November 19, 2001
Our Boys Out Now
shouldn't wait until it becomes a quagmire; Afghanistan is a quagmire.
THE LUCK STILL THERE?
seems the recklessness of Tony Blair knows no bounds. The thousand
troops sent to Sierra
Leone seemed stupid, after all we had no interests there. However,
they did keep the lid on the media for a while and although never
restoring peace, not too many people died if you don't count
Africans. The Kosovo adventure had a truly worrying side to it as
Blair committed 50,000 troops, more than half the British army,
to an operation with no conceivable national interest. That turned
out OK as the Serbs surrendered without a land invasion. Has the
man's luck run out?
THE MYTH CONTINUES
would think not. The latest installment of the great game has resulted
in what seems like a clear-cut victory for the sides of light and
consumerism. The Taliban have deserted the cities. Whether this
is the rout that the press are proclaiming, or a phased withdrawal
that sites like Stratfor
are claiming, I cannot know. It seems like Bin Laden has not
been found yet, but that surely is a matter of time. What should
concern us is the result. We (as in Britain) now have at least 100
troops in a place that does not want us, nor do we want it.
THE SAND TRAP
hundred troops now, with thousands
on standby; and what do we have? A place thousands of miles
away and relying on supply from third countries with their own agendas.
"Allies" who give every impression of not wanting us there. A united
and determined opposition that knows the hills around them. All
cities and roads in the control of autonomous armed factions. We
are, in every respect but one, in a worse position than the Soviet
Union was when they were in Afghanistan. At least they had the roads
and cities, a political ally, a bickering opposition and a secure
land route into the country. The only advantage we have over them
is that we can get out.
there is the humanitarian trap. The Arab street, we are told, will
be allayed when they see us dropping food parcels on remote Afghan
villages, helping their fellow Muslims and all that. The fact that
they have not been allayed by the Western protection of Muslims
in Bosnia and Kosovo should not be allowed to get in the way of
this plan. Perhaps this tactic will work who knows? What I do
know is how the Arab street will react if the West gets the food
distribution wrong. This may be worsened if we try to root up the
heroin poppies. If we do not, we will all be shocked, shocked, to
learn that the war on drugs is a sham. Pictures of starving children
any starving children in Afghanistan will be blamed on the
West. Forget the success in feeding the 98% of Afghans, they will
remember 2%. Moreover, they will blame it on the West. In New York
schools, they teach that the British government launched genocide
on the Irish, when hundreds of thousands died due to the predictable
failure of the state to feed a starving population. Will the Muslims
be more understanding?
A MURKY PUZZLE
will not pretend to understand the ethnic and personal rivalries
that make up Afghan politics today, although I know more now than
I did two months ago and in two months time I will know more
still. There are however some perfectly obvious facts that spell
the Northern Alliance has not changed from the old Mujahadeen who
successfully fought the Russians and unsuccessfully ruled Afghanistan.
Their one uniting factor was a dislike
of foreign domination. Why should we expect them to welcome
us? Because we are from the West? In fact the Northern Alliance
has asked the British to go, although they have been dismissed by
a junior British foreign office minister as being "out of the loop".
(Question: how "in the loop" were the British when they assumed
that the Northern Alliance wouldn't
enter Kabul?) Secondly, the Pashtuns seem remarkably wounded
and vulnerable (as does Pakistan) and in the South there seems
to have been not so much a rout of the Taliban as a shuffling of
labels. Is the alienation of the country's largest ethnic group
something to ignore?