Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Is Afghanistan winnable?

The Independent has published the results of a survey which shows that a majority of the public believes that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and British troops should be pulled out immediately.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/voters-turn-against-war-in-afghanistan-1763227.html "Fifty-eight per cent view the war as "unwinnable", with 31 per cent disagreeing." While that shows a commendable shift towards realism, I have to wonder what the 31 percent are thinking. What would it mean, for us to "win" the war in Afghanistan? What are our goals there? How would we recognise when those goals have been achieved?

My memory says that we went in because of 9/11, to find Osama Bin Laden and fight the Taliban (though didn't we support and train them previously?). Bin laden may well have died years ago. His death was widely reported in December 2001, just not in the US or UK, and every alleged sighting or tape since then has been questionable. As for the Taliban, they were ousted in 2001. Yet here we are in 2009, 8 years and 191 British forces deaths and £12 billion further on, and there is no foreseeable end to the spiralling human and financial costs. We're still killing "Taliban" (who physically are indistinguishable from other Afghans, but if we killed them they must have been Taliban), and we're doing it to pave the way for elections in which many would vote for the Taliban if that was an option.

Just a fortnight ago it was being reported that the Taliban were seen as liberators by the locals when they drove Afghan police out of a village. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090712/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_police Meanwhile in Pakistan, the Pakistani president cuts deals to impose Sharia law in Taliban-controlled areas. Is this what a potential victory looks like?

Saudi Arabian citizens had a lot to do with 9/11, and we haven't found Bin Laden. Other reasons for war which were floated in 2001, such as the plight of women, don't hold water because, for instance, while women are treated badly by the Taliban, they don't seem to fare any better under our protection. The problem is rooted in the local culture, not in the Taliban. So why are we there? I don't know. Do you?

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