Friday, March 09, 2012

Time to come clean about Afghanistan

The futile, pointless deaths of 6 young soldiers in Afghanistan forces us to address the reasons for our continued presence in that corrupt, rotten country, and to demand that our politicians face up to their responsibilities to their constituents, and start to take a positive lead in this debate, acknowledging the truth of the situation, and taking the necessary steps to bring our troops home immediately.

For years now, we have sat back while one after another, our young service people have lost their lives in a war, the reasons for which I doubt anyone understands any more. We have been given so many conflicting reasons for our troops being in Afghanistan; supporting the legitimate Afghan Government, making life safer for women and children, helping to build schools and social infrastructure, suppressing the drug trade, nation building, and now, fighting terrorism in Afghanistan in order to make our streets safer at home.

None of this has any reality, the people who committed terrorist atrocities in London on 7/7 were home-grown Jihadists, who were already known to the Security Services.

We went into Afghanistan to support the Americans. It was all part of Prime Minster Blair's sycophantic support for George Bush, and supported by the dwindling group of political Atlanticists in the UK Security Establishment who worry about not being allowed to nibble the intelligence crumbs that the Americans occasionally allow to drop from their high table.

The War in Afghanistan, also called the Afghan war, began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front, the old Northern Alliance launched Operation Enduring Freedom.

The primary driver of the invasion was the September 11 attacks on the United States, with the stated goal of dismantling the A Queda terrorist organization and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base. The United States also said that it would remove the Taliban regime from power and create a viable democratic state. A decade into the war, the U.S. and the Allied forces continue to battle a widespread Taliban insurgency.

The politicians are agreed that the UK must keep in line with the Americans, our plan to leave is set for 2014, all the while we are ostensibly working to train and support the Afghan Armed Forces and Police. Why do we maintain this ridiculous fiction? The Afghan army and Afghan police are a rag-tag collection of some of the most corrupt individuals in the country, serving a corrupt Government in which a large number of Karzai's ministers are actively engaged in overseeing the drug trade, and all the while our young men are dying.

The saddest fact is that from the start, there was no coherent exit policy, and we have not been able to extricate ourselves from a war that is becoming increasingly more costly in terms of human lives and matériel.

Even if it were possible to put aside the immeasurable human cost in sorrow and grief such deaths cause to families and loved ones, and it must be an unbearable burden for them, we have taken our eyes off the bigger picture of the huge number, in excess of 5,000 British service personnel, who have returned home, alive, but in many cases, severely injured, both physically and mentally, and who should be deserving of financial and social support for the rest of their lives, albeit an incalculable sum of money. I say 'should' but it doesn't happen.

Experts have warned of a tidal wave of cases of mental trauma caused by service on the frontline by overworked soldiers, first in Iraq and now Afghanistan. Of those, around 5 per cent are likely to suffer from the more serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can lead to alcoholism and depression and other problems. 'Combat Stress', the veterans’ mental health charity, has said that based on the MoD figures it would mean that 51,000 veterans were likely to show symptoms of mental health problems because of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are other less visible but still shocking social costs. Ex-servicemen make up about a quarter of homeless people in the UK. It seemes that most have been so used to the discipline of military life that when this was taken away they were left dazed and confused, bereft of any sense of belonging. Last week, it was revealed that there are nearly 2,500 ex-servicemen in prison. A survey published last November 2011 by the National Association of Probation Officers put the number even higher, suggesting that one in 10 prisoners has previously been in the Armed Forces. The study also found that domestic violence is by far the most common conviction, accounting for one in three cases, while other violent assaults account for around one in five.

Having witnessed the way that ex-servicemen's lives can unravel once they leave the Forces, it should surprise no one that some will find themselves in trouble with the law. There is a quagmire of despair and loneliness that many face when they come out of the Army. How many of them can be expected to cope in the real world if, from the age of 16 in a lot of cases, everything about their lives has been so rigidly controlled. They have been trained to obey orders and never question them. Their day-to-day lives have been controlled and provided for – in essence, they have been institutionalised.

These are the real costs to the UK from our absurd insistence of continuing to try and cling to a military memory of a once-great nation with an Empire to defend. At a time of real recession, these are costs we should not want to be escalating, the ones we have are bad enough.

Our presence in Afghanistan is no longer a defensible policy. We have already told the Taliban when we intend to leave, and for all the posturing of politicians, from both sides of the House, on 'Newsnight' and 'Question Time', the insurgents are merely biding their time. There may well be overtures being made to their leaders to come to a negotiating table, but any discussions will be futile.

The Taliban have denied reports that it would soon hold talks with Mr Karzai's government in Saudi Arabia to end the war.

"There is no truth in these published reports saying that the delegation of the Islamic Emirate would meet with representatives of the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia in the near future," said a statement on the Taliban website.

Afghan officials had suggested that talks in Saudi Arabia would be in addition to contacts in Qatar between the Taliban and the United States. But it was never clear whether the Taliban, which has resisted talks with the Afghan government, or the Saudis, who have made involvement conditional on the Taliban renouncing Al Qaeda, would come on board.

And the real problem does not even reside in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, among the tribes of the autonomous tribal areas, where the Pakistani Intelligence Services continue to maintain their links to the Taliban, and wait for the day when the British and the Americans have left.

A leaked NATO report has provided further evidence that Pakistan's ISI security service has been helping the Taliban. The report states that the Taliban was increasingly confident of regaining power once US forces leave in 2014, and said Pakistan was positioning itself for that outcome.

Key points from the report, 'State of the Taliban' and published by the BBC state that;

· Taliban consider victory inevitable once the International Security Assistance Force leaves Afghanistan

· Senior Taliban representatives maintain residences near the ISI headquarters in Islamabad

· Taliban see little hope of negotiated peace in Afghanistan

For years the US has argued that Pakistan's ISI has been providing support to the Taliban in Afghanistan. It has also been pressuring Pakistan's government to do more to stop cross-border raids by the Taliban. Large swathes of Afghanistan have been handed back to Afghan security forces, but many Afghans doubt their security forces can maintain control once the foreign troops leave.

Next time you hear a politician telling you that we need to stay in Afghanistan because it is making our lives safer here at home, you will know he or she is lying. They lie, because they don't know what else to say, but is a lie all the same! And all the time, the coffins will continue to be repatriated.


StevieFinn said...

I couldn't agree more & I would suggest that the acts of US forces recently would be providing al Qaida with new recruits.

StevieFinn said...

I couldn't agree more & I would suggest that the acts of US forces recently would be providing al Qaida with new recruits.