Alexander Downers' plan: Invite Taliban to the election party
THE initial objective of the invasion of Afghanistan has been achieved and it's time for a diplomatic settlement involving the Taliban and their Pakistani creators, says former foreign minister Alexander Downer.
In an article entitled "Our messy war" published in The Spectator ahead of the parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, Mr Downer said the initial military goal was to destroy al-Qaeda's capacity to use Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the US and other western targets.
"That goal was achieved. Al-Qaeda was destroyed in Afghanistan. As time has passed there has been mission creep," he said.
Mr Downer said the task now was apparently to improve the quality of democracy and security, but that was proving perilously difficult as Afghanistan had never been competently governed by an administration based in Kabul.
He said Prime Minister Julia Gillard needed to articulate Australia's war aims and do it quickly.
There were four options, Mr Downer said: maintain the status quo, increase troop numbers, withdraw or embark on a strategy of diplomacy backed by military force.
He said sudden withdrawal would have disastrous consequences and it would be sheer folly for Australia to support such a plan.
It would almost certainly lead to return of a Taliban regime with all its human right abuses and that would be perceived as a historic Jihadist victory, providing the movement with fresh momentum.
A Taliban-run Afghanistan could destroy the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan, which would escalate tensions with India.
"And who knows where that might lead," he said.
Mr Downer said if defeating the Taliban militarily was simple it would have been done long ago.
"To succeed in Afghanistan will require new and creative diplomacy, and Ms Gillard should articulate what that diplomacy is," he said.