Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Voters turn against war in Afghanistan.

I find it fascinating that both the US and the UK governments should announce that they are willing to talk with the Taliban at the very moment when UK support for the war dissipates, with a majority of people polled stating that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.

A majority of the public believes that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and British troops should be pulled out immediately, a poll for The Independent has found.

The growing opposition to the military offensive emerged as another two UK soldiers were killed, bringing the number of deaths so far this month to 22. Gordon Brown declared yesterday that Operation Panther's Claw – the five-week onslaught on Taliban positions in Helmand province – had been a success.

But today's ComRes survey suggests that the public mood is switching rapidly against the war – and that people do not believe it is worth sending reinforcements to Afghanistan.

More than half of voters (52 per cent) want troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan straight away, with 43 per cent disagreeing. Opposition to the military action is even stronger among women.

By a margin of nearly two-to-one, the public believes that the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily. Fifty-eight per cent view the war as "unwinnable", with 31 per cent disagreeing.

There is overwhelming agreement – by 75 per cent to 16 per cent – that British troops in Afghanistan lack the equipment they require to perform their role safely.

Despite that, 60 per cent of people do not think more troops and resources should be dispatched to the war zone. Just over one third (35 per cent) are in favour of reinforcements being sent in.

The problem with the war in Afghanistan is that most of us have lost sight of what it is supposed to be for. It began as a search for bin Laden and then morphed into a war against the Taliban, the very people Blair had said could remain in power if they only handed bin Laden over.

But, no matter what the war aims, it's very hard to believe - eight years later - that there can be some dramatic change on the ground which suddenly reverses the pattern of the last eight.

Brown continues to insist that progress is being made and that this war is ensuring the safety of Britain's streets.

Mr Brown yesterday announced the first phase of Panther's Claw had been a success, clearing out Taliban insurgents from a wide area of Helmand ahead of next month's Afghanistan elections.

He acknowledged the "tragic human cost" among UK troops who were killed or injured, but insisted it had not been in vain. "What we have actually done is make land secure for about 100,000 people," the Prime Minister claimed.

"What we've done is push back the Taliban – and what we've done also is to start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain."

There's a fundamental flaw to that logic. It was the government of Tony Blair which insisted that there was no link between the war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks which took place on 7-7.

So, Brown is now insisting that this link does, indeed, exist when he argues that fighting in Afghanistan is ensuring Britain's safety.

It's that lack of intellectual consistency which is undermining support for this war. Very few of us remain convinced that it can be won. And our politicians are not making a consistent case as to why we should keep sacrificing young British lives for what most of us conceive as a lost cause.

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