The Afghanistan Opinion Poll 2009 should wake up the international community to the necessity for a change in approach. Global actors have to engage with the reality on the ground, and stop trumpeting ineffectual and imported strategies.
A comment made by David Miliband on Kashmir caused outrage in India after he inadvertently breached the fiercely defended separation between the Kashmir question and the problem of terrorism in Pakistan. Indian sensitivities over Kashmir could well cause problems for the Obama Administration’s much-touted regional strategy in South Asia.
Many commentators, eager to see the back of Bush and tempted by Obama’s promise of change, have anticipated radical shifts for US policy in Afghanistan. However, in the short term at least, differences from the Bush administration’s approach look disappointingly minor.
The Indian government has defied its own hawks by seeking to work with the Pakistanis and pursue the attackers of Mumbai. Pakistan must now respond in kind and join the Indian government in resisting belligerent voices in favour of those calling for peace. The status quo requires immediate and bold action from both sides, with international patronage, before it is too late.
The UK needs more troops on the ground to relieve pressure in Helmand, but unless an increase is accompanied by significant victories elsewhere, the Coalition’s long-term prospects are not good. A new approach to strategic thinking in Afghanistan and the means to give some effect to it are sorely needed in the new year.
The attack marks beyond any doubt seepage between Pakistan’s political and security woes. Serious doubts must now shroud the practical feasibility of Pakistan holding its parliamentary elections in three months time.