Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eight British soldiers killed in bloodiest day of Afghan mission.

What the Hell is happening in Afghanistan? The news from that place for the British Army over the past ten days has been awful.

Ministers were bracing themselves for an increasingly bloody conflict in Afghanistan as it became clear that a further eight British soldiers have been killed in 24 hours, the worst combat death toll since the war began.

Five troops were killed in a single incident after they were caught in a bomb blast while on foot patrol. Officials confirmed that 15 troops have been killed in the last 10 days.

Every single day recently the news from Afghanistan seems to be worse. I can't work out what is causing such an astonishing spike in the death rate.

Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, said the conflict was "winnable" but warned there would be no early end to the fighting. "I do believe that we are making progress and I do believe that this is winnable, but it is not winnable in the short term," he told the BBC. "We are going to have to … get behind our armed forces who are doing the brave fighting."

The day began with the confirmation of two deaths in Helmand province the previous day: one from 4th Battalion The Rifles by an explosion while on foot patrol; the second from the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, during a battle with insurgents near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. Later, a third soldier from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was confirmed as having been killed when the Viking armoured vehicle in which he was travelling was hit.

Then there was worse news as it was confirmed that five troops had died and others were injured in a bomb blast. The deaths took the total number of fatalities in Afghanistan to 184, five more than the total lost in the Iraq conflict.

Ainsworth's comment confuses me. What does he mean when he states this conflict is not winnable "in the short term"? We have been there for almost eight years. In what sense can any of this be considered "short term?"

We have now been in Afghanistan much longer than we spent defeating Hitler. And, like most people watching from the wings, I am unsure by what measure one is going to claim victory.

Obviously, like everyone else, I am aware of the importance of defeating al Qaeda in that place; although I am often disturbed by the way al Qaeda and the Taliban have become interchangeable terms, as if both things are the same.

My biggest problem with this conflict is that I can't see the end game. I can't see the point at which we say, "job done". I no longer know what the final objective is, other than some vague notion that we hand Karzai a democracy where the war lords and the Taliban no longer control huge swathes of that country.

And can we really say that we are nearer to achieving that objective than we were six or seven years ago?
However, in a withering denunciation of the war strategy, former UK ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock said it was “cruel” to send soldiers into an open-ended war with no clear permanent solution. He said: “What we need to create a stable Afghanistan is a whole host of things that are not happening. It looks cruel for our troops to be there without an end in sight.”

That's my problem with this war. I can't see the end game anywhere in sight. Ainsworth constantly tells us that "this war is winnable", but that's not the same thing as telling us that we are winning. And it sure doesn't feel like we are at this moment in time.

Click title for full article.

No comments: