Sunday, 12 July 2009

Afghanistan - A War For No Purpose?

It's difficult in a war situation to define success but Gordon Brown today has declared that the recent shocking 15 deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan in just 10 days as 'progress'.

One thing I would like to make clear - the incredible bravery and hard work of our Armed Forces in Afghanistan is beyond reproach. We have the most professional and best people in the world fighting on our behalf and I do not think there is not a person in Britain who is not proud and awed by the sacrifices they make daily.

It is the Politicians who should be getting the criticism. History has told us that even modern armies have struggled in this rugged land and the might of the Soviet Forces in the 80s could not control Afghanistan and today the combined Allied Forces cannot control large tracts of territory amidst ever bloodier fighting. In 8 long years, little has been achieved beyond the seizure of the capital, Kabul and Helmand province remains an unconquered and dangerous territory where British Forces are getting killed at an ever increasing pace.

The Argument Against

Ostensibly, the enemy in Afghanistan is the ultra-hard Muslim sect, the Taliban. They are the ones who throw acid into women's faces and implement a hard regime based around the most fanatical interpretation of the Koran. It was they who originally harboured Osama Bin Ladin and his Al Qaeda terrorist network and allowed them to train and operate from a safe haven. It is alleged that the Taliban fund themselves through the drugs market and at one point it was estimated that over half the world's poppy supply for illegal drugs came from Afghanistan. Indeed, one of the outcomes of this war, Tony Blair told us, was that we would be able to decrease the amount of drugs on the streets of Britain. That, like many other stupid promises about Afghanistan, was utter rubbish and the supply, by all estimates, has actually increased since the Allies moved in.

Anti War protesters would point to the fact that the Taliban is pretty much a sect and has occupied Afghanistan as a place to have its religious life. As a regime, it has no real foreign policy, according to author James Ferguson, and it is claimed that Al Qaeda has effectively left Afghanistan and taken up residence in Pakistan.

The Argument For

The clear argument is that Afghanistan is a potential conveyor belt for terrorist recruitment and training, While the Taliban themselves may not have a foreign policy, they allow the likes of Al Qaeda to operate training camps and schools which develop terrorist convictions and skills, so allowing them to send the finished articles to Western lands to bring terror and bloodshed. It is also claimed that many of the 7/7 bombers were trained in Afghanistan and controlled by people from there.

This makes the war we are fighting critical if we want to stop terrorism, we are told.

What Does Not Make Sense

The invasion of Afghanistan by US Forces following the terrible day on 9/11 was swift and decisive. The world, having digested the event and been directed to the lineage of terror that led to Bin Ladin and Afghanistan, supported the move - Britain was 'shoulder to shoulder' as Blair famously pronounced. In 8 years, we have come no closer to Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda still remains pretty much intact, causing atrocities on a sporadic but devastating basis and all intelligence points toward a world with a vastly increased state of emergency due to terrorist threats.

The real rattlers nest came on the invasion of Iraq. There were no Taliban there, no connections to Bin Ladin or 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, just a regime and dictator who were spent forces in world politics and threats, although Saddam Hussein was still a major threat to his won people. What Iraq did was to open up a front where any enemy with a gripe against the West could go along and train on the job, have a glorious career in the eyes of their peers and take out a few Allied Forces in the process. But more than anything, it served to 'up the ante' in the age-old struggle of Christians vs. Muslims.

If there can be any doubt about this, just look to the pious nature of the two leaders involved - Tony Blair and George W Bush. Blair now leads a 'Faith Tour' while Bush made no attempt to hide that God was on his side.

What both wars have shown was the lack of preparation and understanding of the enemy, the history, and the terrain. There seemed to be no real game plan, no real strategy and no clear 'end game' which would indicate when a war was actually won or lost and what the outcome would look like. 8 years on and Afghanistan is still a powder keg and very little real progress has been made.

In a bizarre twist, in the 80s it was the likes of the SAS who worked alongside the very people we fight today to helped them harry the Russians, just as Rumsfeld famously shook Saddam's hand to supply him with weapons in his war against Iran. Politics through the ages has changed with the wind and double talk and hypocrisy has been pretty much the norm. Things have changed little since over thousands of years when it comes to wars and agendas.

So we pretty much reap what we sow. Young kids and their officers are dying daily in Afghanistan and we struggle to understand why. In 8 years we have got no closer to capturing Bin Ladin or stopping Al Qaeda carry out dreadful deeds.

How will it all come to and end? When can our brave soldiers come home?

There is a theory that such wars are a necessary convenience. Much like the 'Wag The Dog' scenario, wars divert attention and show that we are doing something. We, the public, are far too stupid to understand why wars are required, if indeed they are. Information can be carefully controlled and whenever there is the slightest real criticism on intentions, tracks are covered by invoking 'necessary secrecy' like vetoing the publishing of the minutes of Cabinet prior to the decision to go to war with Iraq. Or the sham Public Inquiries we have had, and yet to have, on Iraq.

There is always the danger, however, that what the Government is doing is the right thing. Although history tells us that no foreign power since Genghis Khan has ruled Afghanistan to any effect, we still seem to think we can conquer an almost indomitable people and, in attempting to do so, we only harden the resolve of everyday Muslims to support things which are indeed against their nature and their religion.

We can all point to parts of the Koran and Bible that promote war and revenge but ultimately we have to trust ourselves. At some point we are going to have to live with one another on this earth. We had better get used to the idea.

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