Thursday, November 05, 2009


Afghanistan: Looks Like Time to Get Out

It was hard not to agree with Kim Howells yesterday, the former Foreign Office minister and respected voice among Labour MPs. Between them US and UK have spent $230 billion on the war and lost over 1500 young lives, 229 of them British. And what have we to show for it? Continuing support for a hoplessly corrupt administration propped up by war money, war lords and the drug trade. Simon Jenkins has been sending in broadsides against the conflict for some time: see his latest. But Howells' revolt is of a differnt order, for here was a man who once believed greatly in the rectitude and winnability of this war. This extract neatly summarizes his case:

"Sooner rather than later a properly planned phased withdrawal of our forces from Helmand province has to be announced. If it is an answer that serves, also, to focus the minds of those in the Kabul government who have shown such a poverty of leadership over the past seven years, then so much the better. Seven years of military involvement and civilian aid in Afghanistan has succeeded in subduing al-Qaida's activities in that country but it hasn't destroyed the organisation or its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Nor has it succeeded in eliminating al-Qaida's protectors, the Taliban. There can be no guarantee that the next seven years will bring significantly greater success and, even if they do, it is salutary to remember that Afghanistan has never been the sole location of terrorist training camps."

Given that we can not defeat the Taliban on their home ground- what army ever has in Afghanistan?- and that al-Qaeda can easily re-establish in places like Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea or Uzbekistan- we should take seriously Howells'alternative 'Fortress Britain' approach: defend ourselves more effectively in our own home, even at the cost of more intrusive surveillance of the Muslim community. Not ideal by any means, but surely a more cost effective policy than the hiding to nothing we're receiving at the moment? Both party leaderships have painted themselves into a corner here, just as Obama has. They may find in a short while that they have a noose around their necks as tight as Vietnam- so best start the rethinking now, as Howells correctly suggests.

Going to war is easy you just tell the military your on your way, but sadly for new labour it has been a shambles and we do not have any real plans on winning or how to get out
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