s relatively secure areas and the capital Kabul.” Working in favour of the Taliban are “More and more civilian casualties [as] a result of intense fighting and the extensive use of aerial bombing, large numbers of civilians have been killed. The steady succession of civilian casualties fuels increasing local distrust of British and international troops.”
The dynamics of regional relations, for instance between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the report concludes “are critical for the stability of both countries and in evolving regional dynamics.  The porous border is a major source of instability for both Afghanistan and Pakistan – by exploiting the ill-defined border, the Taliban is regrouping and gaining more power.”

LEGITIMIZING THE DRUG LOBBY
However, the resolutions to the conflict provided by the U.K think tank seem to perpetuate a state of denial among British, American and NATO leaders:  Instead of ending the occupation through an immediate withdrawal of troops, the status quo solution provides no new ways out of the morass:  “The key for a successful mission in Afghanistan is for the international community and the Afghan Government to garner public support by visibly improving life changes for all Afghans.  The UK and NATO must be able to collectively demonstrate that their presence in the country is essential to building lasting peace and supporting the elected Afghan Government in its reconstruction efforts.” While this may be the usual utopianism of the neo cons in Washington and London, an even more sinister development is the legitimization of the drug industry in Afghanistan, under a U.S.-British drug lobby. Veiled in deceptive language, the Senlis group advises:
“A development-based Poppy for Medicine initiative:  The next planting season is of crucial importance, signalling the choice between the destructive policy of chemical and ground spraying and the positive development-based initiatives.  The Poppy for Medicine initiative, advocating for the licensed cultivation of poppy for medicinal purposes, would allow the central government and the UK to engage in positively with rural communities and help break the ties and dependency on the illegal drugs market and the Taliban.  The next planting season can mark a new, affirmative beginning with the implementation of Poppy for Medicine pilot projects.”
It is this vision of the future of Afghanistan, destined to become a narco-economy for the West’s “medicinal purposes”, that was precisely the modus operandi of drugs cartels funding endless CIA-sponsored civil wars in Colombia and Central America. If this is symptomatic of future policy directives of the U.K., one can only speculate if Gordon Brown is destined to become the next drug king-pin of Asia?