Just when we were hoping British troops might be returning from the Middle East, more are to be deployed to the south of Afghanistan bringing the total to more than 8,000 by next spring. The plan is that this increase will provide better protection and further the training of local security forces as well as developing projects already in operation. That this increase in soldiers in Afghanistan will likely coincide with less troops in Iraq, is coincidental, I think ! The move will involve troops manning new armoured vehicles and Chinook and Apache helicopters. Tornados will replace Harriers as planes and crews show the strain of almost four years of engagement.
"It does not mean our mission is expanding” says the defence secretary Des Browne. “We are taking the steps necessary to take our mission forward as effectively as we can." The Taliban leadership, he says, have turned "their ambition from insurgency to terrorism" referring to the suicide attacks last week which killed three British paratroopers, last week. The Taliban's new tactics pose a "different, but very serious challenge" to British troops.They will do – as long as the British and Nato continues their attempts to have a “hearts and minds” campaign, and where John Reid,the defence secretary who sent the troops there, did not know why they were going. He also thought they would not fire a shot. Five million shots later and we are still left wondering why they are there.
So why are they there? To defeat the Taliban is the generally accepted view. But is this the case? The Taliban are a group of people who change their tactics, views and methods according to the situation at the time. Many Afghans go along with the type of Islam and culture associated with the Taliban, which is mostly based on their tribal traditions. Afghanistan is a country where the differences between the ethnic groups is extremely important and also makes for a divided society. Pashtuns v Uzbeks v Sunni Muslims v Shia Muslims – whichever group you belong to you are likely to be someone’s enemy.
Perhaps they are there to liberate Afghan women once and for all from the restrictions of the burqha. Most Afghan women are still covered or veiled in one way or another – some wear the chador, which is quite restricting but not as restricting as the burqha, favoured by the Taliban. Changes here are hardly likely, not matter what British troops do.
What about the opium poppy fields, then? I don’t believe they are there to get rid of these, as with that business gone, Afghan farmers would be thrown into further poverty.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, was “democratically elected” so he does not need to be ousted. However, it is difficult to believe that he has the full support of the Afghan people and was voted in fairly and squarely by a free society who based their votes on political and social issues. More likely that he is there because various warlords and militant leaders voted for him and told others to, so that he would leave them to dictate to their own territories in the country as they choose. Some of these leaders we in the West call our allies, depending on the situation and our mood. Sometimes the “village elders” co operate with us – when they don’t or they start shooting us, we say it’s the Taliban. Help from us if often accepted, but they don't want us there, no matter how many hospitals, schools and “developments” we may make.
Maybe we are still looking for Osama Bin Laden, still hiding in Afghanistan from where, under the Taliban 'Al Qaeda' keeps it’s headquarters? If we let the Taliban control the country then ‘Al Qaeda’ will be plotting its next attack of the west from there. This is a poor argument when most of us believe that any such attack is just as likely to be planned and implemented in Leeds, Bradford, London or Rotherham.
So back to why are British troops still there, and continuing to be deployed ? Well, I think we don’t know – but British troops being there or not will not help the situation. We continue to send troops to a place where no good can be done by them, and they are just a target for our enemies. British presence in Afghanistan is as pointless and worrying, as is the presence in Iraq. One hundred deaths is one too many and can not be defended by our Government, except for them to save face.
This is not the role and duty of the British Forces.