Get our troops out


                On Monday evening I turned on the tv to see the beginning of a report on the work of a platoon of our troops in Afghanistan. I was not planning to watch it all, but I became gripped by it.

                It was a simple  long statement of what it must be like to serve for several months on the front line against the Taliban. The Lieutenant in charge came over as thoughtful, very concerned for his troops,  and well aware of the big responsibility that rested on his shoulders. The soldiers came over as brave and long suffering, prepared to carry out orders to the best of their ability and well aware of the dangers they were placed in. They were, as MPs never fail to say, a credit to our nation, brave and conscious of their duty.

                  The officer in charge was allowed to put some of his thoughts about the campaign, the strategy and the problems of managing his troops to camera. He did so loyally, without sounding too critical of the high command nor seeking pity for the violence they faced.  His testimony, however, raised serious questions about the mission and the tactics being followed.

                  Their main task was to keep open a tarmac highway as a major route  between cities, suitable for commerce. When the British platoon took over from the Americans, they decided they needed to undertake foot patrols to demonstrate to the Taliban that they could control the ground. They soon discovered they were vulnerable to casualties from snipers as well as from IEDs, and opted to carry out most of their work from heavily armoured vehicles on the highway. They did not and could not police the ground as they wished.

                       They were then instructed to engage the enemy by luring the Taliban forces into firing at them so they could return fire.  They did this though they had understandable reservations. The instructions do not allow them to fire first on the enemy. This is a precaution, as the enemy does not wear a uniform or other easily identifying mark, and blends into the local terrain and local communities in ways which make  attacking them hazardous. Trying this led them to trigger ieds with  hidden trip wires. They decided not to undertake these tactics again owing to the risk of loss of life.

                        We then saw a “routine” operation seeking to clear ieds from near the highway, with soldiers on foot doing this under cover from the men remaining in the heavily armed vehicle on the highway. This led to another casualty. Soldiers moving out from a  vehicle needing to sweep every piece of land to check for explosives before they step on it are highly visible and vulnerable to concealed enemies and to concealed bombs.

                        Finally we learned that locals were blown up by an ied just off the highway, when UK troops closed the road temporarily to check its safety. A local group decided to ignore the instructions and drive on the land close to the road. This led to improved relations with local villagers who blamed the Taliban for the deaths, and made it a bit easier to police the area. The Lieutenant privately mused on how these deaths had happened owing to the presence of foreign troops to try to keep the road safe but making it a target for Taliban ieds.

                        The Lieutenant’s questions were worrying, and need to be addressed by those issuing the orders.  How feasible is it to patrol areas close to Taliban territory?  Is it wise to draw the Taliban into a fight when our troops are not allowed to initiate firing or get ahead of the enemy in action? Can you fight against an enemy which is embedded into local communities you are trying to protect?  How can you succeed in a hearts and minds campaign in the villages when most overseas soldiers do not speak the local language, and when you are outnumbered by the Taliban? Can the presence of foreign troops become an incitement to more violence by the Taliban?

                     The US and UK high commands have announced the departure of troops in 2014. The Afghans have by n ow had many years to train their own police and soldiers. Isn’t it high time we put our troops back into relatively safe bases, using them just as advisers? Isn’t it time to bring most of them home? Why should we risk more lives in these difficult conditions, now our departure has been announced?

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  1. lifelogic
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Indeed what on earth is the point of any of it. Who on earth thinks it will be better governed when they leave than before we went. The people need to find their own solutions to the power struggles in the end.

    Lions led by donkeys as usual.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Five more Australians killed, and thee injured, just yesterday and today. How many more pointless tragedies to come?

      • Single Acts
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        I agree entirely

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        They call it green on blue…..We train Afghans as police or army and supposedly after 8 layers of vetting, some of these individuals the shoot and kill our men.

        Has any of this been of any advantage to British national or foreign policy interests – NO

        Has it led to less drugs being imported into the UK – NO

        Has this led to the destruction of the poppy fields or heroin trade – NO

        90% of heroin comes into UK from Afghanistan/Pakistan….

        Who benefits from all of this?


    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      The number of British military deaths, just in Afghanistan, stands at 425 I see.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        British military deaths in Afghanistan

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          For what tangible benefit?


      • Disaffected
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        One death is too many. It is now reported the the UK is providing assistance to the rebels in Syria- when will politicians learn? This is an area where it has been shown they cannot be trusted and referendums are required before war is declared in our name. Why does the West think the world would be better if culture and societies were like ours? Every country has a right to self determination- the UK ought to mind its own business.

    • Disaffected
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      There is no need to be there and it was clear this was the case when Blair redirected the UK effort to Iraq.

      If Afghanistan was important the Iraq war would not taken place. As far as I can tell, only politicians have profited from these unnecessary wars ie security consultants, speech tours etc, certainly not in the national interest, noble cause or anything else. Utter disgrace where thousands of people lost lives, maimed for life and left thousands of grieving families. Politicians need to be properly held to account, investigated not through sham inquiries.

      The UK still has mass immigration from Pakistan, where Bin laden was found and US will not share secrets with, where so called terrorism emanates. Absolute disgrace on HM Government.

  2. Robert K
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Yes, bring them home. Now.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Not much positive from the delightful Julia Gillard in Australia:- “I have attended a lot of Funerals”but learned little it seems. She still wants to continue the counter productive war, just so as not to suggest the soldiers might have died in no good cause.

      On that logic all wars would go on until the last person still alive on the losing side, would they not.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Home to what exactly?
      What have they been fighting for and for whom? Multiculturalism? Do any of us feel secure and at ease in our own country, if one can call it that now, when the courts can prosecute people for objecting to the presence here of the same enemies that our troops have been fighting in Afghanistan. A ludicrous situation and one that must be galling to our loyal soldiers.

  3. A.Sedgwick
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    We should not have been there in the first place as history clearly demonstrates and another example of our one party system and how useless Cameron is at doing the right thing.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Yes an overseas operation (where I think it was John Reid) suggested it may be a deployment where he hoped no bullets may be fired.

    We now have had Millions of rounds exchanged, hundreds of our soldiers killed, and many more than a thousand injured.
    It has gone on for more than twice as long as World war 1, and almost twice as long as World war 2 .

    The result is difficult to quantify, so we must ask ourselves some questions:

    Are we more safe in our own Country for us being there.
    Do we have more friends in the World for us being there.
    Do the majority of that Population want us there.
    Do the majority of our population want us there.
    Will it have made any long term difference for them when we leave.
    Have we established a true long term democratic government there.
    Will we have established long term law and order and freedom for the people there.
    Have we limited the cultivation of the drugs fields.

    Are we still seen as invaders by the majority of their population.
    Has it damaged our relationships throughout many aeas in the World.
    Have we actually increased the threat to ourselves at home from terrorist actions.
    Will the Taliban take control once we leave.
    Is the main income still achieved from the growing of drugs.
    Are our armed forces now getting tired of this war, and is it stretching us too far.

    If the answers to the first set of questions are no, and the answers to the second set are yes,

    Then we surely have to admit that it is time for us to leave, and the sooner the better.

    Yes by all means revert to a more training role in the short term, but from what I have heard in many reports, without US and UK forces continuing support their own army and police will simply disintigrate in a very short period of time, trained or not.

    Time to bite the bullet I would suggest.

