The topic of Afghanistan dominated the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. The majority of the discussion revolved around the specifics of NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 and the need for continuing aid, training and funding for the Afghan National Security Forces. The problem of illegal drugs was largely ignored.
A Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank report published on 27 September 2011 stated that cuts in the UK’s defence spending mean that Britain’s military will “never again be among the global superpowers”. However, the report, “Looking into the Black Hole: Is Britain’s Defence Crisis Really Over?”, went on to state that current levels of spending “should be enough for it to maintain its position as one of the world’s five second-rank military powers (with only the US in the first rank)”.
At a recent seminar at King’s College London (KCL), author and Central Asia expert Ahmed Rashid painted a gloomy picture of the prospect for Western success in Afghanistan. In 2008 Rashid had already made these views on the subject clear in Descent into Chaos, a catalogue of criticisms against US policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001, and his growing disillusionment with his once-close friend, President Hamid Karzai.
A recent Channel 4 documentary shed a new and damning light on the conflict in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Among the many accusations made is the use of child soldiers by the Tamil Tigers. Although this is banned under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) it seems to be tragically synonymous with many conflicts throughout the world, despite the growing body of laws prohibiting such action. At the turn of the millennium, the UN reported that 36 countries were involved in conflict which utilise child soldiers. Seventeen of those conflicts saw the sovereign state itself employing children to fight. This trend has not subsided since the report was published.
CIA Director Leon Panetta is currently engaged in the latest round of talks in Islamabad, arriving the day after the head of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Kayani, attempted to win back some respect from the Pakistani population by urging the US to divert some of its US$3 billion-a-year aid to “help the common man” while also advocating a forceful re-assertion of Pakistan’s sovereignty. These concerns would be heartening if they were not so transparent. Kayani’s concern for the “common man” must have been conspicuously absent when arming his 500,000 man army using American aid dollars.