UK role in Afghanistan

#1
I am aware that it is "not ours to reason why" but, as someone no longer in uniform and as a taxpayer and concerned citizen, I am wondering what on earth we are doing in Afghanistan and at the scope for loss of further British lives for no strategic gain.

This is what the Secretary of State reckons we are doing:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5070468.stm

Afghan rebels 'must be defeated'

Defence Secretary Des Browne has said Afghanistan should not be allowed to return to a "haven for terrorism".

Mr Browne, who is visiting the country, made the call following the death of a British soldier killed after a battle with suspected Taleban forces.

The soldier was the first to be killed in action since UK troops were sent to southern Helmand Province in May.

Mr Browne sent his sympathies to the family, saying it was an incident of "great sorrow".

Some 3,300 British troops are acting as part of a Nato-led peacekeeping force.

Two other British soldiers were also badly wounded in the incident.

We must achieve our objective of making this a better country not only for the Afghan people, but also we mustn't allow it to become a haven for terrorism again

Mr Browne said: "I wish to express my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those killed and injured in this attack.

"My thoughts are with them and those troops continuing their difficult task of helping to ensure Afghanistan remains secure.

"Along with about 40 other countries, we're here in Afghanistan determined to make this a safer place for the people of Afghanistan to live in."

Mr Browne also said the country should not be allowed to return to being a place of refuge for terrorists.

"We must achieve our objective of making this a better country not only for the Afghan people, but also we mustn't allow it to become a haven for terrorism again," he said.

"There are people out there after three decades of conflict who are determined to stop us doing that; they'll deploy any violence that they can to stop us doing that but they can't be allowed to succeed."

The Ministry of Defence said a mobile patrol was engaged in a firefight in Sangeen, a small town taken from Taleban control earlier this year by Afghan security forces backed by US air power.

British Apache helicopter gunships were called in to support the troops and Afghan sources said several Taleban soldiers were killed in the fighting.

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood, who is in Afghanistan, said Taleban fighters have been taking refuge in the surrounding countryside following the town's capture in February.

"The Taleban have since retreated to the hills but pose a constant threat to coalition forces," he said.

"What British commanders are trying to prepare people to accept is that not only is it going to be difficult over the next few weeks and months, but it may take quite a long period of time to make a difference here."

Meanwhile, a coalition spokesman said a bomb hit a US armoured vehicle in a village in Ghazni province in the east of the country on Sunday, after a shoot-out with suspected Taleban fighters.

Elsewhere in Ghazni, gunmen shot dead three people on Saturday night, officials said. In Kandahar province four road workers were also killed.
The defeat - or containment - of terrorism appears to be a worthy aim. However, the British force - ARRC lead nation is some 3,300 soldiers. In Northern Ireland on 1 May - allegedly not a hotbed of insurgency - there were 11,000 troops stationed. (BBC website)

Moreover, our leaders appear to be confused as to what the role of British forces are. According to "Dr" John Reid, on 4 May, the role of ISAF/ARRC was to
extend the authority of the Afghan Government to the South of the country.
http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/D...ionCorpsTakesOverNatoMissionInAfghanistan.htm

Th President of Afghanistan (or rather Kabul) Hamed Karzai has stated:
We have two options: either we have to finish poppy or it will finish us.
Bliar has said:
The Taliban regime are funded in large parts on the drugs trade - 90% of all heroin sold in Britain originates from Afghanistan. Stopping that trade is directly in our interests. The arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for with the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets. That is another part of their regime that we should seek to destroy.
http://www.sundayherald.com/ (29 January)

Previous analysis by the UN indicated that the Taliban had eradicated over 90% of poppy production in 2000.
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=144412006

The NATO Secretary General has said
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan.
Note that Afghanistan is not a member of the North Atlantic Council.
http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2006/06-june/e0608a.htm

In addition to the ARRC/ISAF operation, there are 20,000 US troops (and supporting assets) running around on Operation Enduring Freedom, unaccountable to the Kabul regime or ISAF. They have been bombing as far afield as Pakistan, and the recent traffic incident/shooting party/riot demonstrates their scope for destabilising the situation.

