Monday, November 10, 2008

Zapatero's Afghan Dilemma

The deaths of two Spanish soldiers yesterday in Afghanistan have brought that country back into the headlines in the Spanish press. Although the almost 800 Spanish soldiers stationed in the country are not close to the main battlegrounds, there has been a steady succession of attacks against them and yesterday's deaths are not the first fatalities the Spanish have suffered. Domestically the Spanish presence in Afghanistan has not caused the government any significant problems, helped by the lack of direct involvement in the fighting. The government presents the Spanish contribution as a humanitarian mission, although it is clear that foreign troops in that country are embroiled in a war with no visible end in sight.

Despite having hailed the election of Barack Obama as US president, Spain's prime minister will not be looking forward to discussing the Afghan situation with him. Obama is said to want to increase the number of occupying troops in Afghanistan and will undoubtedly be looking to other countries to increase their presence. This is something which Spain has already resisted before. Obama seems to believe that a troop surge is going to deal with the situation, whilst many of those with actual involvement in the country now see the war as unwinnable; hence the quiet negotiations that are taking place in the background with the Taliban and other parties. Meanwhile, the death rate amongst civilians seems to count for as little as it did in Iraq; Afghanistan is the original disaster of the "war on terror".

No comments: