Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm glad to be here to discuss this topic with this important and vital committee on this interesting issue.
I apologize for any small typing errors found in my presentation. When the clerk got to me last week, I was giving a presentation at Chatham House in London. I had to get back to southern California to teach and then make it up to here, so it's been a rather quick and rushed job.
I want to talk to you about four different topics, and I'll be brief on each of them. I'd be glad to discuss them afterwards with you and to provide a further brief, if you'd be interested, after these discussions take place.
First of all is the new security dilemma. I've discussed this in the book I've given to the chair, a book I brought out last year on American foreign policy.
Essentially, in my opinion, the United States made many mistakes in Iraq. Most of this was due to what happened after 9/11, as we all know. We entered an era of belief in ubiquitous insecurity, and it made everybody act rapidly to have responses and public policy positions that, at least in my opinion, were not carefully thought out. This leads to the obvious need for a calm consensus to take place in Canada and to avoid incendiary language and insults on the topic, because people will have strong differences of opinion. We need to explain why we are in Afghanistan and to go from the strategic reasons to the challenges of execution and tactics, not the other way around. Too often, the discussions take place in the wrong order.
This is a difficult topic, as there are many factors and different pieces of information to consider. It's a bit like cleaning up after an explosion in a shingle factory. There are all kinds of bits and pieces; what do we make from them? There are different perceptions of what is going on, contested estimates of enemy strength, and opinions on what should be done.
In my opinion—and I'll try to prove this in my eight points—either NATO gets serious now or it will slowly fritter away all the years of work and human lives that have been put in so far.
First of all, why do we need to be there? What is the strategic goal? Initially, of course, it was to remove the Taliban government. Now it is to see an Afghan political system put in place that is strong enough to endure without international support. One could argue for a different position. One could take a minimalist position and say we should leave the job to the warlords and get out of Afghanistan. In my opinion, that is not a reasonable position, but at least it's a clear policy position. Whatever the goal is—and we need to decide what it is—we should deduce the details of the policies from the goals, not the other way around.
Let me move to my second point. What should we consider to be the errors in Afghanistan? First of all, I believe there's been a serious lack of realism about what we're doing there. Some lessons have been learned, basically through trial and error. We misunderstood the enemy and we misunderstood the endurance of the Taliban. We had a poor understanding of the social structure of Afghanistan. We lacked language skills and knowledge of the culture, tribes, and local warlords. We underestimated how difficult it would be and how long it would take to build up the central government, the ANA, and the police forces. We underestimated the financial expenses and the costs in terms of Canadian and NATO lives. We mixed up the logic and requirements of peace enforcement with peacekeeping mission logic.
Let me move to the current situation.
Despite some successes, there have been many dangerous developments. The Taliban has regrouped and gained strength in the southern provinces. American and NATO military have killed thousands of insurgents, but because they've had to rely so heavily on air power, they've also killed far too many civilians. The violence has increased. More than 220 foreign soldiers were killed in the year 2007, the deadliest year so far. Experts, and all those to whom I talked in the British military, expect that there will be many more deaths than that in the year 2008.
Suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices are becoming more common, and the Taliban is threatening to strangle Kabul, which is what they would like to do. Suicide bombings create fear out of proportion to their ability to destroy, but they do create a tremendous amount of fear. The United States military says that the Afghan government controls only about a third of the country. The rest is run by local warlords or the Taliban. I should remind you that the Afghan security czar said this week that the government controls 95% of the territory. That just shows you how different the figures and facts are about the country.
The Taliban has, to some extent, been disrupted. There has been some defection at both foot soldier level and higher command, though it's not very widely discussed, and apparently we are now getting some good intelligence on internal mechanisms of the Taliban itself. We have to expect even more backlash from the tribes the longer we're there, and in my opinion, donor fatigue is settling in quite rapidly.
What do we need to do now about this fragile state? First, of course, we need more Afghan ownership of the policy. That's clear. It's controversial, and I know you'll want to discuss it in your deliberations, but one way or another we do need to split the Taliban, getting some to join the government. There also needs to be more burden sharing in NATO, the very subject that you've been discussing now for weeks. There needs to be better international and regional cooperation. Of course the whole Durand Line needs to be discussed. And lastly in this category—I'll come back to it later—good governance continues to be a big issue in the country.
Let's move to NATO and the military.
NATO policy in Afghanistan, in my opinion, needs to change radically. While Britain and the United States have recently moved soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan, more are still needed there. The militaries of the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands have all been effective, but much more needs to be done by the Germans, French, and Italians, who have been shirking their responsibilities. Leaders of the latter countries have jeopardized Afghan operations by their stubbornness, or what are called caveats, in not allowing their troops to go in harm's way in the south and southeast of the country.
