Monday 26 July 2010

Is there an Afghan Army?

I must confess that I am somewhat confused by all this talk about the Afghan army.  The good news we are told, is that they will soon, or at least by 2014, be ready to take over the job of defending and securing their country.  And our boys and girls can at last come home.   Now, am I alone in finding something fishy about all this?  We are expected to believe that after nine years, yes folks, nine years of occupation by the UK, USA and sundry other countries, we are only now beginning to train an Afghan army?  
This all seems to me yet another PR ploy by the hapless politicians and generals in charge, (in charge?) of this mess.  I for one find it simply incredible that the Afghans need anyone to train them in how to fight.  From all one hears about the place this is one of the most warlike countries in the world.  They have a serious and lengthy history of expelling invaders, going all the way back to Alexander the Great.  And more recently they successfully resisted the Soviet occupation to such an extent that the Soviets gave up and left.
Currently of course a minority of Afghans, the Taliban, are doing a pretty good job of thwarting the might of the UK and USA in the south of the country.  Depending on which reporters you read they may even be winning this war. Over 320 UK soldiers have been killed since 2001, the majority in the last two years.  Recent research has in fact found that the rate at which British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan is double the rate which is officially classified as “major combat”.    Yet, to the best of my knowledge, the Taliban have never had the benefit of training by Western forces.
According to our media the Taliban only represent a small minority of Afghans.  In which case why does the non Taliban majority need us at all.  If this majority is united and committed in their opposition to rule by the Taliban, then as the majority they will be victorious in any fight.  On the other hand if this majority is not united in their opposition to the Taliban, then no amount of training by the UK will make any difference.  This non Taliban majority has had as much experience of fighting - against the Soviets for example, as the Taliban so what is the problem?
Methinks the whole Afghan adventure was and is a complete disaster.  Undertaken for no valid reason whatsoever, badly planned and badly led.  The lack of any political leadership in Afghanistan where the Karzai government has clearly failed to win popular support means that there is no united or committed opposition to the Taliban.  Just a collection of assorted regional warlords, each out for his own best interests.  
And in the West, the whole episode has once again shown up the complete ignorance of our political and military leadership.   Neither has demonstrated any knowledge whatsoever of Afghanistan, its peoples, its cultures or even its history.  Yet with the usual arrogance of our Imperial past we blithely step in, all in the name of protecting “our” interests and rights.  Never mind the wholesale destruction of communities and the thousands of Afghans dead and maimed.   “We” can do whatever we like - “we” have the power.  At least as long the USA is along with us.  The only protection third world countries have against the imperial pretensions of the USA and the UK is to get nuclear weapons as quickly as possible.  This seems to be the real and disturbing message from the twin disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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