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Get out of Afghanistan. Now.

Everything is wrong about this dumb war : we don’t know what we are fighting for, we have no exit strategy, our troops lack essential equipment. and the British people are increasingly unwilling to accept casualties. No British politician has been capable of explaining coherently what victory in Afghanistan would actually look like even if it could be achieved. This is a failed state governed by shifting coalitions of Pashtuns, Baluchis, Tajiks, Hazares and Uzbeks – tribes who are united only in their eagerness to see foreign soldiers removed from Afghan soil. The most useful contribution Britain could make toward nation building would be to get out of there as quickly as possible.
More than 200 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan – more than in the entire Iraq war. Thousands of British soldiers have suffered terrible injuries and ruined lives, not to mention tens of thousands of Afghan casualties. And this in an operation in Helmand province which, the former defence secretary John Reid, said in 2006 he expected woult be over “without a shot being fired”. The parents of dead and injured servicemen and women would be justified in taking out a class action against the British government for failing in its duty of care. The British army, exhausted from its involvement in Iraq was sent to one of the most dangerous places on the planet, without proper air support, to feed the vanity of a UK political elite desperate to show that Britain still counts on the world stage. All they have demonstrated is that Britain does not matter any more. What remained of British military and diplomatic prestige has been lost in the dust of Helmand province.
Afghanistan has been a text book demonstration of how to not to win hearts and minds. We built schools and then bombed them to rubble. We spoke peace to the villagers and then killed them with drones, the worst kind of impersonal violence. We promised prosperity and then plunged the country into economic chaos. We promised good government and have ended up supporting a regime in Kabul which has become a by-word for corruption and cronyism. We talked of liberating women, but we have bankrolled a misogynistic leader who supports marital rape.
The idea that a few British soldiers could halt the poppy industry, the country’s main cash crop, was ludicrous. Almost as absurd as the suggestion that in some way British soldiers were preventing terrorism on British streets. This was Gordon Brown’s “chain of terror”, stretching as he put it from “the mountains of Afghanistan to the high streets of Britain”. Yet everyone knows that the terrorists involved in 7/7 bombings in London came from Britain and were trained in Pakistan.
Eight years ago, there may have been a justification for the ‘hot pursuit’ of al Qaeda terrorists, who planned and trained for the 9/11 plane bombings in training camps in Afghanistan. This was essentially a policing action, and recognised as such by the local people. Having destroyed those camps, we should have offered Kabul aid and support and left the country to find its own way. We were the liberators then. Now, our incompetent occupation of the country has thrust the Arab al Qaeda and the Pashtun Taleban – by no means natural bedfellows – into each others arms.

We wilfully ignored the lesson of the Iraq war that, however benign our intentions, the fact of our military occupation strengthens the very terrorism it is supposed to defeat. We scuttled out of Basra after handing the Iraq city over to Shia warlords. We scuttled into Afghanistan on pretence that we were on a peacekeeping mission. The Taleban and the Afghan mujihadeen were under no such illusions and reacted to what they regard as a foreign invader.

Trying to occupy the country with an inadequate force was plain stupid. This country has been fighting invaders successfully for 2,000 years. It defeated the British Empire 150 years ago and it defeated the Soviet Empire in the 1980s. How could we have been so naive as to believe we could occupy this country with a handful of soldiers and a few land rovers? The Afghans will never submit to foreign military domination, yet our military leaders say we are going to be in their country for thirty years. They are mad.
The Taleban are an odious sect who oppress women, reject enlightenment values and abhor democracy. They use 13 year old boys to deliver suicide bombs. But the reality is that they, or their confederates, are in control in 90% of Afghanistan and are not going to go away. You can’t fight them with gender awareness classes and election scrutineers. The British government recognised as much last month when David Miliband, the home secretary, proposed that we should start talking to the Taleban.

The fruit of our involvement is an opium trade that has burgeoned along with terrorism and corruption. Only in the area of democracy has there been any kind of progress, as millions of Afghan citizens made clear when they defied the Taleban and made the effort to vote. It was both inspiring and slightly chilling to see Afghan women dressed in burkas, like dusty ghosts, lining up to exercise their votes. Some may have been voting their tribal slate or as instructed by their menfolk. But at least they have demonstrated that there is nothing Afghanistan gene pool that makes them immune to democracy.
It is not enough to plead that our intentions were honourable – that we did not enter for economic or strategic gain but to try to build a modern democratic society. But you can’t bomb a country into the twenty first century and you can’t impose democracy from above. It can only come from the people themselves. Well, we should quit when we are ahead. Our job is now done. Let’s get out before we kill any more people with out kindness.

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “Get out of Afghanistan. Now.

  1. So lets leave the people of Afganistan to the mercy of the Taliban, watch the women hang in football stadiums and wait for the new terrorist attacks on the west to be planned there? We have forgotten why the UN went in and in a few years time we will go back in having forgotten why we left.

    Posted by Anonymous | September 3, 2009, 5:20 pm
  2. AnonWe can stay in Afghanistan for a thousand years but the day after we leave it will be back to normal. Are we to invade every country that abuses human rights ?North Korea, Libya, China, Tibet, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Zimbabwe. The list is as long as your arm.Invading Afghanistan won't make the UK safer. All our terrorists are homegrown. Saudi and Pakistan are home to the the main instigators of terror, Shall we attack them ?Today another 90 women and children were killed by mistake by allied aircraft. Will that make us safer ? How would you react if troops invaded Scotland and killed your family ? Doesn't the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan actually make us less safe ?

    Posted by troops out | September 4, 2009, 8:29 am
  3. Dear IainWell said on time to bale out.We came, we destroyed and we achieved nothing.Yes, a true New Labour blood price victory!Yours sincerelyGeorge LairdThe Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    Posted by George Laird | September 4, 2009, 1:48 pm
  4. On Monday 31st August I posted on Afghanistan and Londonistan, as well as earlier. Your post sits well with these. Anyone with any sense of history would never have got into this mess.

