The hopes of peace and freedom in Afghanistan cannot be sacrificed

Share
Related Topics

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has shown himself to be a leader of unusual dignity and forbearance. Yesterday, after voicing yet another urgent plea for more foreign troops to help with security before September's elections, he was asked whether the 5,000 promised would be enough. It would, he said, appear "ungrateful" if he complained.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has shown himself to be a leader of unusual dignity and forbearance. Yesterday, after voicing yet another urgent plea for more foreign troops to help with security before September's elections, he was asked whether the 5,000 promised would be enough. It would, he said, appear "ungrateful" if he complained.

Yet Mr Karzai has good reason to complain loud and long over the treatment he and his country have received at the hands of the grandly styled "international community". The military intervention in Afghanistan had the full support of the United Nations and a well-defined purpose: destroying the bases of al-Qa'ida after the terrorist attacks of the previous September. Not only was the intervention largely successful, it also created the conditions for Afghans to drive the Taliban from power. Mr Karzai emerged from a brief military stand-off, an international conference and a national loya jirga as the acknowledged leader. He has a claim to legitimacy that Iraq's newly installed interim government can only envy, and he has the backing of a small, but truly multinational, force provided by Nato.

The longer-term support for Afghanistan pledged by the US, Britain and others, however, has fallen lamentably short of what was required. Poor security slowed the registration of voters, forcing postponement of Afghanistan's first free elections. It is imperative that these elections take place, as rescheduled, in September. A second postponement would jeopardise the advance to representative government. Once again, the West would be seen to have let Afghanistan down, the undertakings given by Mr Blair and other leaders exposed as worthless.

The West's continuing obligation to Afghanistan is just one of many reasons why the war in Iraq was so misguided. As we now know, billions of dollars approved by the US Congress for Afghanistan were diverted by the White House to Iraq. Further requests to Congress have combined funds for the two countries, and it is already clear where the bulk of the money will go. Britain, to its credit, has stood by its original aid commitment, but its troop deployments in Iraq leave little capacity spare to help Mr Karzai.

Afghanistan can hardly be blamed for the reality that its fortunes are now bound so closely with those of Iraq. These are two quite different countries that have suffered two quite different, if equally cruel, fates. On no account, however, can we allow the prospect of peace and freedom in Afghanistan to be sacrificed to the perpetual emergency in Iraq.

Western neglect over the past year has already set Afghanistan back. Local fiefdoms have been established, here and there the Taliban again rears its head, and the opium crop flourishes. Outside Kabul many roads are dangerous and the borderlands with Pakistan have never been fully pacified. It seems doubtful now that they will be. Afghanistan needs much more concentrated help, military and civilian, than it is receiving. In short, just as much is at stake in Afghanistan as there is in Iraq, perhaps in the short term even more.

The West cannot fail in Afghanistan, first, because its already compromised credibility would be utterly shattered. It cannot fail, second, because the future of the Western alliance is predicated to a great extent on whether it can fulfil its mission in Afghanistan. This is Nato's first significant mission outside its traditional area of operation. Such assignments are intended to give Nato a new purpose now that the Cold War has ended. Failure here would raise doubts about whether Nato can survive.

Finally, the West must succeed in Afghanistan because of Iraq. If Afghanistan can make the transition to representative government in relative peace and security there will be an example for the West and for Iraq to follow. And the converse is also true: failure in Afghanistan would make catastrophe in Iraq all the more likely.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The possibility of Corbyn winning has excited some Conservatives  

Labour leadership: The choice at the heart of the leadership campaign

Jeremy Corbyn
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos  

Greece debt crisis: Trouble is, if you help the Greeks, everyone will want the same favours

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy