12th April 2014: “Rory Stewart argues that ‘the ability to recognise failure, and then to reform, is a defining mark of a serious country”. Over the past seven years, the UK has suffered two conspicuous military setbacks. The first came in Basra in 2007, where after four years of post-Saddam occupation our troops withdrew to the airbase and left the city in the hands of a sectarian militia, the Mehdi Army…Now, in Helmand, the ‘job’ is left undone in large part because no one defined the job in the first place. As for the casus belli, let’s shelve the al-Qa’ida argument (not a major threat there anyway) and the delusion that the Taliban had a single head to be struck off….Afghan civilian fatalities now probably exceed 15,000 since December 2001, when ISAF troops began operations under UN resolution 1386. In Helmand, Nato forces may have been responsible for more than 540, a number in excess of the deaths they have suffered. The British have paid compensation for 249. Those figures come not from some frothing peacenik but from the remarkable Frank Ledwidge – an intelligence officer with previous stints in Kosovo and Iraq, ‘justice adviser’ in Helmand, and the military analyst who has emerged as the dauntless Cassandra of this brace of ill-starred conflicts. He calculates that the Afghan adventure, which lasted for as long as two Great Wars, will cost Britain £40bn – enough to fund a working lifetime for 1,000 nurses. In the meantime, to those 448 grieving families in Britain we can add several hundred amputees, thousands more with life-changing injuries – and the immeasurable suffering of post-traumatic stress victims. The failure is in no way theirs.” Boyd Tonkin in the Independent, April 11 2014
16th March 2014: “Britain has now reached a major milestone in the drawdown from Afghanistan as it works towards withdrawing all combat troops by the end of the year.A total of 448 UK forces personnel have died in the country since the conflict began in 2001 – and more than 5,000 still remain there…Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: ‘The handover and closure of our bases across Helmand underlines the progress UK Forces have made to increase security and stability across the province but also to build up the capability of the Afghan forces who will carry that work forward. ’Those service personnel who have served in Lashkar Gah and Lashkar Gah Durai and at MOB Price as part of successive UK brigades have made a huge contribution to the campaign which has safeguarded our national security at home. Daily Mail, 16 March 2014
Vali Nasr: “The US is leaving Afghanistan with neither victory not a political settlement….When America decided to leave the region, it didn’t need Pakistan. Afghanistan is fading from the headlines and securing South-Asia is not on the frontburner of US foreign policy as it was in 2009 unless Karzai creates a huge spectacle. Afghanistan is on page 15 of a newspaper. We are no longer attached with a live crisis that keeps the Secretary of State up at night.” Dawn.com, 21 Feb 2014
” …describing the Taliban as ‘brothers’ and America as ‘rivals’, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said: ‘The mission, in terms of bringing security, has not been successful, particularly in Helmand.” 2 Feb 2014
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, “Nato in Afghanistan, with Britain in a lead role, was a mercenary army dragooned by the US into helping avenge the security lapse of 9/11. It was a war of choice that has killed tens of thousands of people, while not increasing Britain’s security one jot. It was more a 19th-century gesture, fought for little other reason than to show the muscle of western military might when Nato had little else to do.” 17 Jan 2014
Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, “After 12 years, £390bn, and countless dead, we leave poverty, fraud – and the Taliban in Afghanistan…The Taliban has not been crushed, operates in all parts of the country and, in provinces like Helmand, is poised to take over as US and British troops depart. Even with the backing of foreign troops, Afghan government control often ends a couple of kilometres outside the district capital. The extra 30,000 US troops sent as part of the surge in US troop numbers in 2010-11, which brought their total to 101,000 at peak deployment, have had little long-term impact. 12 Jan 2014
Anatol Lieven in the New York Review of Books: “…after the initial debacle of the dreadfully-planned British intervention in Helmand starting in 2006, the US and British military effort there was not the exercise in “plowing the sea” that has sometimes been portrayed. To the contrary, during the first two years of the “surge,” the Taliban were in fact driven back a long way, their attacks greatly diminished, and the extent of their control even in their former heartlands significantly reduced. Losses to US and British forces were severe, but the campaign did achieve its immediate objectives….
And if you want to move from science fiction to Alice in Wonderland, ask yourself this: how has it been possible to bring all that stuff in by road through areas of Pakistan controlled largely by the Pakistani Taliban, allied to the Afghan Taliban—areas from which Pakistani Taliban have launched innumerable attacks on Pakistani forces? Why have there been so few attacks, and those few (to judge by circumstantial evidence) only when the Pakistani military wants to send a message to Washington? The answer appears to be that the Taliban tax these NATO convoys as they tax all other trade in the region: Obtaining tax revenues from mineral water, fruit juice, hamburgers, and other NATO necessities that do them no harm at all is, it turns out, far more advantageous than interrupting our supply routes. In other words, all these years NATO has actually been subsidizing the Taliban’s war effort. NYRB, 7 January 2014
John Hilary of War on Want, writing to the Guardian: “Defence secretary Philip Hammond’s claim that British drones have killed only four civilians to date is meaningless, since his government has repeatedly stated that it does not keep any count of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. His assertion that drone strikes against Taliban fighters are somehow designed to protect British civilians stretches credibility even further.”
Owen Bowcott in the Guardian, “There is a delay of up to 40 seconds between the moment an RAF pilot sitting in Lincolnshire presses the button to release a Reaper’s Hellfire missile and its impact on the ground in Helmand 4,500 miles away…RAF Waddington has been the focus of anti-drone protests. Six people, included two priests, were found guilty of causing criminal damage earlier this year after cutting the fence and breaking in.”
Afghanistan met General Guthrie‘s ‘just war’ criteria! Sir John Keegan, military historian, thought ‘orientals’ preferred treachery and deceit as the best ways to overcome an enemy! Veteran Catholic economist donning Neo-Con plumage, Michael Novak, rationalised “that a limited and carefully conducted war to bring about a change of regime in Afghanistan was morally obligatory.”
AlJazeera on Cameron’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ statement on Afghanistan (17 December): “Opposition Labour politician Paul Flynn, a prominent critic of the Afghan war, attacked Cameron, highlighting the number of British soldiers killed or injured and the financial costs.’Mission Accomplished’: 446 dead, 2,000 grievously injured, uncounted Afghan dead, 40 billion pounds UK cost, crook Karzai rules, drugs rampant,” he said on Twitter. Labour’s defence spokesman, Vernon Coaker MP, said it was too soon to suggest the Afghan mission was over when British soldiers were still fighting the Taliban.AlJazeera, 18 December 2013
Jon Boone in the Guardian: ….Although the amount of protection money that insurgents (Taliban) receive from security companies employed to guard Nato supply convoys has fallen as foreign forces close bases, the report says 2014 is expected to be a bumper year as the alliance ships huge amounts of equipment out of the country. [The Guardian, 18 December 2013]
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent: …
David Cameron didn’t get too excited about the execution but did vigorously defend the “incredible spirit, courage and history of the Royal Marines”. Not all our soldiers are “heroes”. That’s just cant and spin. On Friday, Marine A was found guilty of murdering a wounded prisoner, a verdict which shows there is still some honour left in the armed forces. The top brass knows such base acts are exploited by recruiters to terrorism. Lord Guthrie, former army Chief of Staff, wants Marine A severely punished. It’s a good call, but still propaganda. The truth is that Western armies and governments know they are not answerable to any overseer. They do what they damn well please….[Independent on Sunday, 10 Nov 2013]
24th October 2013
A Royal Marine sergeant was caught on camera ‘executing’ a severely injured Taliban prisoner before telling his comrades: ‘I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention,’ a court martial heard yesterday. As the insurgent lay stricken with horrendous wounds from a helicopter strike, the 37-year-old commando pointed his 9mm pistol at the man’s chest and pulled the trigger.Footage of the alleged cold-blooded killing in an Afghan cornfield was captured in graphic video inadvertently filmed by one of the Marines on a helmet-mounted camera. Ian Drury in the Daily Mail
8th October 2013
Karzai said: “The United States and Nato have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us and that is why we are taking issue of the BSA strenuously in the negotiations right now,” Karzai said.
“They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes,” Karzai said, using some of his harshest language to date against the US-led military coalition. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/08/hamid-karzai-afghanistan
4th October 2013
The storming of Camp Bastion, the headquarters of British forces in Afghanistan, was, by any yardstick, a success and a great propaganda coup for the Taliban. Two US Marines were killed, adding to the large number of Western forces who had lost their lives, but more significantly for the auditing of the war, almost an entire squadron of the US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jets was destroyed at a cost of $200m – the largest single loss of aircraft in the current Afghan conflict. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/camp-bastion-attack-was-a-coup-for-the-taliban-that-need-not-have-happened-8859905.html
10th September 2013
Afghan authorities on Sunday accused NATO forces of killing 16 civilians, including four children, in a drone missile strike in the country’s Kunar province, which borders Pakistan.
10th July 2013
Richard Norton Taylor in the Guardian: ” “By arriving with insufficient force, aligning themselves with local corrupt power-holders, relying on firepower to keep insurgents at bay and targeting the poppy crop, the British made matters worse. Far from securing Helmand, British forces alienated the population, mobilised local armed resistance and drew in foreign fighters seeking jihad.”
They [Theo Farrell and Antonio Giustozzi] describe British troops as “blindly ignorant of the local politics underpinning [the insurgency]“.
4th July 2013
Sixteen people have been killed in north-west Pakistan in one of the most lethal CIA drone strikes for many months, according to a government official.
18th June 2013
Dan Roberts and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian: “The US is to open direct talks with Taliban leaders within days, it was revealed on Tuesday, after Washington agreed to drop a series of preconditions that have previously held back negotiations over the future of Afghanistan.”
30th May 2013
Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian: “…Ledwidge, who has also been a civilian adviser to the British government in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, says Helmand is no more stable now than when thousands of British troops were deployed there in 2006. Opium production that fell under the Taliban, is increasing, fuelling corruption and the coffers of warlords.”
30th May 2013
Haroon Siddique, Andrew Sparrow and Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian: “…Philip Hammond said that around 90 prisoners had been held at Camp Bastion for up to a year because Britain was concerned that they might be mistreated in Afghan custody. …hil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, who is acting for eight of the men, said the government had chosen not to train the Afghan authorities to treat people lawfully and humanely. “This is a secret facility that has been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they have kept secret, that parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously, when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan, have never been told about – completely off the radar,” he told the BBC. “It is reminiscent of the public’s awakening that there was a Guantánamo Bay. And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law.”
29th May 2013
Seamus Milne in the Guardian: “..Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven’t been more terror attacks….”
3rd May 2013
Mark Steel in the Independent: …At the time of the initial invasion in 2001, Tony Blair insisted that one of the reasons for occupying Afghanistan was because “the Taliban are causing the deaths of young British people who buy their drugs on the streets”. But clearly some people misunderstood what Blair meant. They were saying that the Afghan heroin trade wasn’t fulfilling its potential, and with the right management they could treble it….
2nd May 2012
Con Cohglin in the Evening Standard: With the deaths of another three British soldiers in Afghanistan this week, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the conclusions the young Winston Churchill reached about the futility of waging war there. “Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Militarily it is an open question, and politically it is a blunder.”…his summary of the British effort in the 19th century eerily echoes the sentiments many British soldiers must now feel as they seek to wind down operations in Afghanistan…
29th April 2013
John Quelly in CommonDreams.org: Confirming what many policy experts have known for some time, a New York Times headline in Monday’s print edition describes how the most corrupting influence within the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai is not innate cronyism or tribal favoritism, but rather the suitcases full of US cash delivered to the Presidential Palace over the last decade by the CIA.
27th April 2013
Fatima Manji, Channel 4: “The RAF has begun piloting drones used in Afghanistan from UK soil for the first time. This is by no means the UK’s first foray into the world of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in warfare, but in the past the vehicles have been piloted offshore…Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed drones were being used to continue the ‘deeply unpopular war on terror’ with no public scrutiny.”
16th April 2013
Rob Evans in the Guardian: A British soldier is under investigation for murder after four Afghans aged 12 to 18 were shot dead at close range in the head and neck in a family home, it has emerged.
12th April 2013
Lucy Morgan Edwards in the Guardian: …The facts on the ground include the militias the west has set up in the countryside in a desperate attempt to shore up the barely legitimate Karzai regime. …Using the maxim “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, the US military took sides in a continuing civil war and co-opted the strongmen of the Northern Alliance. In theory, this was to reduce the need for American “boots on the ground”.
They were unpopular, having committed war crimes during the civil war. But instead of sidelining them, the US and UK re-empowered them with cash and weapons and made them the allies’ sole reference points…”
11th April 2013
Richard Norton-Taylor and Sam Jones in the Guardian: “[Defence Secretary] Hammond told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the UK had intervened in Afghanistan to protect its national security and had never intended to stay for a protracted period.
‘Afghanistan is an incredibly complex society; a multiethnic society that was very fragmented before we started,’ he said. ‘Our ability to influence outcomes is very limited’…Former British ambassadors to Afghanistan told the Commons committee that Nato’s understanding of the Taliban was limited, that ‘corruption and abuse of power was intrinsic in Afghan society’ and that the country’s economy depended heavily on the drugs trade.”
7th April 2013
Sunday Telegraph, citing AP: A Nato air strike killed 11 children and a woman during heavy fighting in a mountainous part of eastern Afghanistan in an incident that has incensed local officials
4th April 2013
BBC: A Nato air strike in Afghanistan has killed four policemen and a civilian, officials say. The air strike took place in the eastern Ghazni province, where Nato planes had been called in for support. A spokesman for the provincial governor told the BBC the policemen were in civilian clothes and may have been mistaken for Taliban fighters.
2nd April 2013
Emma Graham-Harrrison & Julian Borger: “But as western generals and politicians who once dreamed of crushing the Taliban militarily have reconciled themselves to the idea of negotiating instead, the insurgents themselves have remained more elusive, attacking top government negotiators and refusing to publicly embrace talks.”
31st March 2013
Agencies report in the Guardian: “A Nato helicopter has reportedly killed two children during an attack on Taliban fighters.The helicopter opened fire as it supported Afghan soldiers near the town of Ghazni in south-east Afghanistan, despite president Hamid Karzai forbidding troops to call for foreign air support.”
25th March 2013
The Guardian reports: “he US secretary of state, John Kerry, has flown into Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to see Hamid Karzai amid concerns that the Afghan president may be jeopardising progress in the war against extremism with anti-American rhetoric.”
11th March 2013
AP in NYT: “Karzai ordered U.S. special operations forces to leave Wardak province, just outside the Afghan capital, because of allegations that Afghans working with the U.S. commandos were involved in abusive behaviour. Karzai gave them two weeks to leave, and the deadline expired Sunday. On Sunday, Karzai accused U.S. forces of working with the Taliban to stage two suicide bombings over the weekend during the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. In a speech, Karzai said the Americans want to scare Afghans into allowing them to stay.”
17th Feb 2013
“I will issue a decree [on Sunday] that no Afghan security forces, in any circumstances can ask for the foreigners’ planes for carrying out operations on our homes and villages,” Mr Karzai said in a speech at the Afghan National Military Academy in Kabul…Most of the 10 civilians killed in the 13 February air strike on Kunar were women and children.
16th Jan 2013
Michael Biesecker, AP: “A U.S. Marine has pleaded guilty to the bulk of the charges against him for urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and then posing for photos with the corpses.”
14th Jan 2013
Nick Hopkins in the Guardian: “Afghanistan now has two years to run and the political will for the campaign has clearly departed stage left. The issue for the military of course is legacy, residual footprint, getting out with good grace and not being seen to have cut and run, to have sacrificed such blood and treasure to no avail.”
13th Jan 2013
Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: “Since the drone war began in earnest in 2008, there has been no decline in Taliban or al-Qaida performance attributable to it. Any let-up in recruitment is merely awaiting Nato’s departure. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has called the attacks ‘in no way justifiable’. The Pakistan government, at whose territory they are increasingly directed, has withdrawn all permission”.
2nd Jan 2013
Julian Borger in the Guardian: Afghan attempts to impose stricter vetting of recruits has had mixed results. Brigadier Stuart Skeates, the British deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Helmand, believes the problem and its solution may lie deeper.
“Part of the reason why we have had a number of insider attacks, as they’re called, is because the soldiers and policemen are susceptible to Taliban messaging; maybe not directly, but they hear stuff on the radio, on the TV,” he said. “They hear anecdotes from home. They are susceptible to local mullahs, both at home and here, and are in many cases very suggestible.”