Of course, there are two sides to this issue of more troops. If we compare the number of troops with successful handlings of insurgencies elsewhere, such as in the historical case of Malaysia and the most recent case of East Timor, the number of troops there by comparison with the local population and local insurgents is much too small. But I must say, on the other hand, that the military so far is not looking for a massive increase in the number of soldiers. The locals might not even tolerate a larger military presence there than we already have.
Let me move to good governance.
There's a lack of administrative capacity in the country. There is only a narrow skilled human resources base, and this is particularly true at the highest levels of government. Only about a quarter to a third of the government ministries, out of 27, are effective. The higher Afghan bureaucracy was decimated by decades of Soviet and Taliban control. Today they are struggling with huge amounts of paperwork required by international funding agencies and governments. About 25% of civil service time is spent merely reporting on the funds received. They don't have much time for action.
Now I come to a small Canadian contribution that I am particularly interested in, and possibly you are as well, and that's Canada's Strategic Advisory Team.
There will never be success in Afghanistan until a strong and capable government is set up in Kabul. Of course eradicating the poppy fields, building a few roads, educating more people, and fighting the Taliban are important, but they will never be successful if the democratic institutions and state bureaucracy are not powerful enough to counter the fragmentation caused by powerful warlords. Canada's Strategic Advisory Team has been helping with this vital task, and the government, in my opinion, should put more funds and more people into this effort.
Canada's armed bureaucrats punch above their weight in Afghanistan. They are only 16 officers in number, but their influence in Kabul is impressive. Recently they have been embedded in the departments of education, justice, public service reform, transportation and aviation, and rural rehabilitation and development, and the office of the special economic adviser to the President. They are obviously not included in the department of defence, as their work is not in the security field. This small group consists of dedicated planners and strategic analysts who are bringing their skills to the Government of Afghanistan. They work to bolster the capacity of the government to receive and spend the funds they have and to develop coherent public policies from the centre. When I was there, Afghan government officials, ministers and otherwise, unanimously told me that SAT is doing necessary and excellent work and should be continued.
Let me next move to the timeline, a difficult political question in Canada. I realize that I may be walking on some difficult eggs here.
While it's true that the Afghanistan Compact will come up for renewal in 2010-11, in my opinion there is no doubt that it will have to be renegotiated, so using that as a termination date is not going to help us. And NATO will be forced to play a role after that date, no matter what.
Our approach, therefore, must be for a long-term comprehensive contribution. An extended period—and I know this is going to make some people angry with me—of possibly up to 30 years will be required before Afghan is up to scratch.
I heard people trying to say what they thought Afghanistan is like. I hope the members of the committee are going to go to Kabul.
I'm going to use an explosive synonym here to make the feeling for it. If you've been around the world, I would like to say that Kabul today—although I've heard that there's a lot of peace going around—for me is more like a combination of what it was like in Berlin at the Second World War, with the all the damage there, crossed with the modern Lagos in Nigeria. If you put the two together, you'll get what I think is going on.
I think you in fact must go there to see what is going on for yourselves and decide how you're going to comment on the topic.
Although I think the west will have to be in Afghanistan for some number of years—I'm choosing 30 years, but you may say some other number, and no one knows for sure—the military, of course, may only need to carry out proactive activities for a much shorter period.
We need to be very careful in Canada and elsewhere about best-case scenarios. If we put best-case scenarios forward and then build our policies on them, they may have to be revisited. We shouldn't make a commitment today that ends abruptly at some particular point in time, because we simply do not know what circumstances will prevail into the future.
Today there seems to be parliamentary agreement, by some at any rate, that the Canadian mission will be extended to 2011, with an increase in reconstruction and good governance, always within the proviso that NATO provide more troops and equipment. NATO clearly needs to amend its ways, and shirking nations need to increase their share of the military burden. The situation in Afghanistan is imperative and justifiable. But despair and fear are growing, as my colleagues have said, in the country as the bloody march of the Taliban from the Pakistan borderlands towards the capital continues, as they would like to strangle the capital.
The west must succeed in propping up Afghanistan or face the prospect of the collapse of the government we have there now and of the large-scale international terrorism that will ensue. Canada should insist on getting its way on this topic and should push it forward. The Canadian Prime Minister has an opportunity to energize the issue by making a compelling argument at the Bucharest Summit. Otherwise, in my opinion, there's every chance that NATO will fail in Afghanistan, the most pivotal issue facing the alliance since the end the Cold War.