'Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan "a developing nation." The war will not take that long - but the effort will.'
Before I say anything else, I have to say I am a huge huge fan of Michael Yon. And he has spent many months in Afghanistan, whereas I have only read about it. This latter remark also goes for the guy I will be talking about whose name I sadly can't remember. Some time back, there was a decent discussion on Newsnight about the military and social aspects of the war in Afghanistan. Most striking was a youngish guy who had lived for decades in Afghanistan, no mean feat for a white guy. He was very intense and focused. I'm pretty sure he was Oxbridge and public school. Anyway, he was VERY downbeat about the idea of creating a western-style democracy and civil society in Afghanistan. All the other contributors, and even Jeremy Paxman, listened to this young man intently and without interrupting. I was quietly amazed.
It was clear that this guy knew what he was talking about. Michael Yon too. And yet...
I can't help remembering an article from a couple of years back about Afghanistan in the late fifties and early sixties, really the last time Afghanistan was a reasonable place to live. Women worked and wore no head coverings. Public affairs were run tolerably well, and a lot of development work like dam building and irrigation projects were undertaken. The monarchy was highly regarded, and there seemed to be no conflict between the Pakhtun and everybody else. But the cold war took care of all that.
So when people talk about Afghanistan as if it had NEVER in its whole existence been anything but a non-state, and that it has to be brought up from stone age levels, and that the Afghans are decades away from even medieval societal norms, I twitch a bit. At the moment, very little development work seems to be going on, but exactly as I pointed out in Iraq, you have to win the war FIRST. Short wars are always preferable to long ones. The sooner the Taliban are crushed, annihilated, stamped out, the better for everyone. Nothing should be spared. If it can be done in a couple of years, it must be done. No more half measures. I'm sure the Afghans would be happy.
And I suspect that the Afghans are not as far from being civilised as we suspect.