Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Only Way Forward...

From this morning's Globe:

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN --Canadian soldiers should join local forces fighting Taliban insurgents inside Pakistan,defense Minister Gordon O'Connor says, making a tentative first attempt at raising the explosive issue of foreign troopstrespassersg on Pakistani territory.

Gerard Kennedy has advocated refocusing the NATO mission on reconstruction and, if that doesn't occur, has suggested pulling out of Afghanistan altogether. However, as many have noted, it is no use building roads and schools if there are still live Taliban around to blow them up again. On the other hand, and as not so many have noted, if you concentrate on killing Taliban, you will never get around to building roads and schools, because there is an endless supply of Taliban coming over the Pakistan border.

So, the only way forward is to take the fight into that country. In fact, what O'Connor seems to be asking in the above is merely that Canadian and allied troops should have the same permissions as U.S. Special Forces: to conduct limited, low-profile pursuits of al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects into Pakistan.

This is surely not enough. The Taliban can only be stopped if they are met on their home ground and defeated there.

But O'Connor might not even get so much, and I doubt he will get more. Certainly, any credible incursion into Pakistan would require more men, and more political Will (esp. on the part of the U.S., who would presumably be supplying the bulk of the troops), than is likely to be forthcoming at any time in the near future. After all, Pakistan's own army has suffered hundreds of casualties fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban-related groups in the tribal areas. George W. won't risk a similar confrontation with tough looking mid-terms on the horizon.

In which case the Afghanistan mission remains an exercise in futility. Our soldiers swat at wasps but are denied the ability to go after the nest. If so, then it really is time to pack up and go home.

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