Le retrait d’Afghanistan est-il en train de devenir une option?

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Rétrospectivement, on pourrait penser que l’arrivée de Gordon Brown au pouvoir à Londres représente un tournant pour la situation en Afghanistan. C’est l’idée qui flotte autour de cette remarque, dans un article significatif du Financial Times du 18 novembre: «In the UK, a review of Afghan strategy has followed Gordon Brown’s takeover as prime minister from Tony Blair in June. The outcome represents, officials say, a scaling back of Blairite ambitions to help Afghans create a “stable, prosperous and democratic future”. It supports exploring, under Afghan leadership, reconciliation with members of insurgent groups.»

Il est évident que l’actuelle campagne de l’OTAN en Afghanistan ne se poursuit encore, dans la stratégie choisie qui est celle d’une victoire militaire, que parce que les Britanniques sont derrière ce projet, avec leur fort contingent (officiellement autour de 7.000 hommes mais sans doute plus de 10.000); ou, à la lumière de ce qu’on a lu plus haut, parce qu’ils l’étaient, selon la volonté d’un Tony Blair, ce cas pathologique d’un croyant jusqu’au bout dans la mission civilisatrice par l’avion et le char de l’Occident anglo-saxonisé. Brown est d’un style différent et il semble que la “mission civilisatrice” en Afghanistan commence à le lasser.

L’article cité est empli de détails assez sombres et pessimistes, suggérant effectivement que l’Afghanistan est un trou noir sans espoit pour l’OTAN (pour le Royaume-Uni) et qu’il est temps de chercher une “decent exit strategy”, y compris en s’acoquinant avec les talibans. La dernière consigne à leur égard est de ne plus les “démoniser”. (« A hint at a shift in UK attitudes may have come in Gen Dannatt’s September speech, in which he said he preferred not to demonise Nato’s adversaries. “There is a hard core of Islamist extremists of varied ethnic and national origin, but the great majority of the people we are engaged against are those who are fighting with the Taliban for financial, social and tribal reasons. So we must beware of tarring them all with the same brush, as I am sure that one day we will need to deal with and eventually reconcile the elected government with the majority of these people.”») Un virage dans la politique de propagnde officielle, cette virtualisation constante de la situation de la réalité, est un signe important pour un système qui évolue effectivement sur sa capacité de constante recréation et modification de la réalité.

Quelques détails de plus sur cette précautionneuse approche d’une possible stratégie de “fuite dans l’apparence de l’honneur” que les Britanniques pourraient bien un jour prochain proposer à l’OTAN...

«The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan rates 78 districts, almost one-fifth of the country, as extremely risky and therefore inaccessible to UN agencies for humanitarian work. Rates of insurgent and terrorist violence have been running 20 per cent higher, at an average of 548 incidents a month, than in 2006 and there are eight times as many suicide attacks as there were just two years ago.

»Such setbacks are important. Losing Afghanistan threatens to recreate a failed state in a strategically important region, provide a haven for terrorists and drug traffickers and undermine, perhaps fatally, the credibility of the Nato alliance in its first big out-of-area operation. Some 40,000 of the foreign troops are under Nato command, the rest with a US-led anti-terrorist coalition.

(…)

«Yet signs of impatience among some western governments are unmistakable. Nato, according to its own calculation, is a minimum four battalions (totalling 4,000 soldiers) short of what it needs and the force lacks crucial equipment such as helicopters.

»Meanwhile, perhaps one-quarter of Nato’s troops present in Afghanistan, including those from Germany, Italy and Spain, are under strict operational restrictions. Fifty so-called national caveats are maintained, including some that prevent military assets in the relatively peaceful north of the country from being shifted south where they are most needed. According to one senior Nato officer, the restrictions have “an insidious impact on operations”.

»This shortage seems unlikely to be remedied. Two nations currently providing combat troops – Canada, with 1,700 soldiers there, and the Netherlands, with 1,300 – face parliamentary debates in the coming months about whether their mandates should be renewed. Poland (950 troops), Denmark (450) and Nato partner Australia (900) – all engaged in the difficult south or east – have held or face elections that may lead their troops to be brought home.

»Western officials say the solution to this shortfall lies in building the capacity of Afghanistan’s own security forces. But progress has been slow. The Afghan National Army comprises fewer than 35,000 men, compared with a stated goal of 70,000 by 2010 – itself held to be insufficient by some analysts. Plagued by desertions in the early days, retention rates have improved to 45-60 per cent of recruits, depending on the unit.

»But Nato governments are still falling short of their commitment to provide teams to train army units on the job. There are fewer than 30 of them, compared with a target of 100. Officials expect more commitments in coming months – it is one possible future role for Canadian forces – but as the number of such teams increases, so does the number needed, as new Afghan units are deployed.

»The picture for the police is worse. An estimated 71,000 policemen are on duty, of whom 50,000 are ostensibly trained and equipped, compared with a goal of 82,000. Yet their quality is often poor – many police chiefs are illiterate – and police and justice system corruption is widely said to be undermining support for the government. Implicitly recognising past failures, the US has committed $2.5bn (€1.7bn, £1.2bn) to retrain the force, planning to put more than 2,500 advisers in police stations all over the country.

»Another failure has been in counter-narcotics policy. Since the end of Taliban rule, poppy cultivation has risen to the point that Afghanistan is now estimated to be responsible for 93 per cent of the world’s opium supplies. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime reported in August that opium production had increased by 34 per cent over the previous year. The growth mostly came from Helmand province, where British troops are operating. Officials talk of a vicious cycle in which the proceeds of drug trafficking sustain the insurgency.

»General Sir Richard Dannatt, Britain’s army chief, said in a September speech that the UK military decided against a strong eradication policy for poppy fields when moving into Helmand in 2006 because to have done so would have handed an important propaganda tool to the Taliban. But he said that over a lengthy campaign, it was necessary to “turn the tide” against drugs and he had told his commanders this summer that in 2008 “we will be judged in progress terms by this poppy harvest and we have now got to see it going down”.

»These difficulties are leading some western governments to suggest the west’s strategy – to build confidence in elected institutions and encourage justice, reconstruction, development and better government – is too ambitious.»

Reste donc la “réconciliation”, avec les talibans considérés à nouveau comme des gens pas si mauvais que cela. C’était le sens du discours du général Dannatt, cité plus haut. Le problème principal, pour l’instant, est Washington, où la politique standard est évidemment le maximalisme partout, toujours et de toutes les façons, y compris pour les combats dont les autres assurent le principal. («Although the idea of reconciliation is gaining ground elsewhere, it finds little favour in the Bush administration, where one US official says the word Taliban is regarded as “radioactive”.


Mis en ligne le 19 novembre 2007 à 07H13