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16 Jun, 2010 23:03

An on-the-ground assessment of Afghanistan

Although coalition forces continue to have problems in Afghanistan, a journalist who has been with troops in the country for three years says they are ready to take on Kandahar.

There is certainly no sense here that NATO has any plans of leaving any time soon. The scale of their operation is quite astounding. I think the mood of the soldiers on the ground probably varies from place to place,” said Jerome Starkey, a journalist with The Times of London who has been in Kandahar for the past three years.

Starkey said that some of the coalition forces are very optimistic, while others are not.

Kandahar Province is the home province of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Kandahar City is the historic capital of Afghanistan and the spiritual home and capital city the Taliban used when they controlled the government.

Essentially the government of Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai’s government, is still in control of Kandahar City. President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, a very controversial figure, remains the head of the provincial council,” said Starkey.

However, the Taliban still move freely around the city, hold power in outlying areas and are exerting their influence on the Afghani people through threats.

Crucially, NATO and the coalition have failed to deliver the sort of governance and security and developments which they had promised, which they hoped they could bring to other people in other districts,” said Starkey.

He continued, “It’s that doubt amongst ordinary people, among ordinary Afghans, the farmers who live in the country side around Kandahar City, that doubts as of who is going to win in the long run, who is going to serve their interest in the long turn to support . Without people committing to NATO it’s going to be very difficult for them to turn the tide against the insurgency. It is going to be very difficult for them to regain that momentum from the militants.”

Many argue that Afghanistan cannot be won without a victory in Kandahar.

The very fact that NATO has postponed its operation and the fact that they are considering canceling the military phases of this operation might in fact be the clearest, indeed the first, real indication that NATO has learned some of the very difficult lesions of previous offenses,” said Starkey.

Success requires the support of the people. The best way to gain that support is by not launching major military offensives, argues Starkey.