In some cases, the survey found, Afghan government officials can drive without armed escorts into districts where a visit by Canadian troops routinely provokes a firefight. [Emphases mine--DD]
Under the noses--some might say the thumbs--of foreign occupiers, Afghans are going about their business, solving their problems in their own way. The two (actually many) sides are working things out. Remember all that dishonest "Taliban Jack" nonsense? Then, late last year, there was "Taliban Hamid" urging talks with the enemy. Now government workers and ordinary Afghan citizens are talking to the Taliban. So are our own media, if at a safe remove. The presence of foreign troops, however, may be a hindrance to a highly delicate and complex set of negotiations.
Alexander, a former Canadian diplomat, poses the central question thusly:Lives have been lost. Thousands of Afghan lives a year, hundreds of foreign soldiers. What has been gained?
Despite his own words, he is one of the "incremental progress" experts who defends our involvement, while the insurgency continues to grow. And what progress would that be? It's all infrastructure: clean water, education, a growing economy. Eventually this will break the country's dependence on foreign aid, he predicts. Well and good: keep that infrastructural support flowing, by all means. The result of stopping the flow would be catastrophic at this juncture, a point he underlines--not that anyone appears to be arguing for such a thing.
But left unanswered is why the Taliban appears to be gaining strength. And why, when it's Afghan government officials who are venturing into Taliban country instead of foreign troops, the dangerous zones become calm. Is there perhaps a lesson or two to be learned here?