Pakistan and Afghanistan: Gordon Brown in urgent need of a plan

April 30, 2009 - 0:0

Few will argue with Gordon Brown's description of the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan as being a “crucible of terrorism”. This, after all, is where at least two thirds of the terror plots planned against the West originate, and where Taliban commanders oversee their highly effective insurgency campaigns to destabilize our coalition in Afghanistan and the government in Pakistan. If anywhere is the front line in the war on terrorism, this is it. What is in dispute, though, is how Mr. Brown intends to deal with this potent threat to our national security. The Prime Minister often gives the appearance that he is not very interested in our overseas military commitments. It was the first time he had visited Afghanistan since a brief photo opportunity last Christmas, and his public statements on the conflict have been just as fleeting. There is a deepening sense of frustration among frontline commanders at Downing Street's inability to make crucial decisions on future troop deployment, which are essential for the operation's long-term success, as well as helping to restore the British military's battered reputation after the fiasco of our involvement in Iraq.

It is to be hoped, therefore, that Mr. Brown has a coherent strategy for confronting this highly complex challenge when he sets out his policy objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan to parliament this week. But he must also make sure that British forces serving in Helmand are provided with adequate resources – especially manpower and funding – to ensure the mission's success. The nation's finances might be suffering from the crippling effects of the economic crisis, but the defense of the realm should always take priority over Mr. Brown's longstanding tendency to deny the Armed Forces the investment they require.
Coherent strategy? I very much doubt this. Why? Partly because Brown seems to have no coherent strategy for matters domestic (where some sort of competent control may be expected); partly because his EU strategy is underhanded and ordinarily unfathomable: incoherent to most of us; but mostly because Brown appears to have no taste for military matters on which our strategy for “Pakistan” so crucially depends. After all, large areas of that crumbling and internally divided Islamic state are Taliban ruled -- territorially or ideologically enemy held -- and deaf to dialogue other than on their own religious terms: terms that Brown has no coherent strategy for addressing either.
Our troops have been under-resourced and lacking in numbers; the Islamic rationale that incites the Taliban has been all but untouched. And as if to rub salt into an already gaping wound, Brown seems to lack a coherent means for halting the flow of British funds -- we call it “aid” -- to that failing entity which, even now, still can't provide it's own rural population with basic necessities. Transparency International rates Pakistan as one of the world's most corrupt societies; but the UK Government pours money into it with no coherent ability, so it seems, to cut this off or to make it conditional on clear, provable developments. Better, surely, to give those wasted sums to our hard-pressed fighting men and women instead.
So where does that leave us as we watch in growing horror, Pakistan's descent into an Islamic abyss (or its rise to an Islamic, Talibanesque paradise -- depending on your viewpoint)? It leaves us, under Brown, nowhere at all other than as impotent spectators straining in vain to placate the aggressors with money.
Pakistan appears to be inching towards full scale civil war as rival Islamists (as we insist on calling them these days) square up to each other.
How long will it be before there's a Talibanistan where most of Pakistan used to be? A Talibanistan whose “citizens” have links with Britain and whose mullah's have hands on nuclear technology.
Coherent strategy? Most unlikely. Indeed, the only coherent thing about it, is its incoherence.
(Source: The Daily Telegraph)-