LibLink: Ming Campbell – Afghanistan: We have to see it through till 2014

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Ming Campbell has taken to the pages of the Independent to set out his views on British troop involvement in Afghanistan, and the need to be realistic about the speed at which British troops can be withdrawn from Helmand. Here’s an excerpt:

It is naive to suggest that, even if we began today, we could be out by Christmas. Withdrawal of nearly 10,000 troops and their equipment is not achieved by waving a wand. During any withdrawal, forces are at their most vulnerable. What additional protection measures would be required? What equipment would we be able to bring home? What equipment might fall into the hands of the Taliban? Unless you can answer these questions, talk of early withdrawal makes no sense and could be very dangerous. Rightly or wrongly, the Afghan operation has been conducted in close collaboration with the United States, and we have consistently said that we will leave together. What impact would a departure from our agreement have on our alliance with the US?

The longer we train their security forces, the better chance the people of Afghanistan will have. The bald truth is that we cannot eliminate the possibility of more casualties, and no one believes that Afghanistan will become a model European-style liberal democracy. But without the joint presence of UK and US forces, the chances of achieving sufficient stability to allow the people of Afghanistan to make a choice about their future will be reduced. It is painful to say, and to see, but we have to hold the line until 2014.

You can read Ming’s post in full here.

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  • Geoffrey Payne 24th Sep '12 - 11:58pm

    I think we have to ask what our war aims actually are. We are of course putting the lives of our troops at risk, and have been doing so now for over 10 years, which is an extraordinary long period of time. During that time we have been told many stories about the successes we have had there but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that for every one step forward we seem to take 2 steps back. The government is corrupts, our troops are hated by many and the security forces keep being infiltrated. Is there really anything we can do in the final 2 years that can put right what we have failed to do in the past 10?
    I cannot see any logical reason why we could. We will leave Afghanistan defeated whatever we do, so why get a few more troops needlessly killed over the next 2 years when we can pull out now?
    There is a reason of course. We will simply do whatever the US says regardless of whether it is a good policy or not.
    Incidentally the other issue in the article is even more significant, how should the British government respond if Israel attacks Iran – which is looking very likely at some point soon? It was good to see Ming write about this, but I notice he does not say what his personal view is. The Lib Dem manifesto said we opposed an Israeli strike, will Nick Clegg stick to this?

  • We are not training ‘their’ security forces at all. Afghanistan is not a nation. it is a cluster of nations/tribes, the largest by far of which is the Pashtoons who should, by the way, include a big chunk of Pakistan. And we are training an army which is 97 per cent northern tribes to be a replacement army of occupation, to lord it over the Pashtoon areas when we move out, to help keep a useless corrupt ‘government’ in power over them.

    Does it make any difference whether we leave now, next year, or in a decade’s time? Only to our exchequer and to the mums, dads, sons, daughters and wives of those who will die and be maimed for nothing in the meantime.

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