A sad and heavy loss

Eight young soldiers dead in a single day in Afghanistan is a heavy price. It has woken the media up to the dangers of Afghanistan, and led to the start of a debate about what we are doing there, for how long we might be doing it, and what winning might look like. We all send our condolences to the families, and salute the bravery and selflessness of our troops.

Readers of this site are strongly of the view that we should not be in Afghanistan. They are worried that the terrorists can operate from Pakistan as well as from remote and difficult areas within Afghanistan. History should warn the great and lesser powers of the problems of interfering in the complex and dangerous civil wars that have shaken this country.

The government must engage in both the issue of our force and its protection, and the bigger issue of how long we will remain committed and when we might be able to hand over to the civil power. The Afghan war needs the government’s urgent attention. We need a change of policy, not just more spin reinforcing old soundbites about terrorism.

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21 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    This was the mission where the now departed former defence secretary, Mr Reid thought “we may not fire a shot” as I recall, it was a rebuilding exercise.

    Mission creep anyone?

  2. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Labour just have no idea what they are doing. They just drifted into it thinking a shot would not be fired. They never admit mistakes and our soldiers lives are being lost for Labours pig headedness.

    We need an urgent revue as to try and win will take more resourses than we have, far more.

    The Empire army of the Victorians could not win and neither can we.

  3. figurewizard
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Any change in policy towards the Afghan war had better be pretty creative if it is not to leave us facing even greater problems than before.

    The Falklands war was questioned here at home at the time with many saying that it was nothing more than an outdated manifestation of British imperialism that ought to have long since been consigned to history. However smaller countries across the world, especially those in the Caribbean not only supported but applauded us for undertaking it. Had Argentina’s then military dictatorship succeeded there would have been a very real threat of copycat assaults elsewhere.

    Today that threat would be directly targeted on us here in the UK. The invasion of Afghanistan was meant to be a red flag to regimes who harbour terrorists. To pull out now would give then and others a green flag instead. That means that in our case the government must stop trying to deflect ctiticism of the inadequacy of both the size of the force we have committed and the quality and availability of the equipment needed to do the job properly and come up with the goods right now.

    • jean baker
      Posted July 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      The Falklands is British terrority with rights to defence. Mrs Thatcher’s well considered and strategically successful mission on behalf of ‘British’ inhabitants was subjected to full and open Parliamentary debate prior to declaration of war with majority support.

      Blair’s reasons and methods for invading and occupying Iraq & Afghanistan were, according to reports, tenuous and not, according to reports at the time,approved by NATO. Dr Kelly was the first ‘victim’ of Blair’s war on Iraq – the respected scientists findings, no WMD’s – reportedly hounded to death. Thereafter, innocent British citizens were killed in 7/7 London bombings.

      Whilst our men were dying for ‘the cause’ in Iraq, a hate preacher was (reportedly) receiving £25,000 in benefits, courtesy of ‘government rules’.

  4. Brigham
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I listened to Ainsworth talking about the Afghan war this morning. The war is necessary to stop terrorism coming into this country, was the gist of his argument. What nonsense! If we had had any decent border controls these fifth column terrorists would not be here at all. Now is the time to stop all immigration. Terrorists and incitement to terrorism should be treason, punishable by execution. Fundamental islamists have no compunction in killing our troops, so why not send them to paradise as well. We must also redefine our European role. Repeal all euro laws to stop the free movement of all and sundry into our country, and make illegal attempts to enter Britain a criminal offence with severe punishment.Those that are already here should be deported at once, while in the meantime held in uncomfortable conditions. Our military should be doing the job of securing our borders, not dying in an unwinnable war in a far off land.

  5. Matt
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    A big sacrifice deserves a big explanation and this isn’t forthcoming from our government.
    Mr Hutton said last year that “In one sense its (Afghanistan) the same significance as … the invasion of Poland in 1939” And he was one of the better defence ministers!
    In my view this was a ludicrous statement, if it were true then why aren’t we resourcing it as a major war? Why change ministers at such a rate?
    I find it difficult to believe that by taking on terrorists in Afghanistan that we are keeping terror from the streets in the UK.
    The government needs to lay down what the strategy is instead of putting out a list of familiar slogans.

  6. Citizen Responsible
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    This morning at the supermarket, as the assistant and I read the newspaper headlines about the 8 soldiers killed in Afghanistan yesterday, the lady behind me in the queue got very cross about our desire to see the troops come home. She said her grandson was serving in the army there, and the soldiers were making a big difference to the lives of the ordinary Afghans, and they could defeat the Taliban and then “Afghanistan would be like Iraq”. I assume this is the scenario which is given to the troops. If these are the goals, then the government should provide the helicopters, support and resources to achieve them or pull our troops out.

  7. Michael
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Why are we in there?

    If we must be in Afghanistan, why are we in there with inadequate resources?

  8. DennisA
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    There is an excellent analysis in the Telegraph from someone who seems to know what he is talking about: Afghanistan – A war we cannot win.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/5797197/Afghanistan-a-war-we-cannot-win.html

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted July 12, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      A good link to a very interesting article. In amongst the many good points made there are some aspects I find less persuasive.

      The reference to the Malayan campaign has a personal resonance as my Uncle won the DFC for his flying exploits there. As I understand it, that was a campaign that was going nowhere until the tactics were changed to something that worked in the particular circumstances. In Afghanistan we are told about “grass cutting” where by Allied forces push the Taliban out of an area, then leave it, allowing the Taliban to re-enter, only to have to repeat the process. This seems to me plain daft and its main consequence to upset the locals no end. This is the exact opposite to the successful tactic deployed in Malaya.