    Please remind us John, what was the political argument for going there in the first place, and exactly how much discussion/debate was given to this decision.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Troops went into Afghanistan as a result of the attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001. Those killed included 67 British people. It was stated that al-Quaeda were using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Since then the numbers of troops employed have grown considerably and the reasons given for their presence have taken on different emphases. There are many alternative conspiracy theories as to what the “real” purpose was/is.

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Now AQ is in Mali, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia amongst other places. Can someone remind me who is supplying them/sharing intelligence with them in Syria?


        • Disaffected
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

          A former head of the security services gave evidence to Chilcott that she advised No10 that there were greater threats to the UK than these countries and the cost of the Iraq war had increased her budget four fold and as a consequence home grown terrorism had increased. Where are the consequences for the politicians that took the country to war?? After all, they are very good at calling for heads to be sacked, bonuses to be taken back and other quite insignificant claims compared to this where people have died and politicians enriched themselves on the back of disgraceful conduct.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink


    • Steven_L
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      It was to defeat the ‘terrorists and their sympathisers’ who support an ‘ideology of darkness’ and bring ‘freedom an democracy’ to the people of the ‘axis of evil’, who have known only ‘tyranny and oppression’.

      Or at least thats what I remember Mr Bush telling us.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      At least it hasn’t gone on as long as the 30 years war, 80 years war, or 100 years war.

      • zorro
        Posted August 31, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        uanime5, thanks so much for that crumb of comfort….


  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Has NOBODY ever studied history?
    We wandered idly into the Balkans and then started “because we can” to beat up Persia!
    The neighbouring area in which we are fighting has been called the Hindu Kush – death to Indians. It is where the Abbasid Caliphate came from. It has been the crucible of destruction for a lot of English armies in the “Great Game”. People go in, but few come out. And at the end you are left with the Heartland of Islam. That is permanent.
    Which would you rather have? Eternal Paradise with the One True God or a tarmac road leading to nowhere (etc)?
    Islam spread by (partly-ed) force of arms. By humiliating Muslims we are just spreading disaffection, terrorism and hatred. We need to swallow our pride and walk out immediately. Leave the Muslims to their own privacy to get on with it. Calling Muslims names like al Quaeda doesn’t help.
    Meanwhile, everyone in parliament ought to read Aidan Hartley’s piece in the Spectator about developing Africa.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Has NOBODY ever studied history?

      Perhaps studied but rarely understood or leaned from alas? Rarely their children they send to the wars.

    • Ralph Musgrave
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Leave the Muslims to their own privacy to get on with it.????? Great idea: I’d be all in favour – except that they’ve no intention of leaving US ALONE have they? They intend continuing to migrate to Europe (etc ed) (ably supported by the Labour and Tory parties’ immigration policies and pro-multiculturalism policies of the last two decades.)

      We are in Afghanistan to curb the Taliban because if we don’t, they’ll train terrorists to come here. In short, the horrendous cost of the war in Afghanistan is the price we pay for multiculturalism.

      Thank you Labour. And the thank you Tories.

    • Sidney Falco
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      There was little to commend the late Tory MP and historian Alan Clark MP (apart from his humour). However, where I agreed with him 100% was that you should never commit your armed forced unless an issue directly impacts your national interests.

      I remember seeing him on TV being interviewed in front of a baying mob about some international incident/situation and he said he would not risk a single British life as our interests were not directly affected.

      All I would ask of these armchair generals who demand action on programs like Question Time is, will either you or your children boot up and go to the front and risk your life? If not, shut up.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      What are you referring to regarding the Balkans and Persia? The Greceo-Persian wars? Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia? The Roman-Persian wars?

      The Abbasid Caliphate originally came from Arabia (they’re relatives of the prophet Mohammed, just like the Umayyad Caliphate and Fatamid Caliphate).

      Wouldn’t the Heartland of Islam be Mecca in Saudi Arabia?

  6. Old Albion
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve watched the return of our troops from Afghanistan. Some come home in caskets, many more on stretchers. Their bodies shattered by multiple limb loss, blindness and disfigurement,
    At home mothers, wives and children are robbed off their sons, husbands and fathers. For what? An imaginary war on terror begun by Bush and Blair.
    A war that has created thousands of victims from the military and Afghan people and done nothing to reduce terror. Indeed may well have created home grown terrorism.
    This campaign was never justified. When it is finally over for the West. Afghanistan will immediately revert to how it was before we stuck our noses in.
    One would have thought succesive British governments might have learned from history. But no! Those at the top still blunder on, believing Britain is some sort of world policeman. Still at the head of empire.
    The common man (and woman) still pays the price for political stupidity.
    What a waste!

  7. Electro-Kevin
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    The troops’ main task is to save political face.

    A bus can be driven through every excuse given for why our troops should be there and our leaders ought to be made to watch unedited headcam and hospital footage of IED and sniper injuries.

    “This would make them hesitant. They should not balk at the idea of going to war when needs must.”

    In answer to this our greatest leaders had direct war time experience – this is what is lacking in someone who is prepared to commit our troops to an unwinnable and futile war for a minute longer. It is noticible how few (if any) of their children sign up for armed service.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      The troops’ main task is to save political face – Indeed they put forwards no other sensible one.

    • Sidney Falco
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      “our leaders ought to be made to watch unedited headcam and hospital footage of IED and sniper injuries”

      Where I disagree with you is that it is us, the electorate, who should be shown the raw footage that is often shown on Arab TV News.

      Perhaps a few images of headless babies would wake people up to the true horrors of modern warfare and make them less keen or war.

      According to an article on John Pilger’s blog, modern warfare kills more civilians, as a percentage of total deaths, than at any time in human history.

      • Max Dunbar
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        There are more people to kill now than at any time in history. Why “modern warfare” should be more horrible than, say, medieval warfare escapes me.

  8. Ian Hills
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Alexander conquered Afghanistan by making allies of some tribes and slaughtering the others. But then he didn’t have a backstabbing Macedonian government stitching him up with combat restrictions, prosecuting his troops at will just to curry favour with the locals, and even banning his men from smoking back at camp.

  9. Adam5x5
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    If you are going to fight, you have to fight to win.

    Restricting the RoE to not being able to fire unless fired upon is ridiculous and puts lives in danger as it just hands the initiative over to the opposition.

    That isn’t to say that our troops should just go around blowing everything up, but if they feel threatened, then they should be able to defend themselves.

    Our government doesn’t have the stomach or spine for the headlines that would bring so our troops pay with their lives.
    Contrast this approach with Israel, who openly acknowledge that a likely war would bring civilian casualties.

    Either pull the troops out, or free them to do the job properly. Half-measures are dangerous – both for the troops and our military reputation.

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Wholeheartedly agree.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “If you are going to fight, you have to fight to win.”

      Indeed but what would a win here even look like?

  10. oldtimer
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Welcome to the world of assymmetric and guerilla warfare.

    You may not have either the time or the inclination to read them, but for gritty accounts of the war in Afghanistan two books worth a read are Patrick Hennessy`s The Junior Officers Reading Club (he was an officer in the Grenadier Guards on front line duty) and War by Sebastian Junger (a journalist embedded in a US front line outpost for about 15 months). A film called Restrepo is a visual account, recorded at the same time by Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist later killed during the Libyan uprising.

    • Johnnydub
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Restrepo is a great, but disturbing film.

