Three cheers for Mr Osborne

I was delighted to read yesterday that Mr Osborne is asking why we cannot bring our troops home earlier from Afghanistan. It is good to know the argument has got through to a senior Cabinet member and he is now asking the right question.

I do not think any more of our troops lives should be put at risk on patrol or active service in Afghanistan. I also think it would be handy to save the money. At last count the government has spent £17 billion on the Afghan intervention, over and above the normal cost of the personnel involved.

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  1. A.Sedgwick
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    This is just another example of Government Ministers catching up eventually with the blindingly obvious and with tragic consequences in this dire adventure.

  2. Bluedog
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, aren’t we in Afghanistan to prevent China from obtaining a land-bridge to the energy resources of the Persian Gulf, via Iran? If the Chinese did get unfettered access to the Gulf, they might siphon all the oil directly to China, to our material disadvantage.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Basic geography debunks your argument. Any Iran-China pipeline via Afghanistan would have to either go through the Himalayas or via most of south east Asia. By contrast an Iran-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan pipeline could go around the Himalayas to reach China.

      • Bluedog
        Posted October 18, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        It was clearly a mistake to focus solely on the oil and gas benefits to China from a full NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

        Setting aside the logistics of moving oil and gas from Iran to China, let us consider other factors, which is the real point. If China were able to station ‘peace-keeping’ forces in Iran, the Western position would be weakened. It is a feature of Chinese diplomacy that they invariably oppose or veto Western initiatives without proposing constructive alternatives, see Syria. Similarly, they have suffered embarrassing set backs in a number of energy producing provinces through a failure to anticipate risks. Sudan and South Sudan come to mind, and they clearly never saw the anti-Gaddafi uprising in Libya coming. But as Chinese self-confidence grows and they become more assertive, it is not fanciful to assume that China may seek Western style bases and garrisons to help guarantee supply of essential resources. Bases in Iran, supplied overland via Afghanistan would therefore be something that Chinese strategic planners could well consider.

  3. zorro
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    The right question to ask, but I fear that the timetable may be unmovable. We have been there for such a long time that there is a lot of gear and infrastructure in the different camps that we do not want to leave. I suspect that they are working out how they will move all the equipment back to the UK. It will take quite a while and will probably be done by road…..


    • alan jutson
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink


      Think I read somewhere a few months ago that we intend to leave much of our transport and logistical equipment in Afghanistan, so that their own forces can use it to aid their battle with the Taliban.

      Seems we can afford to do so, as it is not planned that such equipment will be refurbished and stored here, or indeed used elsewhere at the moment.

      The fact that we could be involved with another conflict (heaven forbid) elsewhere at some time in the future, where such equipment could be deployed and used immediately, seems to have escaped government thinking.

      Thus we will have to purchase new transport when the time comes.

      If only we could ask our enemies to give us plenty of notice and hold back until they are delivered, it will all be Ok.

      • zorro
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Alan, here is the link…….

        These links show the volume of equipment…..There is no way that the army will leave all that there. Mind you, can you imagine those interminable long lorry convoys going through those old Soviet republics……They will make a tempting target.


      • stred
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

        Has anyone considered the possibilty of the equipment being used by the ‘other side’?

        • zorro
          Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

          Oh yes….they are rather worried about this I fear with no guarantees that the equipment won’t fall into the wrong hands. They are using contractors to move a lot of the stuff overland from Afghanistan to the UK…… 🙂


          • zorro
            Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

            What can go wrong…..?


  4. Stephen Almond
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink


    You are happy to abandon the Afghan people after 10 years of war and support?

    Reply: I am not “abandoning” the Afghan people, merely asking that we leave it to Afghan police and troops to enforce their laws!

    • outsider
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Perhaps it is time for all our continuing “help” to Afghanistan to come out of the aid budget.

    • Bob
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      “I am not “abandoning” the Afghan people, merely asking that we leave it to Afghan police and troops to enforce their laws!”

      That is virtually the same as abandoning them Mr Redwood, surely?

      • zorro
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        It’s terrible abandoning them in such a way after helping them train security forces currently totalling 352,000…….if they can’t defend their country with that, there must something wrong with the way they are running their country. In either case, it is not in our national interest to be there…….

        Whilst we are on the subject….in case anyone mentions illegal drugs. The Taliban eradicated poppy production under their rule in 2001, and since the US/UK and other forces have been there poppy production has soared. Afghanistan supplies 90% of illicit opium products in the West. 65% of production of that substance occurs in Helmand province….

