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Saturday, April 21, 2007


2007 Grawemeyer Award winner Roland Paris was in Louisville this past week. He spoke Tuesday night about his prize-winning book, appeared on public radio's "State of Affairs" Wednesday and talked to the local Committee on Foreign Relations Thursday.

This latter meeting was about Afghanistan, which was also the subject of a Paris op-ed piece back on October 25 in the Globe and Mail. Paris pointed out the successes -- and failures of that mission:
much has been achieved in the past five years. Presidential and parliamentary elections have been held, and some 1,000 schools, clinics and government buildings have been built. In real terms, the non-drug economy has grown at an impressive average of 15 per cent a year. Most Afghans do not want the Taliban back in power. And unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is not verging on civil war.

But recent trends are discouraging. A strengthened insurgency has made much of the country unsafe for civilian development personnel. Local warlords and drug traffickers are reportedly collaborating with the Taliban against the government. And ordinary Afghans are showing signs of mounting disaffection with their own government's inability to provide security and public services.

If these trends continue, the Afghan mission will fail.
A key problem is lack of international commitment:
This mission is the most under-resourced international stabilization operation since the Second World War. For example, there were 20.5 international peacekeepers in Kosovo per 1,000 inhabitants, 19 in Bosnia, 10 in Sierra Leone and 3.5 in Haiti. The ratio in Afghanistan is a paltry 1 to 1,000. From the beginning, the operation has been hampered by a lack of international forces to help the Kabul government establish its presence throughout the country.

Afghanistan has also received less international aid per capita than many other war-torn countries, including East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Solomon Islands.
In the op-ed piece, Paris offers a handful of recommendations for saving the Afghan mission, including ways of thinking more creatively about the opium poppy crops, improving police security training, rooting out corruption, building an Afghan army and stopping the flow of Taliban fighters from neighboring Pakistan.

If NATO continues down the current path, argues Paris, the war will be lost and the alliance itself could be destroyed.

That might be the greatest cost of all.

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