      The futility of the entire endeavour is starkly visible…

  11. Paul Margetts
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I have been writing regularly to my MP Sajid Javid since his election two years ago begging him to support the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Despite my requests, he remains a strong supporter of the war.

    British forces have not had and will not have any success in that area and need to be brought home immediately.

    I thank you for this posting and hope that it may help to convince the government of the folly of the present policy. Our servicemen consistently demonstrate a bravery rarely matched by the politicians who command them.

    • Single Acts
      Posted August 31, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      Some MP’s are strong supporters of their own careers and whatever government policy maybe. My own utterly clueless MP is such a type.

  12. Roger Farmer
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    It is probably way too late now but possibly the adoption of Gerald Templars methods from Malaya might have given a better chance of isolating the Taliban. Fortified villages supported by the military and a home guard could have pushed the Taliban into areas where they could get no support. These areas could then become a free fire zone to make life even less comfortable for them.
    Malaya was at a time of national service so there was little shortage of soldiers. Now it is doubtful if we have enough to carry out such a policy and I would seriously question whether the americans are psychologically suited to that type of operation.
    My conclusion is therefore to leave as gracefully and quickly as possible. The arguement that this would provide terrorists with a safe base from which to attack our island could be neutralised by having effective border controls and visas prior to entry into the UK. I do not see this government doing anything effective in this area however as they appear rudderless on most issues.

  13. Alan
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I think Mr Redwood moves too smoothly from the tactical difficulties of fighting a war like that in Afghanistan to the strategic conclusion that we should withdraw as soon as possible. Our soldiers are in Afghanistan to lessen the probability of terrorist attacks here in the UK, and it against that objective that the casualties and hardships have to be judged. Don’t forget also that the programme dealt with a part of the war where the enemy finds it easy to strike at our soldiers and omits the parts where we find it easy to strike at the enemy. A member of the taliban whose comrades have been killed in drone attacks might be similarly discouraged at his vulnerability without any significant ability to defend himself.

    The western world is not likely to be defeated on the ground in this type of war, but it can be defeated by discouraging its politicians and electorate so that they will not support military campaigns. That ought to be borne in mind before broadcasting or writing discouraging material.

    The defence of the western world depends on the USA. One question for us is the extent to which we can freeload on this without the USA feeling that we are not worth their effort. Our Army makes a significant contribution to the fighting in Afghanistan, but in my view the military truth is that the USA could do it without us, and we could not do it without them. We do not need to be involved in every conflict where the USA is involved, but we do need to pull our weight. As well as our immediate strategic objective of lessening the chance of terrorist attacks in the UK, there is the broader need to convince the USA that it should defend us against other threats that might arise.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      That’s the best reasoning I’ve heard in support of this deployment – in support of the USA in quid pro quo.

      The “preventing terrorism on our streets” is unconvincing.

      The most effective ‘terrorists’ have been unsupported, ideologically driven nutters or deranged gunmen who kill people in scores at a time. All of them loners.

      Al Quaeda don’t need cells to attack the UK underbelly and the argument that our troops are preventing terrorism or even destroying the heroin trade or defending women’s rights detracts from the very laudible aim of supporting the Americans.

      Why can’t politicians just be straight with us ?

      • Johnnydub
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        If we were serious about preventing terrorism we would let UK Asians go back to Pakistan for training whenever they felt like it..

        While we’re on the subject we also wouldn’t let teenage girls go back for…. forced marriage either…

    • Gary
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I have a bridge to sell you.

      • Sidney Falco
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        A perfect riposte!

    • Muddyman
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      To believe that these actions reduce the possibility of Terrorism is to believe in Flying Pigs. Our presence has been a failure of policy and sense since Day One of this American initiated folly.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink


        Had the current, and the last three prime ministers merely not gone to war, kept government expenditure to below 35% and not signed any EU treaties they would have been absolutely superb compared to the four disasters we have had to suffer.

        • lifelogic
          Posted September 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          And not swallowed the green religion too perhaps.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      The US respects strength and because we do it’s bidding we are seen as poodles.


    • Richard1
      Posted August 31, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I think this answer has it. We are still in Afghanistan because our Govt wants to be seen to be supporting the US, and dares not be seen to differ from the US Govt’s withdrawal timetable. The US dont need us from a military point of view. So the question for ministers is: is that a good enough reason to order troops to risk their lives? It is a nonsense that this war as gone on for longer than WWII, with no end in sight and with politicians unable to explain what success/victory would look like. If I was a minister I could not justify remaining in the Govt with this policy, using weasel words about training the Afghans to take over. (At least the Labour nonsense of it being essential to keep our streets safe has stopped). Its time for MPs to examine their own consiences and to force the Govt to act.

  14. AndyC71
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Yes, bring them home now, not in 2014. There’s never been any point to any of it, beyond the initial flushing out of bin Laden in 2002, which was at least a measurable and useful objective. Despite FCO press releases from the last decade, Afghanistan is not a country, there is nothing to rebuild, even assuming that was a desirable or realistic policy aim for British soldiers. How sending teenagers to get killed and maimed in Afghanistan achieves any purpose is beyond me. If international terrorism is being seriously sponsored anywhere – a moot point – it is not in Afghanistan.

  15. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    For anyone interested in what to do in Afghanistan I would strongly recommend Greg Mortenson’s books – ‘3 Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones to Schools’. – especially the second half of the second book. I believe they’re required reading for US officers these days and they also should be for people wanting to comment coherently on Afghanistan.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      By the way if anyone want to warn me about the criticisms of these books and of CAI which have been made by people who clearly haven’t bothered to read them don’t bother.

      • outsider
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        Dear Rebecca Hanson,

        As you say, ad hominem questions about Mr Mortenson are irrelevant (as are ad hominem views are in in some other issues). Since his books are not on my reading list, I am disqualified from commenting coherently on Afghanistan.
        There is, however, plenty of other work, for instance by Dr Justino of the University of Sussex and others, to show that access of the poor to education (including women’s education) , health services and basic housing, whoever provides them, are the best bulwark against internal conflict in developing countries. So some relevant questions spring to mind.

        Does the British (or allied) military presence ultimately help or hinder the provision of health services, basic housing and education in Afghanistan (assuming international funds are available either way)?

        If we help, does it mean our troops would need to be there for another 10-15 years to give the chance for a more peacable society to emerge in this way?

        If we are hindering advance and our troops leave, must we accept (as seems admitted by the US government and military) that
        the status of women and their education, at the least, will be a casualty of peace, whether there is some internal political settlement or control by “Taliban” types?

        • outsider
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          PS Bear in mind also that Mr Redwood’s post was about whether our troops should leave the field now or, as scheduled, in two years time .

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

            I accept your first point outsider – that there are other ways to become well informed.

            However I’m not so comfortable with your second point – that the question is a narrow, either or question.

            The narrowing of the question was how we ended up in the second gulf war without the key decision makers understanding key issues. At that time I did a lot probing to ascertain the depth of understanding of how the kind of aid and infrastructure projects I witnessed while I was participating in one in the Middle East were building robust foundations for peace and I was horrified by the extent to which the knowledge and insight I expected to see was entirely absent.

            Receiving my MP’s personal assurance that he would not vote for the war without a second UN resolution and watching him change his mind and then get the knighthood which results from doing that in such circumstances has left me with a little personal baggage about the way these things operate.

