Wednesday, 1 February 2012

BBC leaks NATO Afghan report, the truth hurts or at least embarrasses!!

The BBC has been leaked a report compiled for NATO from interrogations of thousands of captured Taliban fighters. The report, The State of the Taliban, states that the Pakistani ISI intelligence service is aiding and even directing Taliban activities. It says that many Afghans prefer the Taliban to the corrupt Karzai central and regional governments. It reveals that many Taliban fighters regard NATO military gains as completely illusory, since they are biding their time and will retake territory at their leisure when NATO withdraw from it.

So far, so unremarkable. This tells us little that independent journalists and analysts haven't been saying for a long time. However, it is reassuring to know that (however quietly and however far behind the scenes) NATO does not believe the unrealistically rosy reports put out by its own PR machine.

What this report does bring into question is how NATO can extract itself from Afghanistan without complete and utter embarrassment. France is likely to press at tomorrow's Defence ministerial, and then again at the Summit in Chicago in May, for an early withdrawal. It is becoming increasingly clear that the mission that is supposed to define NATO's role for the 21st Century (at least in part) is ending badly.

With the US administration and the Karzai government entering into apparently separate talks with Taliban representatives about the future beyond 2014 when NATO ends its combat mission in the country, the harsh reality of tactical success and strategic failure for the alliance is hammered home in the State of the Taliban.

In retrospect, the decision around the last elections to prop up the discredited President Karzai and the kleptocracy he has constructed to "govern" Afghanistan looks worse and worse. The only question now for NATO is how to save face while getting out, and even that looks harder by the day. If nothing else this will make the debate around the ministerial meetings more interesting.

Even if ISAF is still trying to sound positive (see this video) the truth is out, its embarrassing and it hurts!

(Note: Extracts of the State of the Taliban report can be found on the BBC website here)

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