        Anyone care to think why that might be?


        • uanime5
          Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          Well once the Taliban was overthrown they stopped their policy of poppy eradication and started forcing farmers to grow poppies because the Taliban needed more money. That’s why in areas with a low Taliban presence there’s lower levels of poppies grown.

          • zorro
            Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

            Oh I see uanime5, there’s a lot of Taliban in Helmand which is why there’s lot of poppies. There’s also a huge concentration of US/UK troops in Helmand, and one of their stated aims was to destroy the poppy crop?….Yeah dream on….


          • zorro
            Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

            Or you might be arguing that our presence there has actually caused the rise in poppy production because the Taliban need money….


  5. lifelogic
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Indeed get them back now. They should never have been there in the first place. 433 deaths of troops so far, just in Afghanistan. A full list of this tragic and pointless loss of life is on the BBC link below. Can the government please prevent any more being added.

    • Bazman
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      The BBC?

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        They do have some uses, when not acting as a propaganda machine for the green religion, an ever bigger state and the EU.

      • zorro
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes we should send the BBC to Afghanistan instead! 🙂


    • Old Albion
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      That list is heartbreaking.
      If the BBC put up the list of those who have suffered serious injuries such as limb loss. The British public would be doubly horrified.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Indeed perhaps 4 times the number?

      • zorro
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        They are having to go through very expensive and complicated secondary care….I saw a man in the supermarket last month. He looked like he might be a West African but he was clearly an ex soldier and he had lost both his legs and one arm but he was still managing to lead his life as best he could. Their fortitude is remarkable and fortunately the army charities are very active in maintaining links.


  6. alan jutson
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Mr Osbourne will also show the same line of thought on withdrawal from the EU.

    I see it is reported in todays Mail on Sunday that Mr Gove is now changing his mind on Europe, as he sees his ideas for education reform being hampered and frustrated by EU legislation.

    It is now reported that he thinks we should threaten to withdraw completely if we cannot get some powers back.

    Funny how once it has some affect on them directly, that they start to see sense.

  7. Old Albion
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    433 British military personnel dead (at the last count) Thousands severly injured. Limbs blown away, faces destroyed, eyesight gone and who knows what mental issues will follow.
    For what? Blair’s vanity? Cameron’s failure to see the idiocy of it all?
    The day the last coalition troops depart. Afghanistan will return to it’s pre-intervention state. When will politicians ever learn?
    What a waste……………………………

  8. Acorn
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Agreed JR. Secretary Gove wants a vote on in / out of the EU, whoopee!!! What’s going on, is there mutiny on the upper decks as well as lower decks?

  9. backofanenvelope
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Three cheers for Mr Osborne indeed. It won’t happen though, because his proposal is not based on military reasons, homeland security, drug supply, or even, heaven forbid, the rights of Afghani women. He argues from the base that we are BROKE.

    If Cameron-Clegg accepted that argument, the flood gates would be open. How many other things should we stop doing because we are broke?

    • David John Wilson
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      The government should be making it a major policy to stop doing things that we cannot afford. They should concentrate on those that have an adverse effect on our balance of payments. Afghanistan must be very near the top of any such list and it is worrying the the Americans seem to be withdrawing faster than we are.

    • Bob
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      He want’s to get them back so that he can make them redundant and then sub contract defense to the EU.

      He’s so transparent.

  10. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    At the Conservative Party conference, Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for defence, stuck to the official timetable of withdrawal by the end of 1994. It is true that he hinted that he would be amenable to faster withdrawal. However, he was clear enough that this would be decided in conjunction with NATO, i.e. America. We shouldn’t expect any revised decision until February, when the new US President will have settled in.

    Reply 2014 I think

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Unless Obama announces faster withdrawal in a desperate bid to win re-election.

  11. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Because the (word left out) Nobama has set a timetable the current conditions in Afghanistan are ecspecially wretched. The USA military leadership on the ground acknowledges it. But should the USA reject the stealth socialist, anti-American, essentially incompetant current occupant of the White House a “surge” in Afghanistan is likely. The Taliban are there to be (dealt with-ed); we must continue on. Soldiers today are volunteered; this fight is important. The lads at Rourkes Drift didn’t have the option; strolling the lanes of lovely Liverpool is not a “professional career”. Oliver’s Army is here to stay!

  12. Sue Doughty
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Plus the cost to the NHS

  13. Martin Ryder
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the campaign in Afghanistan, as was the one in Iraq, has been a total waste of time, money and most of all people. I sincerely hope that no British government will involve our Armed Forces in such an adventure again.