            Please be reassured that I wasn’t suggesting I was qualified to comment, I was just trying to emphasise the importance of basic infrastructure and education in creating peace and also suggesting a sensible place John could go next in his reading if he wants to understand these issues further.

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          What right do we have to impose our views of things should be done on other countries?


  16. backofanenvelope
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Three Prime Ministers have presided over the shambles in Afghanistan. 450 dead, 1000 maimed and 100 BILLION pounds! Afghanistan is beyond (our help-ed), like the rest of the Islamic world. Western meddling is just making things worse. Just pull out and leave them all to it. As for preventing terrorism in this country, that is an internal security problem – not one for the Army to fight overseas.

    • Sidney Falco
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      “like the rest of the Islamic world”

      Do you mean like Indonesia? A democracy of over 250 million people?

      Or do you refer to that Islamic world that kept alive advances in mathematics, literature and science during the Christian world’s dark ages?

      • Farmer Geddon
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        “Or do you refer to that Islamic world that kept alive advances in mathematics, literature and science during the Christian world’s dark ages?”

        Care to name a few of these advances ? Islam is not a religion of science, literature or maths – you’re perpetuating a left wing myth.

  17. English Pensioner
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    What do we expect to achieve? As soon as we leave they will go back to their old ways as Afghanistan is basically a tribal country where they only recognise their local leader, not some corrupt person in a distant city. You can’t have a National Army, because there is no nation and the soldiers have no respect for authority. Britain and other nations have been trying to control Afghanistan for over 200 years, just what makes anyone think they will succeed this time?
    The people of Afghanistan (and Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc) don’t understand the western concept of democracy, still being in the equivalent of the European mediaeval times, and there is no way we can force it into them. We should get out now, saving lives and our money.

  18. Gary
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Can’t get out before the poppy crop is secured.

    • eddyh
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      The poppy crop can be dealt with by aerial spraying, Agent Orange?

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink


        “Agent Orange”

        Yes such a simple solution, one wonders if there is another thought process being attempted ?

        Are we (the government) purchasing any for medicinal purposes ?

        If not it would seem to me that terrorism is being funded whilst we just sit and look at it growing.

      • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        Not a good idea as it induces Cancer in the local Population for decades, and causes massive birth defects. The Solution is to – ironically; let the Taliban take over because the poppy production had reduced to about 10% of capacity under their rule. Swings and Roundabouts.

        Somebody is obviously profiting from this poppy crop, at the end of that money rainbow will be a pot of bad guys.

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, poppy production went down under the Taliban but has soared when US/UK troops have been controlling the area……So, the question is why, and who is benefitting?…..Any thoughts?


          • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
            Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

            Don’t know zorro, I expect the same people who were benefiting before the Opium Ban by the Taliban. Drug Cartels and their associates. You would have thought that the British and Americans would know who’s driving into Afghanistan in Empty Trucks, then driving out again in Trucks full of Opium Poppies.

            New York Times (May, 2001):

            “Taliban’s Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say
            Published: May 20, 2001

            The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement’s ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world’s largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.”

            “But the eradication of poppies has come at a terrible cost to farming families, and experts say it will not be known until the fall planting season begins whether the Taliban can continue to enforce it.”

            In 2001 the Taliban were banning Opium Production to get funds from the Americans. After 9/11, the chances of getting funding from the American were the same as Pope John Paul doing Holy Communion on the Moon.

            The Taliban were doing what was asked of them but in the process, must have made some big enemies with the purchasers of the Poppy Crops and also the Farmers who had to grow other Crops. The rate of Change was too great despite the best intentions of both the Americans and the Taliban.

        • forthurst
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          “at the end of that money rainbow will be a pot of bad guys.”

          That’s no way to speak of the CIA; they’re the good guys.

      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        It could be, but it wouldn’t.

  19. MajorFrustration
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Send the politicians and generals on a six months tour – at the front end not sitting in the MoD or HoP
    Why do we continue to sacrifice young lives and waste so much money on this pathetic exploit. Frankly the Afghan army and police will never control the country – they just dont have the spirit bottle or commitment. Leave them to work their own way out of the dark ages – forcing a western styled culture in all its forms will not work.
    Could somebody please advise me – who will pay for the Afghan army and police when we leave in 2014 – or hopefully sooner.

    • alan jutson
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Major Frustration

      “Who will pay …….”

      The drug Barons in the form of bribary, not to see what is going on !.

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Who are the drug barons, and who controls them?


        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          and allows them to operate…


          • alan jutson
            Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink


            “and allows them to operate”

            methinks both you and me know the answer to that one.

            Could it be a regular visitor to this Country who seeks our help ?

  20. David Harcombe
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    In one incident our troops accidentally killed a farmers wife and two daughters. As he approached they braced themselves and made ready their profound apologies. He complained bitterly that their attack had damaged his motor bike and killed some of his goats! The way of life has always been very different to our own in such countries and I suggest that we should learn from the mistakes of the past and let them get on with it. Democracy has been found wanting in western countries, who can blame them for wanting no part of it?! Their poppy crop has massively increased since occupation, their army and police services are still unstable and unreliable and probably always will be. As guerrillas the people of this area make formidable and, it seems, unbeatable opponents. As a structured governmental force, they will probably always be found wanting. Our troops have died and been injured for nothing and we should recognise the fact and get them home before further damage is done. We had not the resources to do the job properly and failed to give our soldiers the equipment and numbers they needed. Iraq and Afghanistan have severely damaged our reputation as a fighting nation and we should acknowledge this. retreat, regroup, come home and lick the wounds and reconsider out strategy in relation to world wide commitment. We have severely underfunded our armed forces until we would now have great difficulty simply in defending our own country and we need to face up to it and do something meaningful about it.That is probably too much to ask of our present day politicians and military top brass.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      If the Western governments are prepared to absorb these high levels of casualties for no apparent benefit, what else are they prepared to sacrifice, and to what end?


  21. Vanessa
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    You seem to have outlined every reason why we should not be there at all. It is ludicrous to put our boys in such a position of vulnerability because they are unable to shoot first or engage with an enemy which is recognisable. Why on earth does this government issue such idiotic instructions about war when they know nothing of conflict or any experience of conflict.

  22. Matthew
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    When the troops went into Afghanistan ten years ago to rid the people of the Taliban I thought that it was a good cause. It would bring stability to that part of the world.

    How naive that view was in hindsight!

    Once the announcement is made that the troops are withdrawing, then, unless the Afghan forces pick up the baton, the game must be lost.
    If we’re getting out …get out quickly.

  23. Tad Davison
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    This, metaphorically, is another minefield. Religion is inevitably brought into the equation. Taken in it’s purest form, not one person has ever been killed in the name of God or Christianity, or in the name of Islam or of the prophet Mohamed, just by the dubious interpretations given by some, to satisfy their blood lust, and desire for conquest and dominance over others.

    I have no axe to grind. If a person wishes to follow a particular religious precept, that should be down to them. I will, without fear or favour, treat every individual the same, and be respectful to them, yet at the same time, those who use religion to further their own ambitions must be fought against to preserve our own freedoms and liberties.

    The truly dangerous ones, are those whose avowed aim is either to kill everyone who does not agree with them – the infidel – or whose extensive web of nepotism seeks to promote only those of the same ilk, to positions of influence and power, to ultimately dominate the world as we know it. And many a war has been started and prosecuted on the most spurious of pretexts, which at the end of the day, only ever benefits the arms manufacturers and dealers. I get the feeling this present conflict is little different.

