John Duncan, who wrote about the Canadian military’s Afghan misadventures for the March-April issue of This, contributed an op-ed to Wednesday’s Globe and Mail on the much-touted Afghan surge. Ominously titled “The insurgents will be back,” Duncan’s editorial argues that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan will simply sidestep any such troop movement, wait it out, and return after NATO has moved on—just like they did in 2001. The problem, he says, is that ordinary Afghan civilians, caught in the middle between insurgents, western troops, and the warlords they prop up, have no particular investment in who prevails, since they all seem to be equally unjust. Without the civilian population on side, any counterinsurgency achievements are likely to be short-lived.
…It is naive to think that another attempt to win hearts and minds will turn civilians into anti-insurgents. Are the insurgents less hated than we think, or are NATO forces much more disliked than we are told? These are real possibilities, as more critics and Afghans are saying. After the 9/11 attacks, the West re-engaged the warlords it supported against the Soviets during the 1980s, this time to oust the Taliban – which they did, but the price was a large stake in the new country. Thus, the authority structures NATO has been propping up are rife with brutal, corrupt warlords and their cronies. Most Afghans, excepting the few who profit directly from the intervention, fail to see why they should stand against an insurgent to support a warlord. In fact, some are now saying that dealing with the insurgents without NATO might not be as bad as being caught between NATO and the warlords on the one hand, and the insurgents on the other. Either way, if the insurgents are too brutal to resist, or if they might be easier to bear without NATO’s war, this counterinsurgency will be no game-changer.