Leading article: A policy overhaul is urgently needed

Share

The war in Afghanistan is being lost. It is best to acknowledge that plainly. A survey coming out of Kabul conducted by the Senlis think-tank suggests that 54 per cent of Afghanistan is now in the control of the Taliban. The Foreign Office may dispute the figure but it cannot quarrel with the substance of the findings: armed Taliban checkpoints are increasing in parts of the country. Taliban recruiters have infiltrated refugee camps. Afghan shopkeepers have abandoned many of the arterial routes into Helmand province for fear of Taliban attacks. Rural workers, fleeing Taliban encroachment, are crowding into cities in search of work. All this against a backdrop of a war in which British troops, now in greater numbers in Afghanistan than in Iraq, are engaged in the toughest battles they have experienced since the Second World War.

More troops are not the answer, despite the pleas from British ministers for our Nato allies to pull their weight. Military occupation was only ever supposed to be security cover for the reconstruction of the country that was promised by the international community but which never materialised.

Instead of rebuilding physical infrastructure, government capacity and economic activity, our troops have set about trying to destroy Afghanistan's opium crop – threatening the only means many Afghans have for earning a living since the collapse of the economy and the market for cotton. Almost half the Afghan economy is now devoted to growing the drought-resistant poppy. The US policy of aerial bombing of insurgents, with its inevitable innocent casualties, has added only to the feeling that the forces who entered Afghanistan in order to drive out the Taliban are now not liberators but occupiers.

The policy of opium eradication has been a disaster. The Defence Secretary has said of the strategy that there is no alternative. We have to find one. Senlis has suggested a Poppy for Medicine initiative, which would license opium production to be sold to the pharmaceutical industry to make morphine. The European Parliament has endorsed the idea, and it should be investigated as a matter of urgency. In Turkey, such a scheme has been shown to work for the past 30 years.

But other efforts have to be made. Iran, Russia and India all have to be persuaded to promote a more stable future for their neighbour. And it may be time to stop regarding President Pervez Musharraf as the best friend we've got in fighting the Islamic extremism in the western provinces of Pakistan where the Taliban (and British suicide bombers) are nurtured.

What all that amounts to is the realisation that our present policies in Afghanistan are not working. It is time for some new ones.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album