    The last invasion of Iraq was one such case. A friend told me that whilst leader, IDS had gathered together his MPs behind the speaker’s chair, and revealed he had been told at Privy Council level, that there were indeed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to be used at 40 minutes readiness against us, so he urged all Tory MPs to support the Labour government in its determination to invade Iraq with the US. The cause was said to be just.

    I had followed the earlier conflict, and doubted if the Iraqis then had the capability to produce WMDs, so I undertook a little research. The only thing I could turn up, was a report that a former Soviet SS20 had gone missing in Chechnya, but nothing at all in Iraq. Everything had been accounted for.

    I gave my findings with references to my friend, Sir Teddy Taylor, who kindly forwarded them to the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, who then passed them to the Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, for his consideration.

    Mr Ingram wrote an interesting response. In the fourth paragragh of a letter that pre-dates the invation, he stated that ‘ballistic missiles as they exist, do not pose a threat to the UK or it’s armed forces.’. That rather contradicts the official line, but was perhaps indicative of the true situation. I have since forwarded that letter to Sir John Chilcot, and have advised IDS that perhaps the original information given to him, was not quite so accurate as it might have been.

    So who stood to gain from starting that war? Answer that, and we might just stop the next one! But to me, it’s fairly obvious. The power-crazed money men! The ones who couldn’t wait to get into Vietnam and a host of other places. Unless we get real and expose this, sooner or later, we’ll end up with a really big conflagration. They’ll all be super-rich, but there’ll be sod all left to spend it on!

    Just wars I can live with. Cooked-up ones that rob us of some of our bravest and most promising people, have to be avoided, and (to use that word again) the most dangerous thing of all is nepotism.

    Tad Davison


    • Tad Davison
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      By the way, I’d glady let JR see the relevant correspondence and documentation if he so wished. It has already been forwarded to newspapers and the like long ago, as well as friends in parliament. I don’t care who sees it, just as long as we are not taken into any more wars on the most dubious of pretexts, I’m happy.


      • Tad Davison
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Strange that the appendage gets posted before the main item.


  24. Sir Richard Richard
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The Russians had the right idea; bomb every village you can and then leave.

    Afghanistan will always remain a (dangerous place-ed).

    Reply: Killing local people and then leaving is not a good idea.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      But we are killing local people and leaving are we not Mr Redwood, in 2014 when the UK and British Army may cease to exist anyway?

    • Steven_L
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      ‘Bomb them and leave’ worked out OK for Israel in Lebanon a few years back.

  25. Neil Craig
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Britain should radically change our defence forces. Curently their prime ability is to put soldiers within range of snipers in poor countries where we have little or no right to meddle and nothing to be gained anyway.

    Afghanistan could be patrolled forever by unmannedstrike drones, which would not guarantee peace, elitmately that can only be guaranteed by those whop live there, but could guarantee no government hostile to our interests could be established.

    In general our armed forces should be at the technological cutting edge (eg strike drones, anti-missle/aircraft lasers, orbital “Thor” kinetic weapons, submarines & spy satellites). Yjese wopuld give us far more bang for the buck than conventional regiments.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Engaging in assassination attempts in foreign countries using unmanned drones is against international law…..I hope that we still hold to the rule of law.


  26. forthurst
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    It is noticeable that those who are clearly English on this blog are rather more circumspect about continuing to prosecute this futile endeavour in Afghanistan, mainly because of the losses sustained by our brave and loyal servicemen, than those who are not, who might even prefer us to behave with as little consideration for the local people as they believe appropriate for their own chosen beneficiary of patriotism.

    When people refer to the ‘West’, they are actually refering to a small group of fanatical extremists, the neocons, who had previously plotted all these wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria etc. The justification for these wars was to be “some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor”, 9/11, whose official conspiracy theory is not even remotely plausible or even physically possible.

    We know that lies were told in parliament to take us to war in Iraq. Why has there been no proper discussion of our involvements in Libya and Syria? Does are government fear being called out as liars as well?

    What would make us safe would be prosecuting a foreign policy in the interests of English people and a domestic and immigration policy likewise. As this government is driven by the enemies of England, that is not likely.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      “Further, the process of transformation,
      even if it brings revolutionary change, is
      likely to be a long one, absent some
      catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a
      new Pearl Harbor.”

      I believe that the writer was just pointing out that change is slow unless a cataclysmic event occurs, which is fairly logical.

      i.e. It’s not hard to assume that although we may fear being burgled, we may not immediately rush out and buy a Burglar Alarm or Dog – but after being Burgled (The Pearl Harbour Event) , when it’s too late – we’ll rush out and Buy the most expensive Alarm System available, a massive ferocious Dog, Vote for the Death Penalty for burglars, get New Bullet Proof / Bomb Proof Doors and everything of any value will be sent to the Bank of England for safe keeping.

      Some loss is involved to stimulate support for expenditure and sacrifice.

      • zorro
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        and 9/11 was the catalyst…….


        • Steven_L
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          And no way was the Pentagon hit by a large passenger jet, the hole was too small and the approach too difficult.

          • zorro
            Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

            Of course, this could be very easily cleared up if the many CCTV/Security cameras which surround the US Department of Defense HQ were released for viewing…..but perhaps there was no film in them or something…..(as you do)


      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        I take you believe in the ‘War on Terror’, then?

        • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
          Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          More people die in Traffic Accidents, so it’s not something that keeps me up at night -no.

          The 7/7 Attacks was a mass murder – a Crime, the people responsible – as far as I am aware; have not been caught, tried or punished. (I don’t mean the ones who allegedly died with backpacks on their backs).

          Bombing Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and poking a stick in the Face of Iran and Syria is going make matters worse, if indeen the London and New York attacks were as a direct result of foreign Policy.

          Insane Policies:
          Problem 1: Terrorist Attacks resulting from Attacking Foriegn Lands.
          Solution 1: Increase Attacks on more Foriegn Lands

          Problem 2: Excessive Debt resulting from reduced regulations and Low Interest Rates
          Solution 2: Lower Interest Rates even more and Borrow more money, creating even more debt and reduce Banking Regulations even further.

          We get the Government we deserve.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Of course, if there was the remotest threat to the UK, the first thing to be enforced would be a strict security/£immigration policy. The fact that this does not exist in practical terms speaks volumes.


      • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
        Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Exactly, the Mexican and Canadian Borders would be closed.

        The Fact that Mexicans are still easily flooding across the Border means that not even the American Government believes in a War on Terror. In fact thay want to relax border controls and create greater unity with Canada and Mexico – they must really be envious of how well the European Union is going.

        • forthurst
          Posted August 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          Simply part of a wider plan to render Northern Europeans a minority in their own countries as quickly as possible. Hence the (invitation -ed) of large numbers of Sub-Saharans, North Africans and Asians into Europe.

  27. Bryan
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    They should have been brought home years ago.

    Do our leaders never learn from history?

    Or is it another case of political vanity on the World stage?

  28. Julian
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve commented on here before that the tactics in Afghanistan have been completely misconceived from day 1. The troops on the ground have done a great job given the lack of a proper strategy – as misconceived in it’s much smaller way as the trench warfare of WW1.

