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Some thoughts on the War in Afghanistan – a country riven by conflict since the time of the ancients – where today an ill-defined and un-winnable war continues to slaughter members of the UK’s armed forces for no discernible cause and with no visible end in sight. 

At the time of writing this article 435 British Soldiers have died as a result of the war in Afghanistan which began in 2001. On average, that is approximately forty lives a year, though more accurately, in 2009, the bloodiest year for the UK’s armed forces in Afghanistan, 108 troops were killed, with 103 deaths in 2010. Among this litany of sobering numbers and statistics, perhaps the most appalling is that the youngest casualties were just eighteen years of age [1].

‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ is the official moniker for this and other campaigns devised by the uninquisitive and illiterate George W. Bush, instead of the less palatable ‘War on Terror’. Tony Blair and his rabble probably helped with the spelling mistakes. The trouble with catch-all titles is that they tend to appear short on detail. So it is with the major operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where with the former the objective was to remove the Taliban and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden; with the latter, it was to neutralise Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and overthrow his wicked regime.

These are aims to be applauded in the name of all that is civilised, but the mistake was to suggest that these objectives would ever be an end in themselves. Indeed, the mistakes were far more grave, since soldierly professionalism was time and again undone by not only a shortage of equipment, faulty equipment and disastrous ‘friendly-fire’ incidents, but also the fact that the central aims never accounted for either a) what would happen once these were achieved, and b) what would happen if these conflicts continued for longer than expected. In this (wilful) failure to adequately plan lay the death warrants for the military personal fighting theses wars.

Currently, in 2012, the war in Afghanistan has never looked so pointless. Purpose after purpose has been invented for the UK’s continued involvement in this war-torn country, because the members of the UK’s interchangeable political parties lack exactly what they expect of the soldiery: spine, selflessness and sacrifice. For these reasons, MPs will not speak out against this war since they may lose something they count as more valuable than the lives of military personnel: their job.

The PM and other politicians tell the electorate that this war is keeping Britain’s streets safe from the threat of terrorism. But Britain’s streets are fraught with terror – with anti-social behaviour, intimidation, violent and serious crimes terrorising the populace nightly. The spectre of terrorism from abroad is truly insubstantial compared to the day-to-day miseries faced by those afflicted by the terror of crime. Indeed, it is the enemy within that seems to issue the greatest threat, with home-grown terrorists executing, planning or participating in acts of terror long before their foul brethren from abroad have the chance to carry out their deeds. Peter Hitchens has it exact when he claims that the political parties ‘can’t fix the schools, they can’t fix the hospitals, they can’t ix the roads, they can’t fix crime, so they exaggerate a danger somewhere else and then they pretend they can save you from it.’ [2]

If MPs targeted criminals in the UK with the equivalent relish that they have in targeting terrorist crackpots in backward and uninhabitable regions of the planet, then the streets of Britain could be reclaimed and criminals would have something to fear. But since when have domestic concerns inflated the self regard of politicians in the same way foreign affairs do? To preach the virtues of democracy in other lands and to to be associated with that fight is always an edifying opportunity for posturing MPs.

There are real wars at home with achievable goals that could be battled for – the only casualties would be those engaged on criminal activity at any level. Instead, whilst the rule of law in the UK continues to slide, lives, money and resources are tossed away carelessly in Afghanistan. Politicians send young people out to phoney wars abroad with no purposeful goals  and where the casualties are the soldiers on the battlefield and their shattered families back at home.

Leave Afghanistan, now.

Postscript

Since I published this article about eight hours ago, a report has emerged from the UK’s International Development Committee, where they have claimed a ‘viable Afghanistan may not work’ [3]. Attention has now switched to providing aid and pursuing rights for women – in itself this is a worthy cause – but the bald fact is that UK troops should not continue to perish in order to achieve the emancipation of women in a religious and political culture whose position is all but intractable.

The UK’s politicians find every excuse to ensure troops remain in Afghanistan, but are incapable of presenting any reason for them to leave. Expect the needless deaths of members of the armed forces to continue indefinitely.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

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