NOT UNDERSTAND WHY WE ARE IN AFGHANISTAN
AUGUST 31st 2009
It strikes me that if Vera Lynn does not understand what is going on in
Afghanistan then the failure to explain it must be significant. General
MacChrystal, the recently appointed commander of operations in
Afghanistan has said the strategy has to be changed, yet the reasons
for this have been obvious for a very long time. Why has it taken so
long for the US Administration to realise that their plan to create
stability first, thereby allowing civilians to rebuild the country,
could only work if there is not only employment for all the Taliban who
were agreeable to laying down arms, but NATO has also avoided
destroying employment or self-sufficiency for the over 80% of those
polled in 2006 who wanted international intervention to rid the country
of al Qaida and Taliban.
I conclude that the reason for this extraordinarily slow level of
uptake in the Pentagon and State Department brain and other parts of
US administration is that most of the people involved are millionaires
who have never known what it is to be either unemployed or without food
or funds. They think lawful, peaceful behaviour can be imposed by force
on people who are have a history of survival and self-sufficiency
against all forces of nature or enemies. The history of post invasion
Iraqi terrorism was rooted in the need for money or adequately paid
employment. The opium business is driven by the same force and the
money from it finds its natural use. Why blather on about hearts and
minds when stomachs have to be filled to keep either working? As for
our own government, we seem to have gone along with the US again at
The funding for the rebuilding of a seriously damaged state such as
Afghanistan can be managed without any cost at all to the International
Community provided the IMF gets its act together and proper plans are
made. It is also perfectly possible to ensure that the funds are
properly spent, with contracts awarded on an appropriate basis,
the control of the process is removed from the usual suspects.
The funding for the military effort, which needs to be seriously
increased, can also be internationally managed even if the boots on the
ground are filled by those best for the task.
SEPTEMBER 03 2009
Hold the phone.... I did not expect quite such positive action as
this...well, actually it is negative: Eric Joyce, a former soldier and
ministerial aide to the Defense Secretary has resigned. His grounds:
the Afghan operation is not being properly explained to the British
public or adequately resourced. That being the case he calls for a
timetable for withdrawal. I cannot go along with the last point, though
the first two about explanation and resources are true.
The problem is how to put them right. Gordon Brown keeps the rationale
for intervention by NATO simple: it is to prevent the growth and spread
of terrorism that will target the streets of Britain and other
countries. Why that is the case and how the logic works would need a
longer explanation and requires educated listeners of which he does not
have a sufficiency. The only rational solution is an international
campaign to help Afghanistan to establish a stable state with control
over its internal affairs and conventional international relations.
Because mistakes have been made, ironically in the cause of reducing
British casualties in the field but leading to collateral civilian
damage, the public see it as a war which is failing and
counter-productive. As for the resources, there is a great deal of
misunderstanding here. The resources needed for military operations can
never be calculated in advance unless at war with adversaries with
little brain and no finance. The Afghan operation is a NATO one. The
British, Americans and others are in the front line because they are
best able to do the job. The supply of equipment is handled as well as
those with the job know how to do it.
The message Eric Joyce seems to giving is: if we can't do any better,
and maybe we can't we had better give up because the families of our
soldiers don't understand why they are fighting and the public don't
understand why anyone should die for Afghanistan.
The generals are doing their best to see that their troops are well
The politicians and procurers and trainers are struggling, it is not
just a question of funds.
Soldiering is dangerous business.
War is by definition unplanned in most parts. Australia just lost the
Yes, NATO could be disbanded. Indeed all nations could withdraw all
their forces to their own borders and withdraw from all alliances.
Unfortunately the global refugee situation in a great many countries
that would follow from that
and the consequences would make anything previously experienced look
If Eric Joyce's resignation helps to clarify the situation, it is
welcome. If it does not, then it is not.
SEPTEMBER 04 2009
The Prime Minister has spoken to day on the matters discussed above.
There are still those like Nick Clegg who say "if we can't do this job
properly we should not do it at all". Sorry Nick, but in this century
with this technological environment, we have to do as well as we can,
try to make that ever better, and not give up. If that was ever an
option, we need never have started. Even those who say "we must be able
to show clear progress [at this or
that date]" come from a background that has not prepared them
for the challenge that faces humanity. The Taliban mentality is simple
- "The West just does not have the stomach for this". Maybe we don't.
But if we don't we will certainly not have the stomach for what would
follow if we walked away.
There are those who say terrorists can find other places to run
training camps and build their weapons. This is true. And their point
Nick Clegg thinks a failure to build and
maintain a coherent international community of states able to manage
their own territory sufficiently to prevent it being taken over by
unelected insurgents who murder their political opponents is not our
responsibility. The leaders of a great many democratic nations disagree
with him. It is the only possible way forward. There are some
interesting complexities in what has to be done and there will be
places which terrorists will hold, but these can and must be denied
them in a country with a civil society that does not wish to be
terrorist and which is not at war with the rest of the world. Hostages
can be taken easily in any country where a legitimate sovereign power
is not in control of almost all of the country, almost all of the time.
NOVEMBER 7th 2009
Further problems and deaths in Afghanistan are causing more confusion.
The PM has tried to rally support but it is clear that half the UK
population still do not understand the responsibility of the
International Community, and the UK as part of it. Those who say 'This
war cannot be won' are blissfully unaware that there are those who
intend to win it, militarily, precisely because they are counting on
the failure of the NATO countries to stand against their ruthless
tactics. They do not intend to win it politically but by force. See
this date in afghanistan.html
SEPTEMBER 25th 2010
Nearly a year on, and while militarily we have held the line and
better, it is now apparent that lack of imagination on the hearts and
minds front has only now really come to light. Armchair strategists are
at a disadvantage but, damn it all, this is a bit dim. See: Never in the field...