The ability to think long term gives the East the advantage in this clash of cultures
Matthew d'Ancona During the Cold War, two blocs of nations stood ranged against one another in an easily comprehended conflict between two economic and political systems. In our age, the fault-lines are not so easily detected. Warfare is frequently asymmetric. The proximate causes of battle are often hyper-local, tribal and sectarian. The threads that link one to the other are not always easy to detect.
But they are there. What, for instance, connects the decision in Afghanistan to scale back joint patrols by Nato and local forces to the violent protests against the film, Innocence of Muslims, at US military bases and diplomatic offices around the world to the publication of a 636-page literary memoir?
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, looked decidedly uncomfortable in the Commons yesterday as he struggled to explain away the tactical change in Afghanistan initiated by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). The number of so-called "green-on-blue” attacks by local forces against their foreign counterparts has reached such a peak that Nato is reducing the opportunities for such bloodshed by reducing the number of shared patrols.
This is terrible news for two principal reasons: it discloses fear at the highest level of the command structure that the Afghan forces have been infiltrated by, or are colluding with, or (most plausibly) have mixed feelings about the Taleban. Second, the very reason that Nato remains in Afghanistan is to build trust, to help the fledgling authorities, and to train the indigenous forces to keep order when we are gone. This partial withdrawal of co-operation suggests an unbecoming enthusiasm to get out altogether. It is nearly 11 years since we read that the Taleban had been "crushed” and "routed”. But what looked liked an ending may well turn out to have been no more than an intermission. Nato’s decision is the best news the Taleban has had for a long while. (continue reading...)