While General Petraeus’s report on Iraq shows exemplary command of withdrawal strategy – first, lay down a smokescreen – things are faring no better for the allies in Afghanistan, the war that desperate spruikers of western military “humanitarianism” have been using as a smokescreen of their own.

The most interesting development is that Taliban forces are now proposing peace talks with the Kabul municipal council – sorry, Afghan government – the first condition of which is that Western forces depart from the country before such talks start.

Such an offer comes not, as peace talks often do, from weakness, but from a position of strength – the Taliban have regrouped to a degree sufficient to present themselves as a full-field force, not merely a guerrilla army.

Indeed the Taliban has taken to announcing new campaigns, like a spring fashion catalogue – the new Taliban push in southern Afghanistan will be led by Mullah Bradar, who will be wearing … well, a lot of black.

The offer comes at a time when Afghanistan is poised to join Iraq in the suicide bombings league – Tuesday’s killed 26 people and is the 126th this year, up from a total of 103 for all of 2006.

The US is of course accusing Iran of supplying the Taliban with weapons, but all evidence is that they don’t need to – their and Al-Qaeda’s advance is being fuelled by opium money as the renewed poppy industry heads for a bumper harvest, amid inaction over a strategy to deal with it – prompted by the US’s puritan refusal to countenance a buy-up.

Some fools think that the allies will be in Afghanistan for decades. They won’t, because the costs of the occupation have extended beyond the wildest expectations, and are now being hidden by US budget fudging.

“The biggest palace is cheaper than the smallest war”, as one of Louis XVI’s advisors remarked, on the budget crisis of 1788. Apparently his boss got angry with that – really lost his head.

When the recession/depression really bites, the allies will be out of Afghanistan and the Taliban will return like the last decade had never happened – except for all the death.

Peter Fray

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