  29. Ferdinand
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I suppose it is fatuous to say it, but we should never have gone in there, and we should leave as soon as possible and in a manner which minimises the risks to our soldiers.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    We have come to be perceived as an occupying power, as is almost inevitable if foreign troops stay too long. I support John Redwood’s point of view and trust that our troops can be back home by 2013. The Taliban don’t want to kill their own civilians and they probably don’t want Al Quaeda back in Afghanistan. The choice between President Karsai’s government and the Taliban will be unpleasant – corruption and poor treatment of women vs abominable treatment of women. Luckily for us, it is not in our power to make that choice.

  31. Bob
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I believe that there was a commitment to make the country safe for females to attend school, for men to shave their faces and for children to fly kites.

    If we pull out now, will it result in repercussions for those Afghans that took our MPs at their word?

    Mind you, if our MPs don’t honour their promises to their own voters, I don’t suppose it would bother them to break a promise to the Afghans.

    • Sidney Falco
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      How many British armed forces personnel are you willing to be killed or maimed to achieve our commitment?

      The military always talk numbers.

      Politicians never do. (OK, John Reid was a bizarre exception.)

      • Bob
        Posted August 31, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        @Sidney Falco

        I never sent the troops in and I can’t pull them out.

        It’s your elected politicians that you should address your remark to.

  32. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    You are right to praise the bravery and determination of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and other places they are sent across the World. To the most part, British Serviemen and woman are a source of pride.

    Now lets discuss the activity of War.

    Aren’t Wars and outcomes of Wars similar.

    The Vietnam War was popular to start with then the whole point of Americans travelling half way around to World to kill people in their own Country suddenly became questionable – but not until many Americans died and others were sent home mentally or physically (or both) injured. The “Enemy” also blended well into the background – well, they would wouldn’t they seeing as it’s there Country.

    What is remarkable is the cold business like way Wars are conducted. Ways of Accounting for Success and Failure. People wanted to whether they were “winning”.
    So Robert McNamara gave regular “Body Count” numbers – Casualty Ratios, Good Guys to Bad Guys. Despite a huge desparaty between America Deaths to Enemy Killed (far higher Enemy Killed), the Americans were not winning.

    The False Flag Event of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964 triggered off the Starting Gun for the whole Vietnam War. Robert McNamara admitted that the American Ships were never even attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin or anywhere else. Blips on a Radar Screen, which triggered over 2 million vietnamese and 58 thousand American deaths.

    It has been well documented that their was no plan for Victory n Vietnam. The point seemed to be to extend the War as long as possible. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson had an opportunity to end the War in the Paris peace Talks with the North Vietnamese, but secret talks were organised with Richard Nixon who promised that after he won the ’68 Presidential Election, they would get a much better deal with him. So the War went on … and on …

    Good question – what are we achieving in Afghanistan except helping to build oil & gas pipelines and increase the Heroin Poppy yields.

    9/11 was a criminal act – instead of investigating the crime and rounding up the suspects for trial we’ve jumped over the World destroying Countries and killing huge numbers of civilians who had nothing to do with it. When is the State Sponsored (and ordered) killing going to stop. When are the British Forces going to act like a Defence Force rather than an invading Army – which is precisely how they are regarded by many.

    So, yes – I agree – bring ’em home.

    • Mark
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Not building pipelines just yet – and I’m not sure whether it will really go ahead.

      There are other interests:

      China would readily absorb Turkmen gas., and worries about Muslim influence in Sinkiang.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, 9/11 was a criminal act, and it should be properly investigated wherever and to whomever the evidence leads…….too many people have died subsequently for them to evade responsibility.


      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        “9/11 was a criminal act, and it should be properly investigated”

        I think Christopher Bollyn has done a pretty good job on that, already.

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Indeed….the clincher at the time for me was the supposed finding of the (intact) passport of one of the alleged hijackers just a block or two away from the WTC…..I mean how lucky was it that it miraculously must have fell out of his pocket (or bag) on the plane which crashed into the WTC and was engulfed in a fireball of such intensity that it suppposedly caused the incredible collapse of the WTC buildings…..Gosh, those Arabic passports must be made of strong material….


      • Steven_L
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        11 years on an a lots of private individuals and groups of individuals have investigated it, and raised a lot of what strike me as bona fide concerns about the official government investigation.

        Having looked at both the private sector and government investigations, I’ve been swayed that the Pentagon was never hit by a large passenger jet on balance of probabilities, and I’m agnostic as to whether the towers were demolished with explosives.

    • Sidney Falco
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      “we’ve jumped over the World destroying Countries and killing huge numbers of civilians who had nothing to do with it”

      Don’t forget that old line “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste”.

      Western powers have, to different degrees, used the opportunity created by the aftermath of 9/11 to restrict the freedoms and privacy of their own people.

      I used the word opportunity intentionally.

  33. peter davies
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The Afghan problem is far too big for any army or armies to deal with as has been proven by history. The only country that had any measure of success was the British in the 19th century as they managed to get the warlords on their side.

    It is a huge and difficult country run on feudal lines that no one has ever been able to change along the lines of Europe 1000 years ago so it has to be left to evolve naturally.

    I know NATO has had successes in community building but they cant stay there forever and if the local security forces cant do the job after over 10 years, what’s going to change in the next year?

    I find the terrorist export argument absurd when we are facing the same thing in many other places – Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula to name a few – they all have governments of some sort but some are known to export Terrorism whilst others don’t have full control of their countries.

    There was a documentary of TV some time ago explaining the fact that the Taliban has effectively been kept alive by the Pakistan Intelligence Service (ISI) – in the early days the commanders were evacuated from Afghan to Pakinstan where they were able to re group and re organise themselves over a number of years – hence where the Taliban are now, no doubt helped in some way by aid money flowing in from overseas.

    The answer surely has to be to toughen up our own borders and the banning of direct flights from any country known to export and sponsor terrorism, I’m sure that would be cheaper than maintaining forces in such places.

    Politicians need to be more honest about why we are still there because I just don’t get it – don’t use the human rights thing otherwise we would be sending troops to Zimbabwe….

    • uanime5
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      What about the Greeks (Seleucid empire), Persians (Achaemenid empire, Sassanid empire, Khwarezmids, Timurids, Safavids), Indians (Sultanate of Delhi, Mughal Empire), and the Mongols (Il Khanate)? They’ve all exerted a strong control over most or all of modern Afghanistan.

  34. Barbara Stevens
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve no idea why we are there in the first place, and it seems such a waste of young lives, for what? I wish someone in government went out there and worked with the forces and perhaps then they’d reconsidar rash desicions. Bring them home now to defend this nation not others.

  35. nicol sinclair
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to comment on this. However, as perhaps one of the few ‘real’ soldiers (Aden, NI, Gulf War, Former Yugoslavia, Tajikistan) commenting, – as opposed to armchair generals – I have decided to let the innocent/ignorant get on with it and pontificate…

    JR will understand.

    The non-armchair generals will, no doubt, wish to shoot me down.

    The Army obeys the politicians in a democracy. What they say goes and the Army tries its best to comply. That, Brothers, is Democracy in a nutshell.

    • zorro
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The army obeys politicians in dictatorships and other forms of government……What is your point?


      • forthurst
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        The difference is that in a ‘democracy’, the people get to elect the government which puts our troops in harm’s way, whereas in a dictatorship, they are innocent of that. Thus, in a ‘democracy’, we are responsible for such as Tony Blair being able to decide our foreign policy and things haven’t got any better since then.

