Saturday, 4 February 2012

Afghan Cost Cutting Could Bring Security Problems

Reuters has published an excellent piece on the cost concerns pushing NATO to look at smaller Afghan National Security Forces of around 230,000, instead of 350,000 as currently planned. The article reports the cost story that NATO Monitor mentioned yesterday, and has one interesting quote:

Diplomats and NATO officials said there were concerns about the dangers of building up such a large force and then cutting it back."The problem is: what are they going do?" said one diplomat. "You don't want large numbers of armed unemployed."

This is absolutely the heart of the matter. If you train up and equip 350,000 troops, or less, and then retain only 230,000 then you have thousands of trained and armed men who will turn to some form of insurgency. It would make no sense whatsoever, and yet it seems to be an option that NATO is considering for reasons of political expediency at home.

Between the possibility of ending the NATO combat role early, and the apparent problems of sustaining funding for the ANSF afterwards, there is a serious risk that the West, with its war weary publics is in danger of simply abandoning the country to its fate. It doesn't help that there has been no convincing rationale for being in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled and Al Qaeda destroyed in the country after 9/11, and no politician has been able to make  an argument that sounded in any way convincing to voters.

But this does raise the question, what have the years of fighting and loss of life been for? What strategic goal has been served?

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