      Historical references to the the Afghans resistance to invasion applied to the current Allied deployment are not convincing if you accept the Allies are not trying to take over Afghanistan but to provide sufficient security for the Afghans to determine their own future. News reports of British troop engagements indicate the current enemy are mostly foreigners, not Afghans. One would hope that if the Allies do enable the Afghans to determine their own future they will see us in a friendly light during and after our subsequent withdrawal.

      Of course, getting the strategy right and deploying the right tactics (eventually) is all pointless unless you are prepared to properly resource the endeavour.

  9. oldrightie
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I am passionate about this subject and find Labour’s behaviour even worse than over any other matter. It may well haunt them as these losses haunt the bereaved families.

  10. Steve Stubbs
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    The truth is that if we are going to attack the terrorism coming from the Islamic nations, then we need to invade Iran and Saudi, where the money to finance it all is coming from. Bases in Afghanistan are just a sideshow. But of course we won’t.

    Blair, having been conned by Bush into going in to Afghanistan, there is no exit strategy that does not involve saying ‘we were wrong in the first place’ and nobody in the various party leaderships has the bottle to say that.

  11. TrueBlueBlood
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    You are so right to ask these questions John. We feel rudderless on our mission objectives in Afghanistan. What are we trying to achieve? How can we adjudge if we are achieving these objectives? What is our exit strategy? We ask our soldiers to fight with no definition of what for…and with less than state of the art equipment.

    In the meantime we see opium production increase in Afghanisatn, we see the taliban increasing its sphere of influence especially in pakistan and we see more and more radicalised young men and women willing to fight against us. 1 dies, 3 replace them.

    how can we win such a war? When is the end in sight. i am no pacifist…just a realist who can see no end in sight and many more lives lost…..sad days!

  12. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    People often condemn the fact that the Labour party contains so few people who have been outside Westminster. Well, here is the proof of the pudding: they simply have not got a clue about anything military.
    The noble aims of making the country where the Kite Runner took place into downtown Michigan simply is not possible.
    To subdue Afghanistan, apparently, you need about half a million men.
    Any member of the government who had been anywhere near the military could, presumably see that this is Mission Impossible.
    To hear Dvid Miliband waffling on yesterday was actually rather sick making. I wonder what kind of a soldier he would make?

  13. brian kelly
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    There is an article today in The DT: Afghanistan: ‘A war we cannot win’ by Rory Stewart. I recommend reading this excellent, in my view, article. We urgently need a re-evaluation of our policies and commitments there – and having reached sober and intelligent decisions must, if there has be a some sort of presence there in the interests of this country, provide the proper resources to our armed forces to enable them to achieve their objectives. We will look in vain to this misbegotten government for this and a GE is most urgently needed. Blair, Brown and Reid, as a minimum must be made to answer before the British Public for their policies over Afghanistan.

  14. Bazman
    Posted July 11, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Bear in mind that the Russians never lost in military terms, but politically in Afghanistan.

  15. Alan Wheatley
    Posted July 12, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I am a reader of this site who is not “strongly of the view that we should not be in Afghanistan”.

    I do think there are questions to be asked about the objectives and, more particularly, the means for the deployment, but it is a long way from such questions to say we should not be there at all. It seems to me there was a good reason to go there in the first place, and it is a shame that instead of capitalising on initial success we shifted attention to Iraq, resulting in a poor job being done in both places.

    Unfavourable conclusions based on comparison with historic British involvement with Afghanistan is misplaced because the circumstances and the objectives are different.

    To leave Afghanistan too soon will store up more problems for the future. Given the problem areas along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border it is pretty stupid to reduce capability on the Afghanistan side at a time when the Pakistan is trying to do something better on their side. And what will all the mall-contents around the World think of a major power and permanent member of the UN Security Council if they can not hack it in this petty squabble?

    I realise the UK is not the major player – but that is a whole different argument.

  16. Adrian Peirson
    Posted July 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Completely open border policy througout the EU, Gordon Brown has absolutely no idea how many or who are coming in and that Buffoon says the war in afghanistan is making Britains Streets safer.
    Not according to Police Internet wanted posters.
    Besides, the War in Afghanistan is a Fraud, I want to know why large quantitites of thermate have been found by several groups of independant researchers at the World Trade Centre.

    Architects and Engineers
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO2yT0uBQbM

    Nanothermite at WTC 1,2 and 7 ( WTC 7 is the one you never heard of, the one that collapsed, just like WTC1 and 2, at freefall speed, neatly into its own footprint, the one, just like the others too that had tons of Molten steel under neath it )

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_2et5WMvVQ

  17. Sally C.
    Posted July 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the other comments and find the constant drip feed of deaths increasingly hard to bear. But what I find particularly hard to understand is why our EU partners are not in Helmand province with us. We are just not big enough to be as effective as we would like but if the British forces in Helmand were boosted with German, French and Italian (don’t laugh!) forces they might have more of a chance and it would send a strong message to the Taleban that we all find them unacceptable. This is one area where being part of the European Union might have a benefit for the UK, but it isn’t happening. German peacekeepers in Kabul don’t count!

  18. Simon Lamb
    Posted July 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    General Roberts, the 19th Century conqueror of Kabul observed “The less the Afghans see us, the less they will dislike us.” Our very presence in that complicated land causes them to attack our soldiers. We send bigger armoured cars, they build more powerful bombs. When we kill Afghans in airstrikes and the like, we make more enemies than we kill.
    It is a distant land of which we know nothing and we are better off out.

    It could be argued that to leave is to betray the memory of the 184 British soldiers who have died (not forgetting the many from other NATO states). How many more have to die before we all decide that enough is enough?

    You and your fellow Parliamentarians need to find a way that allows us to declare victory and get out.

  19. A. Sedgwick
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Is it time to pull our troops out of Afghanistan?
    Yes 78%
    No 22%
    Daily Mail poll 13/07/2009

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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