Merchant of Death
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Aghanistan Hits the Tipping Point
Seems like things in Afghanistan, at least in the world of perceptions, is going south as fast as Dow Jones. While circumstances on the ground have not changed radically in recent months, the Taliban have scored significant success simply by starting the current debate on whether the war in Afghanistan is winnable at all.

The opening salvo was fired in a leaked French diplomatic cable, which quoted the British ambassador in Kabul as saying the war couldn't be won.

According to the New York Times version:

"The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust," the British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as saying by the author of the cable, François Fitou, the French deputy ambassador to Kabul.

"The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution," Cowper-Coles was quoted as saying. "Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis."

Then, in one of the first stories on what all of Kabul knows, the NYT took on the issue of the possible involvement of President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali, to the booming heroin trade. This, of course, only serves to reinforce the ambassador's fears about the growing corruption and the complete loss of faith in the Karzai government.

The latest estimate, according to my friend James Meeks is that the Taliban get at least $100 million a year from the very same dope trade. That is confidence inspiring.

And finally, the growing exasperation among the NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan about what to do about any of this.

As Reuters reported, Gen. John Craddock is fed up with the lack of support to take on the drug trade.

NATO's top operations commander hit out on Monday at allies resisting his call for the alliance to use more aggressive tactics against Afghan drug production.
"We still have a handful of nations...who have not listened to the argument but are countering with questions that have been answered over and over and over again," NATO Supreme Commander for Europe General John Craddock told a seminar in Brussels.

"This is not about eradication. The fear that this will make the Taliban more mad-ass? Give me a break!" he said.
"What are these suicide bombs and IEDs, these terrorist attacks, all about? How can it be any worse?"

While it clearly can get worse, and may very quickly, the statement sums up just how far the Taliban has come in setting the mindset on the ground, almost, at this point, unconnected from the combat realities. They have established a debate, and a very serious one by serious people, over whether they can lose. Seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan, that is quite an achievement.
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