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          Sounds like a good idea….


      • Andrew Johnson
        Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        What a very naive view. The army certainly does not obey politicians in dictatorships, they are the dictatorship, telling the politicians what to do. At least in a democracy, the electorate get an opportunity every few years or so, to vote for or against, and the government stand down. That’s something that’s denied to most people on this planet.

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

          If you had the choice, would you vote for the Army or Ed Miliband at the next election?

        • zorro
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

          Not at all….some military dictatorships have been like that, but there are other forms of dictatorships. In any case, my point was that armies do the will of the government they serve whatever type of government it is…..Remember the Nuremberg defence?


        • Steven_L
          Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

          Are you seriously suggesting that Hitler and Stalin were puppets?

  36. RDM
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Either let the British Army take the fight to them, or bring them home!

    But to do that;

    – the British Army needs to become “Un-Regimented”. i.e Not based on it’s old structure, but one that is suitable too fighting the Taliban, under a CO there long enough to see it through!

    – It needs to fight them whenever! i.e Do you know how difficult it is, if at all, for ISAF SF to go out at night, let alone, stay out? Sort the Politics out before hand!

    – And if they can’t follow them into Pakistan

    then bring them home!



  37. David Langley
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Bang on John, I did 26 years in a Corps still heavily involved in middle east fracas. The politicos dont really understand the fighting game. Our troops are trained to take ground and hold it free of enemy for as long as it takes to get out. We are not occupying forces and when an enemy as diverse and localised as the Afghans surround you, basically you are screwed. A few IRA were able to shaft our politicians where they lived and hold an army occupied for years and years on territory where we understood the ground and language and spent billions.
    The only way the Afghan war could have been won is if the Politicians mainly American were as involved as the troops. There had to be massive talking and negotiation with all concerned in particular Pakistan which not suprisingly proved to be a two headed snake. Without this agreement and active participation all will be lost.
    Turning to leaving behind training troops, I was involved years ago in training Iranian troops in this country. Thats the best way to do it. We will be suffering casualties again and probably an ignominious withdrawal if try to do it in theatre. I remember seeing some of my pals fleeing Iran when the Shah was deposed.
    I spent two years in Aden until we were kicked out, mind you we had cheap petrol back home 4 shillings and eight pence a gal. All I got out of it was a sun tan and some dead mates.

  38. Pete the Bike
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Brave and long suffering the troops may be but they serve an evil master. US war corporations. They have allowed themselves to be used for an illegal, immoral and utterly pointless war. As soon as foreign occupying troops leave the country will revert to what it was before but minus thousands of murdered civilians and plus a ruined economy. Quite why anyone should have believed that the American empire could succeed in controlling a country that the British and Soviet empires failed to control is beyond me. History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes!

  39. Atlas
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I still have seared into my memory from ’75 those images of the helicopters flying off the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon. All those soldiers killed yet it still ended in a panic rout.

  40. backofanenvelope
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    The King of Afghanistan was overthrown by a communist coup. The communists split into two factions and the Soviet Union intervened in favour of one of these factions, which became the government. After 18 or 19 years, the Russians left and the Taliban came to power.

    After 9/11 the USA asked the Taliban government to hand over Bin Liner and his merry men. They declined, something to do with hospitality, so the USA invaded Afghanistan to hunt down Bin Liner & Co. Mission creep crept in and the USA (plus hangers on) stayed to ensure the Taliban were replaced by non-Taliban government. I have no doubt the USA will cut and run after Obama is re-elected.

    Why do I write all this? To show that our politicians are Bourbons. They never forget and they never learn. We should announce we are withdrawing in line with the French – the end of next year. (etc)

    • uanime5
      Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      You forgot that the Soviet Union sided with the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the USA sided with the Mujahideen. Don’t forget that Ronald Regan funded the Mujaheddin forces, invited their leaders to the White House, and compared them to the Founding Fathers.

      • backofanenvelope
        Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Ronald Reagan, of course, didn’t invade Afghanistan. He just made it difficult for the Russians.

  41. John Orchard
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    How many of us watched the opening ceremony of the Paralympics last night which followed on from a Jewish Doctor, Ludwig Guttmann who escaped the Nazis and set up games for the treatment of spinal injuries in WW11. He then improved on this and that’s where the games came from and the thanks of Nations should be heaped onto this Man. All I have to say of the Muslim Taliban is that through their barbarity Service personel who prior to going to Afghanistan had all their limbs are now participants in the games owing to this futile continuance by spineless Governments. The Taliban will take over what ever these useless Politicians say.

  42. Sidney Falco
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had time to read the previous posts so apologies if I repeat comments made earlier. I will read them later.

    There is a big elephant in the room in this blog post – Al-Qaeda.

    We went to Afghanistan supposedly to stop the bombs going off in the UK and other western democracies.

    Al-Qaeda have now moved on and the dangers are elsewhere.

    Yet, we stay there doing what exactly? In what way do the current internal problems in Afghanistan impact our national interests? Why are we staying there and allowing more of our military personnel to die?

    Nobody I speak to really cares about Afghanistan. It is a non-issue for most and our soldiers are still dying. This is the biggest disgrace.

    It’s all right for politicians to offer their condolences every Wednesday at PMQs but how about doing something to stop this.

    I agree. Bring them home and learn the very expensive lesson from this very sad escapade.

  43. Credible
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Brave soldiers are involved in a conflict we can never hope to win (and never could hope to win). I agree that it is very difficult for foreigners to succeed in hearts and minds when they don’t know the culture or language and the local people can never feel properly protected.
    The Taliban have a fanatical belief in what they stand for and in the end I believe they will take over once the troops are gone (and continue to get stronger while the troops remain).

  44. Tom William
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Afghanistan is not a country, but a series of tribal areas.

    All Afghans dislike foreigners telling them what to do, especially when their presence leads to bloodshed. Their religion encourages Jihad against foreign occupiers.

    Motivation for our presence has changed as previous motivation has been shown to be not working or false. We went in to chase out/destroy Al Qaeda but then thought we should punish the Taliban and have “free elections”.

    The Russians also tried to open schools for girls, build hospitals and improve the infrastructure. They thought that would win them popularity. We are making exactly the same mistakes.

    No politician has had the guts to tell the military that, for all their efforts and bravery, it will all be in vain.

    No need to look for a conspiracy theory, just feeble politicians, who can not admit they were wrong. Rather like backing the EU.

  45. Jon
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    We are just a grotesque target practice for the Taliban until 2014.

    What more can be achieved there? Those few who may know that answer are not at liberty to air their opinion.

    To change the Taliban will take generations, its pointless us staying, we are not going to leave any more of a fixed country in 2014 than if we left now is my opinion.

  46. uanime5
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    In guerilla warfare it’s rare for the guerilla army to outnumber the regular army, mainly because guerilla warfare is most suited to fighting an enemy far more numerous than your own. The only time you’d have guerilla warfare if the guerilla army is the largest army is if the other army has a large technological advantage over the other. As long as the Taliban have access to assault rifles, anti tank weapons, and IEDs I wouldn’t say they were technologically inferior when it comes to ground troops.

    For example during the Vietnam war the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive, whereby they switched from guerilla warfare to regular warfare and attacked over 100 South Vietnam towns and cities (including Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City) with their soldiers, heavy mortars, and tanks. Though the Viet Cong were beaten due to their lack of coordination and superior US mobility it did shock the US public who had been told the war was going well for the USA. After this the Viet Cong remained a guerilla army until the USA withdrew.

