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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not in our name?

The Prime Minister faces some major challenges on the foreign policy front if this poll reported in the Independent on Sunday is anything to go by. They say that seven out of 10 Britons believe that there should be a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

They tell us that a report by Oxfam reveals how women and children in Afghanistan are bearing the brunt of the ongoing conflict, undermining the international community's claims that they are the very people being helped by the West's activities. The paper suggests that the contents of the report will add to mounting concerns among the public, and in some quarters of the military and the House of Commons, that the US and the UK are fighting an ill-conceived and ill-judged war that has left as many as 32,000 Afghans dead and 235,000 displaced.

If Gordon Brown wants to find one of those concerned citizens then he need look no further than his own cabinet. According to yesterday's Times the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, became the first Cabinet minister to openly question the Government’s strategy. He called for greater clarity over the mission, saying: “We need to get a grip on it.”

The Times says that although he disagrees with the former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells who believes that troops should be withdrawn, Mr. Hain says that the public will not tolerate a long campaign: “My timetable is this: we can’t be there for ever and we can’t leave now,” he says. “When people starting putting 20 years on it, that is unacceptable. I’m not going to give a limit but we don’t want a long time frame.”

Mr Hain echoes concerns expressed in The Times last week by Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon about the credibility of the Afghan Government after a rigged election, and warns that corruption risks undermining the military campaign. “You need a legitimate system of government, we don’t have that at moment and it has to be sorted,” he says. “The whole credibility of our attempt to create a democratic system of politics is under threat if there isn’t a principle of good government embedded.”

Peter Hain, at least, appears to be listening to public opinion because what this military intervention needs now is a rethink on its objectives, the methods being used, the logistical support for troops and some form of exit strategy.
Paddy's argument, if I recall correctly, is that we should engage with local leaders rather than the central government, which is discredited.

My own view is that our involvement with Afghanistan should not end with the military. A stable civil society is dependent on more than policing.
We cannot win this war there, it's not a country, it small villages which rules a few hundred miles, when it wants more land it kills, when it has to much it barters marries off daughters, it's not going to change for us, unless it's worth it to them money speaks to these people and not much else.
Frank - if you get a chance, watch "Charlie Wilson's War"

Very good insight at what should have happened at the end of the Russian Invasion. Charlie Wilson wanted to build schools and hospitals to modernise Afghan Society.
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