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Winning the War in Afghanistan: Echoes of Northern Ireland and the IRA?

Seven years ago, the Taliban regime was deposed by Operation Enduring Freedom, and a seemingly new future was offered (if not promised) to Afghanistan. Yet today, Afghanistan is anything but a stable and secure country. The spiralling Afghan insurgency, as well as a responsive counterinsurgency, has claimed the lives of over 3,200 people this year alone.1

It is reasonable to argue that 2008 has witnessed Afghanistan fall further into the abyss of instability and chaos: the re-emergent Taliban2 seems stronger than ever and has even been able to install shadow governments in certain districts in the east and south of the country. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden remain very much alive and influential in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s regime, which has minimal influence outside of the Kabul city limits, is increasingly viewed as illegitimate by non-Kabuli Afghans.3 Corruption driven by record opium crops4 still permeates all levels of society and government. Lastly, civilian death tolls continue to mount5 and fissures are beginning to appear in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition.

The problems in Afghanistan are compounded by the fact that the ongoing political and military crisis in Afghanistan has been partially eclipsed by contemporary problems in Iraq. But it is arguably Afghanistan, rather than Iraq, that is the more significant theatre in the war on terror. The depth and urgency of the Afghan crisis are evident from the escalation of insurgent violence, with 2007 being the most deadly year since the initiation


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