As Jake Diliberto of Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan stated in that clip it’s asinine to try and cram a central government from Kabul down the throats of the traditional tribal elders. As Wikipedia notes…

Politics in Afghanistan has historically consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by nearly every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, theocracy and communist state.

All were basically weak central governments, or as Ahmed Rashid states, a ‘Minimalist State’…

Afghanistan had what I’ll call a minimalist state, compared with the vast governmental apparatuses that colonialists left behind in British India and Soviet Central Asia.

This bare-bones structure worked well for a poor country with a small population, few natural resources and a mix of ethnic groups and tribes that were poorly connected with one another because of the rugged terrain. The center was strong enough to maintain law and order, but it was never strong enough to undermine the autonomy of the tribes.

Afghanistan was not aiming to be a modern country or a regional superpower. The economy was subsistence-level, but nobody starved. Everyone had a job, though farm labor was intermittent. There was a tiny urban middle class, but the gap between rich and poor was not that big.

We need to rethink our priorities…

US fed up with troops dying to prop up Karzai

…The objective is being wound back – from the Jeffersonian democracy sought by the former president George Bush to the creation of a state that is capable of protecting itself.

There is a realisation that the Taliban, like drugs, are a feature of the Afghan landscape and that instead of eliminating it, the best Washington can hope for is to create circumstances in which the insurgents cannot take control of the country.

So the thinking is turning to the protection of less than a dozen key population centres. Inverting the Vietnam War theory that every village was strategically important, it relies on the Iraq experience of holding the big centres.

The sparsely populated but volatile southern province of Helmand is an example. There, 20 per cent of the foreign forces are waging a relentless war to protect 3 per cent of the population whose day-to-day existence would not be greatly altered if the Taliban were among them – but with no foreign forces to shoot at.

Some very pertinent questions…

"How much of the country can we just leave to be run by the locals?" a senior US official asked a Washington Post reporter. "How do you separate those who have taken up arms because they oppose the presence of foreigners in their area because they are getting paid to fight us … from those who want to restore a Taliban government?"

The answer to his question seemed to be – remove the foreign forces.

It all points to a White House acceptance of the oft-stated advice that in Afghanistan, the presence of foreign forces is as much a core issue as is what the Taliban might or might not do. Unlike Iraq, where US forces were caught between warring factions, most of the violence in Afghanistan is targeted at the foreign forces.

Observing that most of the areas of Afghanistan that were stable were under local control, the official asked two more questions – "Can you get benign local control in more places? Will that be easier to achieve, [will it be] more effective than trying to establish more central government control?"

As I’ve noted before we need to make decisions on whether to keep funneling our tax dollars to a corrupt Karzai or to channel it to the local leaders in direct aid. I do caution that we need to be very wary in the scale of the direct aid.

Talking to the Taleban will help…

There are also attempts to create local, anti-Taleban militias and to broker deals with low-level Taleban elements, willing to switch allegiance.

Every week Taleban fighters approach US and other Nato or Afghan forces wanting to talk and on occasion lay down their weapons, General Petraeus said.

“In those cases local officials are brought into this and there are local arrangements that are brokered even as the formal development of a reintegration programme at the highest level of the Afghan Government together with the international community is being finalised.”

He was referring to a plan expected to be presented by President Karzai at the London conference on Afghanistan this week.

As for higher up the Taleban chain of command, General Petraeus said: “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taleban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility.”

He said, however, that many observers believed this would take time.

Asked whether it would include the top leadership, he said: “It’s not something that can be ruled out but it’s also not something that I would anticipate, as they say in the United States, ‘Coming soon to a theatre near you’.”

A step in the right direction, but, for pete’s sake we need to listen…

‘‘It is the need of the hour to stop them [the drone attacks] with immediate effect,’’ Afzal, who is Sindh’s Minister for Environment and Alternative Energy, said on Sunday, adding that killing innocent people, including women and children, in drone attacks is a matter of great concern.

“As Muslims, we (cannot) see any of our (fellows) being killed or oppressed in any part of the world. We, as a Pakistani nation, also condemn Israeli atrocities on Muslims in Palestine,” he added.

What a wicked web we’ve woven…!

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