Thursday, 23 August 2007

How can this bloody failure be regarded as a good war?

Seamus Milne writing in the Guardian, excellent article.

Enthusiasts for the catastrophe that is the Iraq war may be hard to come by these days, but Afghanistan is another matter. The invasion and occupation that opened George Bush's war on terror are still championed by powerful voices in the occupying states as - in the words of the New York Times this week - "the good war" that can still be won. While speculation intensifies about British withdrawal from Basra, there's no such talk about a retreat from Kabul or Kandahar. On the contrary, the plan is to increase British troop numbers from the current 7,000, and ministers, commanders and officials have been hammering home the message all summer that Britain is in Afghanistan, as the foreign secretary, David Miliband, insisted, for the long haul.

"We should be thinking in terms of decades," the British ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, declared; Brigadier John Lorimer, British commander in Helmand province, thought the military occupation might last more than Northern Ireland's 38 years; and the defence secretary, Des Browne, last week confirmed that the government had made a "long-term commitment" to stay in Afghanistan to prevent it reverting to a terrorist training ground. Even allowing for the Brown government's need for political cover if it is indeed to run down its forces in Iraq, that all amounts to a pretty clear policy of indefinite occupation - one on which it has not thought necessary to consult the British people, let alone the Afghans.

All this follows the escalation of Britain's involvement in Afghanistan last year, when Browne's predecessor, John Reid, sent thousands of extra troops to the south to "help reconstruction", hoping they would be a able to leave "without firing a single shot". Two million rounds of ammunition later, what was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission is now an all-out war against a resurgent Taliban that has become an umbrella for Pashtun nationalists, jihadists and all those determined to fight foreign occupation. British casualties have risen sharply - seven have been killed in the past month - along with those of other western forces, while the public at home is increasingly fed a media diet of Kiplingesque deeds of derring-do by "our boys" on the front line. And in a telling echo of the claims that have punctuated each phase of the Iraq disaster, Browne last week said he detected a "turning point" in the British campaign to "bring stability" to Afghanistan.

Full story...

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