Sunday, 6 June 2010

We must get out of this Afghan quagmire

USA Sec Defence during the Vietnam war Robert McNamara recognised that the USA mistake towards the end of his life. The Vietnamese were fighting a civil war while the USA were fighting the cold war. Afghanistan has been in a civil war for years, we are fighting to prop up one side. We should be pressing our politicians to tell us just why we are there, I think it has little to do with our security.

I found this letter from last year that expresses it well.
I have worked in Afghanistan (The bloodiest day, 11 July) - in 2005 for the UN and in 2007 for the World Bank - on issues of land management and local government, which necessarily involved me interacting with government there. Two fundamental keys to connecting the people to their government in Afghanistan are a fair system of justice and a fair system for the allocation, use and occupation of land. Neither exists in Afghanistan despite the sporadic and often disorganised efforts by the international community.

The government, or, more accurately, the collection of warlords, narco-barons and corrupt persons who largely make up the government, not merely have no interest in developing fair systems of governance; it is in their interests not to do so, as this enables them to enrich themselves at the expense of their people - and ourselves as taxpayers whose troops maintain them in power.

Towards the end of his life, Robert McNamara recognised the fundamental mistake of the Vietnam war: for the US, it was fighting the cold war, for the Vietnamese, they were fighting a civil war. So too in Afghanistan - we think we are fighting the war on terror. For the Taliban, it is a civil war - the Pashtuns, the traditional rulers of Afghanistan, versus the Tajiks and Uzbeks, who make up the Northern Alliance who, with foreign help, won the civil war in 2001 and now dominate government. What business is it of ours to send troops to die to prop up a corrupt, uncaring and incompetent government?

The British government is deluding itself, and, more importantly, deceiving the electorate and the troops sent to fight in Afghanistan, in not spelling out clearly the state of mis-governance in that country and the real nature of the war there. Furthermore, in stating that one of the aims of our troops being there is to build up the Afghan army to well over 100,000 persons, the government is unwittingly creating the conditions for continued rule by warlords and continued civil war as the different groups fight over the spoils of international aid.
Professor Patrick McAuslan
Birkbeck College, London

When Barack Obama became president of the USA, that was the ideal opportunity for Britain, a country with great experience of fighting Afghan wars, to introduce a little sanity into the equation, by demanding that all allied troops are pulled out. Alas, because today we have no one in Government with the courage, the opportunity was lost.

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