Not a bad start for Britain's new prime minister, David Cameron:
Afghanistan is the most important foreign policy and national security issue facing Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday while on an unannounced visit to Kabul. After meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Cameron said 2010 is the "vital year" for Afghanistan, when coalition forces must make progress in driving out al Qaeda and handing security back to local forces.
Cameron pledged an extra 67 million pounds (about $98 million) to counter the threat from improvised explosive devices, commonly used as roadside bombs. The money will in part be used to double the number of British teams sent to deal with the devices, he said."I think there is progress being made," he said. "Our overriding focus must be to help the Afghans and to help Afghanistan to take control of its own security and its own destiny."
There's been no shortage of armchair generals criticizing NATO's current clear, hold, and build strategy. History, however, has proven that insurgencies are defeated when constituted authorities are provided with the right force levels, proper resources, and (most importantly) enough time to suffocate an insurgent movement. When a country plagued by separatists, guerrillas, or terrorists is finally free such destructive elements, construction of a functional government is free to progress unimpeded.
Unfortunately, President Obama's 2011 timeline for Afghanistan has forced the military's hand, putting senior NATO commanders in a position where they have to clear, hold, and build simultaneously -- all while trying to prop up a Karzai government rife with corruption. Responsibility here is not solely Obama's, as the concept of rushed nation-building was born of the Bush administration. (A useful note: Japan and Germany were under de facto Allied control for years before they were allowed governments of their own.)
So to watch a key NATO ally place Afghanistan at the forefront of its foreign policy is heartening. The British, with their long history of colonial wars, understand the criticality of wartime endurance better than anyone. If we can shed the unnecessary burden of this imprudent withdrawal timeline, a poison to any counterinsurgency effort, securing and stabilizing Afghanistan is fully within reach.