Wednesday, April 29, 2009

AfPak: problems and solutions on Today programme

Paddy Ashdown and Philip Bobbit on the Radio 4 Today programme.

To summarise, the radical Islamic extremist Taleban tribal anarchist insurgents are winning, NATO and its client Governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan are losing, and Western strategy is flopping around like a dyspraxic flounder freshly landed.

Pakistan is suffering terribly. 5000 of its people have died from suicide bombings (3000 Americans died in 9/11 remember). Foreign troops are resented. Mr Brown labels AfPak as the crucible of terrorism, which may be so, but a crucible needs fire, and ill-conceived Western policy is the fire under the crucible.

Paddy says we should reduce our ambitions; we will not succeed in creating a western-style state in either or both of AfPak. We should lower our aim to that of getting the writ of Kabul to run throughout Afghanistan. Both Ashdown and Bobbit agree that we should coordinate international effort, bringing in other regional players. Bobbit adds that development aid should be increased (difficult while the air is full of bullets). And the protection of civilians should be the priority (that is what governments are, or should be, for, when it comes down to it). We should not be forever killing civilians in the hunt for terrorists.

The only glimmer of light is that support for extremists is declining in the polls.

So, Mr Politician: this is another fine mess you have got us into. We could cut and run, but that would almost inevitably leave Afghanistan back under the control of the lash-loving Taleban, and Pakistan's nuclear weapons under the control of Islamic extremists. This is not necessarily the best outcome.

Alternatively, we could use our brains. The Taleban is funded by the opium trade. Without these funds, their war fighting ability and their influence would wither away. Africa needs morphine (which is made from opium) to ease the suffering of millions dying of cancer without pain relief.

If we bought the opium, these two problems would substantially disappear.

Why do we not do it?

The Minister of State at the UK Foreign Office gives a direct answer to this: because the Afghan government has decided not to allow a licit poppy cultivation at this time. The UK government supports this decision.

There is evidence that the brother of Hamid Karzai is involved in the drug trade.

So it seems in the end, that the corrupt influence of the drugs trade on global policy is the beating butterfly's wing that is generating the entire mess in AfPak, with its ramifications in peace, security, development, the UK Defence budget, the steady trickle of grief form families of british servicemen, and even in the threat of global nuclear war.


There was an old saying, back in the day: "Feck this for a game of soldiers, I'm off to join the anarchists". Well, I am not saying that the anarchists would make a better fist of it than Mr Brown, although arguably they would not make a worse fist of it.

What we need are politicians whose thinking is based firmly on reality, and who are sternly opposed to violence and curruption.

You can help to bring this about by popping into the polling booth on June 4th and placing your cross against the Green Party candidates. The election is held under a weak form of PR, so your vote will count.

(to find references for all these allegations, click on opium below)

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