Afghanistan,  Gordon MacMillan

Bad days in Afghanistan

Another bad day in Afghanistan and yesterday marked a real wobble. Nine allied troops were killed including six Italians, which immediately led Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to say it would be “best” for the country’s troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Italy might only have 3,000 troops in Afghanistan out of a nearly 100,000 in total, but the loss of the Italians is a wobble we can live without. It adds succor to those who continue to argue that the allies can not win this war – even when losing could be disastrous for Pakistan, the UK and US.

The loss of the lives this week came as America’s General David Petraeus gave a bleak but “doable” assessment of Afghanistan, which he said was dependent on sustained commitment; and the UK’s General Sir David Richards, said that Afghans were losing patience with Nato’s “failure” to deliver progress in the battle with the Taliban. He also warned that defeat for the allies would have an “intoxicating impact” on extremists around the world. It would be petrol and I don’t see how anyone could possible see that as a good idea.

Add to those the words of yet another general, Major General Nick Carter, who is set to take charge of UK and other Nato forces, who told the BBC that “time is not on our side” and that we have to show positive trends as quickly as  possible.

“I think that it will happen slowly, but … there’ll be a tipping point when the population will suddenly realise that it’s worth being with its government institutions rather than with the insurgent,” he said.