    Posted by Demetrius | September 4, 2009, 4:08 pm
  5. Troops outWe can stay in Afghanistan for a thousand years but the day after we leave it will be back to normal. Are we to invade every country that abuses human rights ? If the UN resolves to do so yes.North Korea, Libya, China, Tibet, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Zimbabwe. The list is as long as your arm.If the UN resolves to do so yes. I certainly don't understand why we are so keen to trade with countries with such abuses.Invading Afghanistan won't make the UK safer. All our terrorists are homegrown. And many of them have attended training camps in Afganistan.Saudi and Pakistan are home to the the main instigators of terror, Shall we attack them ?If the UN resolves to do so yes.Today another 90 women and children were killed by mistake by allied aircraft. Will that make us safer ? No obviously not. Do you believe that no miltary action should ever be taken?How would you react if troops invaded Scotland and killed your family ? I would want them imprisoned and not released when they had terminal cancer.Doesn't the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan actually make us less safe ?I agree we should not have invaded Iraq without UN mandate. The dismantling of terrorist training camps makes me feel safer.

    Posted by Anonymous | September 4, 2009, 4:12 pm
  6. This will be the fourth time the UK has stuck its imperialist nose into Afghanistan. And the fourth time it will be kicked out with its tail between it’s legs. The only difference this time is that we are taking our dead home. The deserts of the Middle East are full of British war graves. We cannot afford long wars like these. The warlords can play the long game and sicken us as they did before. They learned the lessons of history we did not. The Taliban are all the things you say and more. They sexually abuse children and use beardless boys as their personal eunuchs. They are brutal animals and have always been so.Who are we to go strutting around this planet bombing and shooting people to impose our values and ideas of democracy on others? Who gave us that right? By doing so we just create a huge silo of hatred and resentment for it, and it plays out eventually in blood letting and carnage on our own streets. Do we see terrorists targeting Dublin?Britain needs to stop this imperialistic posturing. The streets of the UK are made dangerous because of it. Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan, all self-inflicted wounds on the UK. It is physically destructive and financially destructive, we are now in the financial doghouse up to our nostrils because of this imperialism, it needs to stop.

    Posted by Key bored warrior. | September 4, 2009, 5:26 pm
  7. Dear Dear people still ignorant as to the truth about 911 and 7/7. These things were nothing to do with terrorists, they were done by the US and UK governments to scare their populations on side for the Afghan and Iraq wars and to enable them to bring in their draconian legislation against their own people.Amazing how terrorists can put out fake videos of not one but two aluminium airplanes melting into two buildings against the laws of physics!Amazing how terrorists managed to get not one but two buildings to fall from top to bottom at free fall speed against the laws of physics!Amazing how terrorists managed to get an aluminium airplane to go through, not one, but six, reinforced concrete walls of the Pentagon against the laws of physics!Amazing how terrorists managed to turn most of the steel and concrete in the Twin Towers to white dust!Amazing how terrorists managed to flip cars onto their roofs blocks away from the Twin Towers!Amazing how terrorists managed to get entire car parks of cars to burst into flames blocks away from the Twin Towers!I could go on with regard to 911 and 7/7 but anyone wanting the facts can get the video links to Dr Judy Wood and Dr Morgan Reynolds who are suing the US government at present with their evidence for putting out lies with regard to 911 and other videos at http://www.paisleyexpressions.blogspot.comThere is also a bill going through the US Congress at present based on their evidence for a new independent inquiry into 911.

    Posted by Anonymous | September 4, 2009, 6:14 pm
  8. Well said Iain.When people from such radically different backgrounds as Iain MacWhirter and Gerald Warner (who wrote a belter of a column on this in SOS a few Sundays ago) agree that this is a futile campaign that can never be won politicians should sit up and take note.Sadly they don't seem to be doing that. There still seems to be political support for this War.Why.And why are we putting up with it. I would gladly march through the streets in protest but no one is asking me too.That needs to change.

    Posted by Observer | September 4, 2009, 7:43 pm
  9. For anyone else under the illusion that this is some UK only action there are many other nations contributing soldiers and support. Imperialist warmongers such as Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden and of course Ireland. United States – 26,215 United Kingdom – 9,100 Germany – 4,220 Italy – 3,650 France – 3,300 Canada – 2,830 Poland – 2,000 Netherlands – 1,770 Turkey – 1,300 Australia – 1,090 Romania – 860 Bulgaria – 820 Spain – 780 Denmark – 750 Belgium – 650 Norway – 598 Czech Republic – 580 Croatia – 530 Sweden – 454 Hungary – 370 Slovakia – 230 Lithuania – 200 Macedonia – 170 Latvia – 160 New Zealand – 150 Albania – 140 Estonia – 289 Greece – 140 Finland – 200 Azerbaijan – 90 Slovenia – 70 Portugal – 180 United Arab Emirates – 25 Singapore – 20 Ukraine – 10 Luxembourg – 9 Iceland – 8 Ireland – 7 Jordan – 7 Austria – 2 Bosnia and Herzegovina – 2 Georgia – 150

    Posted by Anonymous | September 5, 2009, 12:17 am
  10. Anonymous Saturday Sept 05All of these countries went in at the start because they were conned into thnking that the terrorists responsible for 911 were in Afghanistan.These countries will not put in more troops and probably want to get out now as well because as has been said above by Anonymous "Dear Dear people still ignorant as to the truth about 911 and 7/7" most people with more than half a brain know that these things were nothing to do with terrorists!

    Posted by Anonymous | September 5, 2009, 11:50 am

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