NATO’s rush to get out of a “quagmire” in Afghanistan risks the collapse of the state and strategic failure for the Western alliance in its decade-long war, a former EU adviser has warned.
“The intervention veered from ‘too little too late’ in its crucial early years, to one of ‘too much too late,’” Barbara Stapleton, who was deputy to the EU special representative for Afghanistan, said in a report.
The report for the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network, entitled Beating a Retreat, comes ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago that will hammer out details of the withdrawal of about 130,000 troops by the end of 2014.
Stapleton criticizes the inflexibility of the deadline, saying the transition of security to Afghan control “cannot be divorced from actual conditions on the ground with respect to security, governance and development.”
“The idea that the official transition timeline can generate even minimally conducive conditions on the Afghan ground — that would substantiate claims that the transition strategy can succeed — is a delusion,” she wrote.
Implementation of the transition without these conditions being taken into account “increases the risk of the Afghan state’s collapse and with it, the prospect of strategic failure for NATO,” she wrote.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the US led an invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and has been fighting an insurgency by hardline Islamists ever since.
With the long war increasingly unpopular in the West, NATO set 2014 as the deadline for pulling its combat troops out, while training about 350,000 Afghan security forces to take over the fight.
“In the rush to get out of the quagmire that Afghanistan has become, the US and other NATO member states may be preparing the ground for more instability there, rather than less,” Stapleton said.
The Afghan government will take to the NATO summit on Sunday a firm demand for US$4.1 billion a year for its security forces after Western troops pull out, calling it an investment for the West’s own security.
“This is not charity, Afghanistan is and will be on the frontline of the world’s fight against terrorism,” Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told foreign journalists ahead of the summit.
In other news, a group of suicide bombers armed with explosive-laden vests, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades yesterday stormed a government compound in western Afghanistan, killing at least seven people, officials said.
One of attackers first blew himself up at the gate of the governor’s complex in Farah Province, then three others fought their way inside, regional police spokesman Raouf Ahmadi said.
An ensuing two-hour gunbattle with the police left all the attackers dead, Ahmadi said. He said six policemen and one civilian were also killed in the attack, while 12 people were wounded.