    However I do believe that we cannot afford to sit back on our small island and ignore the problems that are building up around the world. We depend far too much on the rest of the world for food, energy and the nice things in life to let the world go to pot without making the effort to try to maintain, with our allies, peaceful global trading and cultural links between the nations of the world.

    Personally, though I was once long ago a soldier, I would devote more of our resources to the Royal Navy, rather than to the other two services, as we can influence events at sea and in the air much more easily, and at less cost in lives and money, than we can on land. There is no way that we could ever have an Army or Air Force large enough to make big difference anywhere now that countries such as China and India are making their presence felt on the international stage.

    Though I am upset every time I hear of another life lost in Afghanistan and see the terrible price that our wounded are paying, I should like to remind everyone that all of our military personnel are volunteers who are fully aware of the risks that serving the UK brings with it. They are not conscripts who are forced to fight or children who do not know what they are doing, they are adult men and women who have chosen to serve in Afghanistan. Let us applaud their courage but not patronise them by wringing our hands and trying to rush them away from danger, like parents with little children.

    • zorro
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      They choose to serve in the British Army……do they choose to serve in Afghanistan?


      • Martin Ryder
        Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Of course they do. Most soldiers have joined the Army since the Afghan campaign started.

  14. Electro-Kevin
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just seen this post, Mr Redwood.

    The continued deployment of our troops cannot be forgiven.

    There have been umpteen opportunities to make a noble withdrawal. The finding of Bin Laden would have been one of them had there not been such lies being told about why we were there… destruction of heroin, female emancipation, installation of democracy, anti-terrorism, protecting our country…

    Baloney. All of it.

  15. Bert Young
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Another Cabinet Minister showing his teeth . Just the sort of action timed in the wake of Michael Gove’s announcement . Rise up all you others and be counted !!

  16. Richard1
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    We should take advantage of the US election and say to the new president whether Obama is re-elected or not, that we have done enough with over 10 years support, now we need British troops out.

    Off topic but I hope you and other Conservative MPs will block this latest assault on our constitution to pass without referendum in giving children the vote in Scotland. 18 is the age of legal responsibility and if the govt want to change it and give children the vote it should be put to referendum, as is now established should be the procedure for any consitutional change.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      Given that you can have sex at 16 and join the army why shouldn’t you be allowed to vote?

      Reply: and drive? and buy a drink in a pub?

      • backofanenvelope
        Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        If you are fit to vote then you are fit to fight for your country and drive an 18-wheeler truck. Why not?

        Of course, I think the voting age should be raised to 25.

    • David John Wilson
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      We shall see tomorrow whether Cameron has signed away the rights of the English by allowing under 18s the right to vote on Scottish independence but at the same time denied the English the right to vote on English independence from the Scots.

      Surely the splitting up of the United Kingdom is something that the whole of its population should be voting on in a referendum not just the Scots. Why can a union be split up on the say so of 10% or less of the people involved? We should all have a vote in any referendum. What happens if the English, Welsh and Northern Irish don’t want to split from the Scots or alternatively want to be rid of them?

  17. Alan Wheatley
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    JR, we know that you do not like the current UK involvement in Afghanistan, you have told us so often enough, but I would be interested to know what involvement, if any, you think would have been OK for the UK following the attack on the USA launched from there.

    Reply: The attack may also have involved Pakistan which we did not counter attack. Surely the correct response to the terrorist assault on the twin towers was to hunt down the perpetrators, as they eventually did with Bin Laden. The UK did not bomb Dublin every time there was a terrorist bomb in London from the IRA.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      No, but if we had the “troubles” might have been over a lot sooner.

  18. David Langley
    Posted October 15, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I am always uneasy to read and hear about details of our withdrawal so widely discussed and known. The best disengagements from an active enemy opposition are made in secrecy and stealth. Rehearsed and well briefed the objective is to get from a dangerous position to a safe one, unmolested and with the enemy totally unaware of ones intentions.
    We have seen the shambles of withdrawals from Asia before, and I remember personally the withdrawal from the Aden Protectorate which was not on the scale of Afghanistan admittedly. My sense of this one will be that much equipment will be left to the new Afghanistan military administration, high value stores will be withdrawn with the “retreating forces” but I suspect much will be left and written off. The logistic difficulties and expense will be prohibitive. We are also supposed to be leaving behind training cadres supported by who I do not know but I fear this item will become a fig leaf quickly and just a political gesture which will be dangerous and eventually aborted.

  • 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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