Monday, August 10, 2009

Reality of War in Afghanistan

This country is at war in Afghanistan. It is a war that we have stumbled into, led by a government that subscribes to the worst of liberal woolly thinking on military matters, but it is a war nonetheless. In April 2006 then defence secretary John Reid said:
We're in the south to help and protect the Afghan people to reconstruct their economy and democracy. We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years time without firing one shot.
This neatly sums up the attitude that put our soldiers into battle with too few numbers, too few helicopters and vehicles that shreded when struck by a bomb blast. There is a sort of left-establishment consensus that force achieves nothing and that wars against guerilla armies are unwinnable anyway. So, Reid and Brown committed our soldiers in the hope that they would spend their time building schools and handing out aid parcels and they thought that inadequate forces didn't matter because war doesn't work, so why resource it properly?

Meanwhile, reality is a little different. First of all, while war is concentrated horror and any sane nation must apply itself to the avoidance of conflict, it can be an effective tool of foreign policy. There are plenty of military actions that when the ghastly tally of death and loss has been made it still has been as the right thing to do. World War Two is the classic example, but more recently the Falklands and British intervention in Sierra Leone fall into that category. Moreover, guerilla armies are often on the losing side in conflicts, lately the Tamil Tigers have been defeated and the insurgency in Iraq has retreated into occasional urban terrorism. Any casual reader of Afghan history would have figured out that foreign intervention was likely to cause a very violent response in the south of that country and anyone with common sense would realise that aid could not be effectively delivered to the Afghan population unless they were guaranteed security. A government with a grip on reality would either have kept British soldiers out of Afghanistan or provided enough military power to win the inevitable conflict quickly. Instead Brown and Reid decided on military intervention without enough strength to win the war. The result has been a military stalemate and a ghastly procession of coffins back through RAF Lyneham.

The government and the nation needs to decide where we go from here. We should fight like we want to win, or we should get out. Anything else is a betrayal of our brave fighting men and women.

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