The commander sits in a chair, his back to the television set, and points to a military map on the wall. "You see," he says, "I am responsible for an area half the size of Italy." Then he rattles off the relevant statistics. Of the 1,800 soldiers under his command, only 270 can go on patrol. If he sends two units out on patrol, they can easily find themselves operating 400 kilometers (249 miles) apart. "It's as if one of them were in Turin and the other in Venice," says the general.
The news that reaches Berlin from Afghanistan these days is simply too horrific. Members of parliament who have visited the country describe a place on the verge of collapse. Instead of declining, the problems of poverty, corruption, violence and sheer hopelessness are on the rise. Government institutions are virtually nonexistent in many parts of the country, the police are corrupt and overworked and the military isn't in much better shape. The effects of Western development aid go largely unnoticed by much of the population.
The security situation is also becoming more and more precarious. More than 5,000 people were killed in attacks or combat during the first nine months of this year alone. According to a United Nations report, acts of violence have increased by close to 30 percent this year. Three-quarters of the attacks are directed against Afghan soldiers, police officers and foreign troops, "in a deliberate and calculated effort to impede the establishment of legitimate government institutions," the UN report states.
The situation on the military front is unclear. In a Sep. 18 classified report labeled "Urgent" to the governments of European Union member states, the EU's special envoy in Kabul, Spain's Francesc Vendrell, identifies a "paradoxical trend." "While ISAF is achieving significant military successes against the insurgents, especially as a result of targeted attacks on Taliban commanders," Vendrell writes, "the unsafe zone in which the insurgents operate is growing." Even a weak Taliban presence is sufficient, Vendrell continues, to bring "normal government activities to an end" and to bring large segments of the population under the influence of the insurgents.
Vendrell's conclusions coincide with the results of a study by the Senlis Council, an international think tank, which conducted a survey in March of 12,000 Afghan men in the southern and eastern sections of the country, regions which have seen fierce fighting. The study's conclusions were devastating. In late 2001, the vast majority of Afghans believed that the Taliban had been defeated once and for all. Today only half of those surveyed are convinced that international forces will win the war against the insurgents in southern Afghanistan. It appears that although the Taliban is unlikely to win the war militarily, it is increasingly emerging victorious in the battle for public opinion. (...)
The German way had a good start as long as the conditions did not detoriate. When they did, Germany's trousers slipped down. Since close to six years, needed changes were not implemented by all nations committed to Afghnaistan, and needed support levels were missed by far by the international community. Where last winter I warned that the Afghanistan mission was running on a thin line between regaining previopusly detoriating chances for success, and total failure, I must conclude from analysis like this essay and personal feedback by people I know and who have to deal in that place professionally, that the Afghanistan war is lost for sure, since I see no realistic chance anymore that Western governments would ever give it the ressources and attention that it would take to throw around the rudder again. and that would mean an incrasing of committment on all levels and in all aspects, financially, economically, militarily, by several hundred percent. Guess yourself how realistic that is - not more realistic than to see the Us sending 300.000 additional troops into Iraq.
The plain down-to-earth conclusion: after six years of war, NATO states have lost two major internatio0nal engagements - totally, completely, and miserably. Western governments will squirm for another, probably longer time to come before finding some formulations and half-truths behind which they could hide when retreating. This will only delay the score becoming offical - it will not prevent it anymore.
Fools in office thought they could repair in a cheap, easy way, what a quarter of a century of constant war has destroyed. As fools they came, and as fools they will leave.
"Trapped in the Afghan maze."