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Point of no return in Afghanistan?

By Septicisle
September 22 2012





It’s a question worth asking, not just because of the decision made by the Americans to put an immediate stop to joint patrols and training in the country as a result of the ever increasing number of “green on blue” attacks (i.e. Afghans in uniform we’re meant to be handing control over to killing their trainers).

But now a substantial number of our own MPs have been prepared to say what was previously confined only to comment pieces.

On Monday, Denis MacShane, Paul Flynn, David Winnick and John Redwood all called either for a withdrawal from the country by Christmas, or as soon as humanly possible after that. While the latter three have been making similar arguments for some time, Denis MacShane is most certainly not one of the usual suspects, and was among the strongest supporters and then defenders of the Iraq war.

How can our mission in Afghanistan possibly be about national security when al-Qaida was cleared out of Afghanistan years ago, as even Hammond himself has admitted?

As John Baron asked yesterday of the defence secretary, either our continuing presence is about nation building and the training up of Afghan forces, a mission which he himself said we shouldn’t be putting lives at risk for, or it isn’t. If it isn’t about that, then we’re expending blood and treasure for seemingly little other reason than our continuing obsession with riding on the coattails of America, a decision made for reasons of prestige rather than pragmatism.

It has surely come to something when our defence secretary, completely unaware of the change in strategy made we’re told on Sunday stood up in parliament and told everyone that nothing had been altered. Recalled to the Commons to alter his comments, Hammond was left claiming that in fact everything was just as it had been, only that now we would have to apply to the Americans for permission to carry on joint patrols below company level.

Last week in an interview with the Guardian, Hammond was claiming that we could draw down our forces quicker, despite the green on blue “problems” as the work had been progressing so swimmingly; now they can’t even go out together without asking the Americans first.

According to Richard Norton-Taylor, the military has long wanted to get out of Afghanistan and it’s been the politicians holding them back. Alternatively, according to MacShane, the problem has been the “unelected military-Ministry of Defence nexus” which has been in control of policy.

If anything, the only thing we’re providing is continuing target practice for the Taliban, and while they might not as strong as they were in previous years, they’re clearly capable of a spectacular assault when they feel like it.

What we should be doing now is pushing ever more fiercely for some kind of accord between the Karzai government and the sections of the Taliban prepared to negotiate, even if that means making really unpleasant decisions about the carving out of autonomous regions within the country. Afghanistan has been at war now since 1978; just as the Russians admitted defeat, so must we.

A longer version is here.

Originally published by Liberal Conspiracy

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