  47. pedroelingles
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Is it not possible to reintroduce the use of the WW2 “Flail” Tank which was used to great effect to clear a path through mine fields and other situations similar to today’s IEDs? There may be one or two lying around in museums such as the Tank Museum in Dorset although they may be reluctant to release them. Perhaps a knowledgable fellow commentator would care to enlighten us since the present approach towards dealing with IEDs of using sheer courage combined with Mine Detectors and the “crossing of fingers” is clearly inadequate. Regards, PedroelIngles.

    • English Pensioner
      Posted August 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately they don’t work with remote controlled bombs.

      • Sebastian Weetabix
        Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        Actually, yes they do. Disturbing the explosive can and does set them off.

  48. Paul
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like it when I hear people say we should never have gone into Iraq/Afghanistan or try to dictate what should be done (I’m not aiming this at JR). This is an area where we should just listen to the troops and value their judgement rather than a bunch of useless politicians who are sitting comfortably in our EU governed country. From what I’ve read, the troops certainly think there is still more to do in Afghanistan, fully support the mission and believe their efforts have not been in vain. I can understand why many people are totally against such a mission, but I do feel those who are actively involved in the operation do not have their thoughts taken on board enough.

    • Tom William
      Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Nearly all senior officers who are not actually involved in country believe it is a no win situation. You can not expect those who are actually there to do anything other than support (their orders from) the politicians.

  49. Monty
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Bring our troops home asap please.

    For eleven years, we have been wasting British lives, trying to protect surly, ungrateful, arrogant, intransigent Afghans, with a massive sense of entitlement and no sense of personal responsibility, from their own kinsmen and neighbours. Englishwomen have lost their husbands and sons to protect Afghan women from the brutality of their own husbands, fathers, and sons.

    Leave them to the tender mercies of the taliban, because they are the taliban. The only thing we should promise them now, is remorseless retaliation if they are ever associated with a terrorist attack on the western world again.

  50. Sebastian Weetabix
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Given that we have already said we are getting out, why wait? No Afghan is going to do other than make accommodations with the Taliban anyway. I daresay the timescale is to allw our weasel leaders to claim ‘victory’ as the Afghans ‘now have the capability to take care of their own security, thanks to our brave boys’ etc etc. What guff. It has been a failure, just as Basra was a failure. We should get out now. And for once we should have a proper enquiry into the MoD’s conduct of the conflict.

    Why did we have men patrolling dirt tracks on foot? Why not large armoured bulldozers blazing a new trial followed by a proper Tarmac road, something the locals might actually have appreciated? Why did the country that invented mine-resistant vehicles 50 years ago completely forget the technology and send out troops in coffins on wheels?

  51. Bazman
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    If they are to be defeated military then lets get it on or just pull out and control them by other means. The West can’t support countries like Saudi Arabia where woman are not allowed to drive and the population as a whole is dirt poor despite the oil and at the same time shoot the Taliban who are being funded by many of these countries citizens. Unfortunately being liberal does not allow you to choose your causes and believing that certain foreign woman for example, have less rights than western woman means you are sleepwalking into a nightmare.
    Many of the Fundamentalists to my mind seem to fellow travellers in believing the same that man has little free will and everything is pre written. Christian and Muslim fundamentalist being both sides of the same coin.

  52. Backwoodsman
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    It is the function of the military to put their lives on the line in the national interest.They sign up knowing it may come to that.An army that cannot make sacrifices is pointless,and a country that has such a force is to all intents defenceless.None of Britain’s wars could have been thought on that basis.And certainly militant Islam cannot be resisted that way…they are prepared to make the sacrifices,and to waste the lives of others without compunction.That will still be true if the battle moves from Helmand to (other places-ed),as it will in time if things drift on as they are.
    I was not an enthusiast for involvement in Afganistan.The idea of exporting liberal democracy to much of the world is a naive and patronising illusion.The strategic imperatives ,so easily dismisssed here ,were more convincing,but insufficiently so .However talk of panic withdrawal ,as recently announced by France and New Zealand,is another matter. Openly demonstrating such a lack of a will to continue,after what are by historical standards sad but limited casualties,cannot but encourage the the spread of copycat campaigns.The psychological defeat of scuttling withdrawal under pressure is bound to have a spillover effect,and encourage similar campaigns elsewhere.
    The choice is not between indefinite endurance,but between an orderly withdrawal acccording to a timetable set by the West,and piecemeal capitulation to fanatics…indicative of weakness,and frankly not very British.

    reply: As the west has clearly stated its intention to leave, transferrign responsibility to the large and now trained Afghan forces, why not get on with it? We can say mission accomplished. How good a job the Afghan forces make of it is a matter for them. The west never promised a perfect outcome once back in Afghan hands, and never can guarantee that.

  53. Backwoodsman
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    The main reason we should keep to the timetable is that it is what has been announced as the decision of the West.To abandon it ,under what is very limited pressure(in historical terms),is to lend further credibility to the fanatics.Why is it that politicians,even erudite and honourable ones cannot grasp that this is not consequence free…even after the Twin Towers and the London and Madrid bombings?These people have global aspirations and allies ,open and concealed,throughout the West.
    There are also at least two other reasons.It would be very unwise for Britain to be seen to be undercutting and isolating the US in this context.There can be no real resistance to militant Islam if the Americans retreat into isolationism.The panic scuttling of the UK,one of very few countries ordinary Americans are prepared to help defend,according to polls,would certainly facilitate that,by convincing them even Britain is not worth the effort.You do not have to hero worship the Americans to see that even in the medium term this would be a dangerous development for anyone with Western sympathies or values.
    And then,of course, there is the obligation to the Afghans who have supported the efforts to defeat the Taliban.It is nonsense to suggest that they do not exist.Given that they are to be abandoned anyway,the agreed timetable gives them the best opportunity to defend themselves.We owe them that much.
    Britain has made much greater sacrifices for worse reasons.
    If we do not resist these people, even minimally in terms of an agreed and announced time table in Afghanistan now,when will we resist them,and on what basis, and where,and if the Americans retreat how?Try this sentence with the Sudetenland substituted.

  54. sm
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Given we have made major cuts to the armed forces, then good sense dictates we need to reduced the footprint and leave ideally in tandem with manpower reductions. How could anyone argue otherwise?

    Certainly , i like the idea of elected politicians and cabinet going on footpatrol, walking the walk. This would obviously have to be by some lottery loaded by the seniority etc as not all could go at once. It would introduce a little more down to earth view. I am not suggesting we use politicians a la Iranian mine clearance stratagies.

    But given the major danger is IED, i bet it would lead to new tactical strategies to avoid/disable/detonate the IED’s, disrupt supplies. Until then the answer was and is ..more helicopters and surveillance from blimps etc. Proper equipment V shaped hulls etc, extended wheels

    Overall we should not cut and run but we should de-risk what we are asking the army to do. Letting the afghans do more but we do need to leave.

    More training of afghans in mine clearance in 3rd party countries as needed. We should continue to support with money the afghan army and civil administration.

    In terms of the drug production, why not just buy it from the local farmer, paying them in some money, crop seeds and other agricultural tools, with guarantees to purchase next years food crop?

    We could either burn it or otherwise utilize the poppies for legal use.

  • 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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