Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Afstan and the true special relationship

Can you imagine MND MacKay making a speech like this (do remember the UK government is Labour, in theory left of our Conservative government)? Excerpts:
I have no doubt that it will be a longer haul in Afghanistan. We are – after all – reconstructing a country after over three decades of conflict. That is why it is vital for the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan – something of which I know no American audience will ever need persuading.

There are few clearer illustrations of the central tenet of our foreign and security policy – that wherever possible, we must tackle security challenges early and at source, that wherever possible we should bring to bear political, diplomatic and economic tools to prevent threats developing, but the realities are that we must be ready to use force if necessary.

Military force was and is necessary to address the threats that had safe haven inside Afghanistan. And to create the conditions in which the non-military – and ultimately decisive - elements of our strategy can deliver mission success in Afghanistan.

Over the last 7 years Afghanistan has transformed from a failing state to an embryonic democracy.

Our mission there has the strongest moral justification and strategic rationale, which perhaps explains why, in both of our countries, there is no serious political opposition to our commitment and why 40 other countries, including all 24 other NATO Members, are operating alongside us.

By all means let us acknowledge that this is a long term and challenging enterprise. But let us also recognise that it is not discretionary – we cannot responsibly ignore the threat posed by an Afghanistan "governed" by a regime like the Taliban.

And let us recognise too that, whilst our mission in Afghanistan is fraught with challenges, our progress there is in the right direction.

Every soldier who has served in Afghanistan knows that this is a campaign that cannot be won by military means alone...

I want to see all NATO members contributing fairly and without caveats on the use of their troops. That is why I want us to reform NATO's decision making processes to ensure that it works more effectively...

In Afghanistan this gives us two challenges. The first is that, because we are currently trying to create "Order" (a Police force) where there is relatively little "Law" (an effective justice system) it is inevitable that elements of the Afghan Police will become corrupt and self serving.

The second is the very challenge of creating an effective justice system in Afghanistan. In a country with pitifully few trained lawyers and judges and a literacy rate of 23% there are no quick fixes.

Moreover we, the International Community, also need to have an honest debate about the type of legal system that a country called the "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" needs. A Western model would be inappropriate and unsustainable.

But unless we address these challenges our efforts to create an effective Police force will continue to be seriously undermined.

We should not fear the requirement for "Afghanization" as it is sometimes called. And, provided we do not harbour illusions about imposing a Jeffersonian style Liberal Democracy onto Afghanistan overnight – solutions to these challenges do exist. To get to them we just need to discuss the issues honestly and be prepared to help the Afghans to create structures that may not sit easily with our culture and norms but do so with theirs...
And what does our government say, when it bothers to say anything? Find me a recent speech.


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