A feature in last week’s Murdoch Australian by Brendan Nicholson is typical of the kind of coverage about the war-torn nation. It reflects a reality of a reporter who has spent a lot of time with the military and little time with local Afghans. Note the main, patronising message; the West simply has to stay in the country indefinitely for its own good:
Anyone who thinks Australia’s involvement in the Afghan war is all but over is reading the wrong signals.
A tangle of confusing messages from the US, Australia, Afghanistan and, indeed, from across the world have created the wide impression that an unpopular war has been won and it’s time for troops from close to 50 nations to come home.
But it is clear that at the NATO summit on Afghanistan next week Australia will make a significant commitment to Afghanistan through a “strategic partnership” that will include an ongoing military presence, probably with special forces at the heart of it, and considerable financial support to help keep the Afghan forces in the field.
Some level of insurgency, or plain banditry, is likely to continue and, despite all the talk of American withdrawal, a large US-led force of coalition troops will remain for some years to help keep it under control.
In the fraught and dangerously unstable environment of Afghanistan, the army and police have to be able to protect themselves and defeat the insurgency on the ground, but these forces must also be imbued with a national ethos rather than a series of tribal ones and it must be disciplined enough to protect the population.
The sort of values held by Western armies for centuries have to be inculcated within a few years into the new Afghan forces, many members of which are illiterate. The consequences of failure will be rapid disintegration or civil war.