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 the 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 some cost.

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, provided 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.

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 much 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.

My view:
The generals are doing their best to see that their troops are well equipped.
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 Ashes
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 trivial.
If Eric Joyce's resignation helps to clarify the situation, it is welcome. If it does not, then it is not.

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 is?

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...