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Ten wasted years in Afghanistan

Nato's misadventure in Central Asia needs a political end not a military victory

Gulf News

After 10 years of war in Afghanistan, the Americans are planning to withdraw their troops within a few years, along with the forces of their Nato allies, leaving that sad country with very little to show for the terrible cost in lives and money. In the midst of this failure, US President Barack Obama's self confidence is shatteringly innocent of the reality on the ground.

He spoke on US national TV in the summer and bizarrely announced that "We take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm's way. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end."

The only part of the president's speech that was correct was when he said that the Americans are withdrawing their troops.

The rest was disturbingly wrong: the tide of war is not receding. The light of a secure peace is not to be seen. The war will not finish, even if the Americans return to America. And the end will certainly not be responsible.

But Nato and the US need to think beyond their fight against extremist groups.

They need to recalibrate their foreign policy to take on board the wider and much more constructive issues of development and open market economy, and education and training should be at the top of their priorities.

Without a more broad-based policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Nato misadventure in Central Asia will become even more of a disaster than it is at present.

The Americans and Nato need to understand that they cannot impose peace, and force democracy on Afghanistan.

The Afghans are the only people who can run Afghanistan in the long term, and it is wrong to have any plan that excludes any large group of the Afghan population.

The eventual government in Afghanistan has to be inclusive and include multiple parties, and any attempt by Nato armed forces to impose another solution will fail.

After 10 years it is terrible that Nato politicians are allowing Nato generals to dictate political policy and to insist that they can win through force.

The continuing high rate of casualties and the total lack of any peace talks, show how wrong this approach is. The war in Afghanistan needs a political end, not a military victory.