Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

After Canada, now it’s France’s turn to ask: What’s happening in Afghanistan?

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Girl holds her brother at refugee camp outside Kabul/Adnan AbidiLast week the Canadians were soul-searching about their presence in Afghanistan after three female aid workers, two of them Canadian, were killed in an ambush. ”(The) Canadian deaths in Afghanistan underscore the most troubling aspect of the West’s strategy there,” said the Toronto Star. “Put simply, it isn’t working.”

Now it is the turn of the French to ask the same questions after the deaths of 10 French soldiers in a battle with Taliban fighters: What is happening in Afghanistan? Or, for some, what are we doing there?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was “determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom” after the biggest loss of French soldiers in combat since the Algerian war that ended in 1962.  But French Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande demanded answers to the many questions he said were raised by the deaths. “What are the aims of this war?” he asked. “How many soldiers are needed to achieve the objectives?

Comments on the website of French daily Le Monde were tempered by mourning for the dead. Some blamed the United States for “this crazy war which the Americans have dragged us into”; others anguished about whether they were fighting a “just” war in line with French beliefs in human rights.

Will more foreign troops bring peace to Afghanistan?

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APCs of German ISAF in Afghanistan/Fabrizio BenschWith both U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain calling for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, there have been a slew of articles arguing this will at best not work and, at worst, fuel the insurgency.

The Financial Times quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. national security adviser and prominent supporter of Barack Obama, as saying the United States risks repeating the defeat suffered by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. “It is important for U.S. policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognise that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution,” he is quoted as saying.

Update on Pakistan’s peace deal : will it work?

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Update – Since filing this blog,  Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud has said he is pulling out of the peace deal with the government after it refused to withdraw the army from tribal lands on the Afghan border. So were the sceptics right all along? And what does this mean for the government’s new strategy?

On the same subject, here is an interesting piece in the Christian Science Monitor comparing Pakistan’s policy to that of the United States in Iraq. “Americans can hardly complain that Pakistan is on the verge of a deal with jihadists,” it says. “The US has already done a similar deal with Iraqi Sunni terrorists. In both cases, a prime goal is simply to isolate Al Qaeda.”

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