Languages
Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 13:06 UK

'Managing' the Afghan insurgency

By Martin Patience
BBC News, Kabul

British troops in Afghanistan
By almost all accounts, the fight against the Taleban is not going well
In seven stark words, Brigadier Mark Carleton Smith - a man known for bold statements - summed up Britain's military campaign in Afghanistan.

"We're not going to win this war," he said during an interview with a British newspaper, the Sunday Times.

The UK's most senior commander added that we should not expect a "decisive military victory" in Afghanistan.

Perhaps what's so surprising about these remarks is that they have been so long in coming.

They may have been blunt and uncompromising - but reflect what many diplomats and military officials have being saying privately in the Afghan capital Kabul.

By almost all accounts, the fight against the Taleban and other anti-government forces, such as al-Qaeda, is not going well.

The training of the Afghan army is progressing, but the prevailing view is that it will be a number of years before they can fight on their own two feet
The number of insurgent attacks is increasing and the fighting is spreading across Afghanistan, particularly in the south and the east of the country.

US President George W Bush has said he will commit more troops to tackle the deteriorating security situation. In the face of this bleak outlook, however, Brigadier Carleton-Smith says that the international community must, essentially, downgrade what it hopes to achieve in Afghanistan.

The insurgency must be reduced to a "manageable" level in order that the Afghan army can take the lead.

And then there's the Taleban.

As with in past insurgencies, Brigadier Carleton-Smith, suggests that some political accommodation will need to be reached with the movement.

Many Afghan officials and diplomats believe elements of the Taleban represent the positions of the Afghan people, and so should be a part of the country's future
The training of the Afghan army is progressing, but the prevailing view is that it will be still a number of years before they can fight on their own two feet. That, ultimately, there can be no military solution to this conflict only a political one.

Yes, the military will play its part, killing, squeezing and harassing the Taleban and other anti-government forces, and attempting to provide security across the country.

Many Afghan officials and diplomats, however, believe certain elements of the Taleban represent the positions of the Afghan people and so should be a part of the country's future.

This is particularly the case in the south of the country, where Pashtun nationalism - which often feeds into the Taleban movement - is often passionately supported.

The Afghan government says that it is willing to reconcile with any members of the Taleban who recognise the legitimacy of their authority.

But the process, if it is to be followed, will be fraught with difficulties.

The big question is: who in the Taleban can you cut a deal with?

Will its senior leaders be willing to negotiate or are they too enmeshed with al-Qaeda to make any compromises?

And all of this is presuming that the Taleban want to talk. From their point of view, the strengthening insurgency and the destabilisation that comes with it may be just what they want.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific