The two biggest problems we face in Afghanistan are the Pakistani safe haven, and the criminality fueled by the poppy harvest. Both are easily fixed.
First, the good news. In addition to sending more troops to Afghanistan, Blair’s government is providing them with more and better equipment.
…American, British, Canadian and Dutch forces in the south and east will continue to face an enemy with a bolt-hole across the border. An insurgency with that luxury is very hard to defeat.
The Taliban will also take heart from the corruption which is undermining the poppy eradication campaign in Helmand.
The Pakistani safe haven is the result of a mountainous border that’s impossible to seal, and the inability of Musharraf, the Pakistani dictator, to control the tribal frontier areas. The solution is that adopted by the Brits to shut down the Indonesian safe haven in Malayan insurgency – hot pursuit.
Air mobile special forces backed by air strikes chasing the Taliban into the tribal areas will quickly make these havens unsafe. And Musharraf, having admitted he can’t control these areas, can’t complain too loudly.
Bribing and threatening poor (in both senses) farmers not to grow poppies is daft – bribes encourage more growing, and threats alienate the farmers. So rather than waste money digging an ever deeper hole, we should buy the crops at market prices.
The opium poppy is as source of valuable pain relief drugs, for example morphine and codeine. As our populations age, we’re going to need more of such medication, so creating a drug mountain now is a sensible investment.
With the Taliban unable to hide, and the farmers legally prosperous, Afghanistan is much better positioned to return to normality.