October 12, 2008


Despite the defeatism, our campaign in Afghanistan is going well: The Taliban must be laughing. Armed with battered old Kalashnikov assault rifles, primitive rocket-propelled grenades and home-made bombs put together in the Afghan equivalent of the kitchen sink, this rag-tag bunch of Pashtun tribesmen and Islamic militants have succeeded in reducing the most powerful military alliance ever assembled to despair and mutual recrimination. (Con Coughlin, 10/12/08, Daily Telegraph)

The reason British forces were sent to Afghanistan in the first place in 2001 was to help destroy the Islamist terrorist infrastructure that posed as much of a threat to our own well-being as to that of our American allies in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

And the reason that, seven years later, British soldiers are still fighting and dying in southern Afghanistan is to prevent Islamist terrorists carrying out a repeat of the July 7 terror attacks that devastated London's tranportation system in 2005.

And on that basis, the military campaign has been going pretty well.

Despite suffering appalling equipment shortages - the inquest into the death of Corporal Mark Wright in Oxford has graphically illustrated the disastrous implications of not having the right equipment in the right place at the right time - Britain's armed forces have nevertheless managed to give a good account of themselves.

If this is the case then why the unseemly spat between British and American policymakers about whether the conflict is actually winnable?

Certainly the sight of two key allies arguing amongst themselves will have given the morale of the Taliban a welcome boost, while leaving those with the thankless task of keeping the enemy at bay in Helmand wondering what's the point of risking their lives if the entire operation is going to hell in a handcart.

We have been here before, of course, in Iraq, where the decision last year to abandon control of Basra to a bunch of lawless Shia militias and criminal gangs completely undermined the reputation and the credibility of the British military in Iraq.

Since then Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, has hardly spoken to the British commanders who are supposed to be helping him to protect his country, while the Americans can hardly conceal their contempt for their erstwhile allies.

Now all the signs suggest we are about to make the same mistake in Afghanistan, sacrificing all our hard-won gains over the past two years because the policy-makers, certainly here in Britain, have decided that the challenges appear to be insurmountable.

...the war is won?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2008 6:13 PM
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