13 July 2009

Afghanistan: let's get the hell out

Just watching the Newsnight special on Afghanistan. Amazingly, 46% of the population appear to think we should hang on in there, if recent polls are anything to go by. The original rationale for the conflict - beating the Taliban and installing a democratic government - mutated several years ago into a desperate holding action to avoid the Taliban taking the country back by force. The recent spike in UK troop deaths - awful to be sure, but a small fraction of the number of Afghan citizens to be killed - has brought home the insanity and futility of the conflict. Of our political leaders, only Nick Clegg has sussed out what is obvious to any rational observer; that the conflict is unwinnable at current levels of troop deployment, and - unless the UK or someone else is willing to commit the hundreds of thousands of extra troops and billions of pounds that would be necessary to turn Afghanistan into some kind of military police state - the best thing for us to do would be to pull out.

We invaded Afghanistan because George W Bush was looking for an easy popularity boost after 9/11 and his puppet, our glorious North Korean fascimile leader Mr Tony Blair, took us in with the Americans. The nature of Afghanistan's terrain - an extremely mountainous environment perfect for guerilla warfare - meant that although displacing the Taliban regime in Kabul took a matter of weeks, that did not, by any means, mean "mission accomplished". The Taliban forces (and, if the videotapes are to be believed, Osama bin Laden) merely retreated into the mountains, holed up for a couple of years, and then, as troops levels were run down after the US and UK became tied up in a second war in Iraq, the Taleban started gradually retaking the country.

And now we are in a situation where, unless we boost troop numbers and equipment stocks significantly - an increase in expenditure which we can't afford and which the MoD isn't equipped to deliver - we're bleeding our armed forces dry, throwing good money - and troops - after bad.

What's the answer? Legalisation of heroin would not be a complete solution but it would cut out a massive source of Taliban revenue. Stopping all the Bushite bullshit about the "war on terror" would also help. The war on terror is now 8 years old and the Taliban are stronger than ever. What we need is not a war on terror, but an ideological stand against extremist religion, both at home and abroad. We need to call sexist homophobic b.s. for what it is whether it's in extremist Islam, wacko evangelical Christians, or the leadership of the Catholic church. But we're not gonna convert anyone to moderate beliefs with guns in our hands. That's for sure.

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