There has been little debate and no vote in Parliament on this deployment, there is no overall strategic aim, troop numbers are wholly inadequate. The recent tragic death of a British soldier highlights the urgency of public debate on what the UK is doing in Afghanistan. The worst possible situation would be if UK forces were deployed out of the public eye on a futile operation with no strategic aim or end-state/exit strategy, inadequate resources and a steady stream of casualties. Given past performances by our political leaders, this is the most likely situation.

Note: I debated withholding this post based on the recent tragic death, but we must not be deterred from debating UK foreign and military policy which always have an inevitable cost - we must hold the government accountable.
 
#2
I hesitate to add, if you witheld debate on the grounds that it might appear insensitive in the aftermath of a Brisih soldier's death, you might well find yourself mute. Your post made several pertinant points. The two which I hold up to be central to any debate are "what is the mission" and, should a clear mission be identified, "do I have sufficient assets to achieve the mission's aim?" In the absence of one or both, continuance could be construed as political diktat overpowering military judgement.
 
#3
We are there because the U.S. wants us there.
Having a 'coalition' adds respectability to the American actions in Afghanistan.
Also, I loved the bit by Browne about the fear of it becoming ''a haven for terrorism again, There are people out there after three decades of conflict who are determined to stop us doing that.'' Haven't any of his advisors told him that these terrorists spent a long part of that time fighting the Russians - with our support and aid.
Of course, they were 'freedom fighters' then. Unfortunately, when free to choose they chose the Taleban - suddenly they became 'terrorists'......
We, of all people, should know how the Afghans hate foreigner invaders and love a fight - our mere 3,000 soldiers are nothing more than targets pushed into the firing line by career politicians.
 
#4
I believe the most important reason for us being there is to try, Christ knows how, and stop the opium trade. The drugs being moved into Europe and the West are doing greater harm than the terrorist can do with bomb and bullets. Not many seem to notice or care but the fact of the matter is those drugs create crime and corruption at all levels of society, which is almost endemic. But to just destroy the poppy fields would deprive the 'good' people of a living, for which the terorrist also make a nice income. A truly sh1t state of affairs. I personnaly believe us being there is a better cause than Iraq and my condolences go to the family for their loss. RIP fella.
 
#5
There has been a lot of mention of the opium trade, and (I am sorry for lack of quotes) many times I have heard various politicians justifying Britain's involvment by saying operations in Afghanistan are preventing drugs from reaching mainland Britain....Am I being incredibly naive in thinking that rather than having the troops being put in such a difficult situation abroad they could be better used operating alongside the organisations operating on mainland Britain to prevent the stuff coming in. I don't see it as being selfish to have our own soldiers protect our borders from within...
 
#6
Our forces are there because el presidente Bliar wants to appear the big statesman , while risking other peoples lives of course.
If terrorists / freedom fighters really want to hit a target they need look no further than the family living at 10 Downing Street , London
 
#7
remington said:
I believe the most important reason for us being there is to try, Christ knows how, and stop the opium trade. The drugs being moved into Europe and the West are doing greater harm than the terrorist can do with bomb and bullets. Not many seem to notice or care but the fact of the matter is those drugs create crime and corruption at all levels of society, which is almost endemic. But to just destroy the poppy fields would deprive the 'good' people of a living, for which the terorrist also make a nice income. A truly sh1t state of affairs. I personnaly believe us being there is a better cause than Iraq and my condolences go to the family for their loss. RIP fella.
The UK could ask the Taleban. They banned opium for about 1-2 years around 2002 -ish and opium seizure rates plumetted.
 
#8
Off topic, but I suppose the topic question has been answered anyway. Also maybe there's an idea of 'stop the Taliban coming back'.*
Remington, a rather weird, yet viable solution to this would be make drugs legal. Not all drugs, as many are harmful, for example one in every however many people just takes poorly to ecstasy. However compare Ecstasy to Alcohol. Alcohol can make people aggressive, it causes permanent liver damage and many deaths on the roads. There's no denying that an E would make someone dangerous on the road, but if you told them to get out of the car they almost definately would. Would you rather be hugged or bottled?

The opium trade is a problem, so if it's a problem why not regulate it? We know it's dangerous, we also know the risk of AIDs and so on. If needles are sold by chemists with doses of heroin then that'd save a few people, or if high purity herion is used then it can be smoked [I think, can anyone verify that?] and that removes the risk of needles all together. Or why don't we just not use the end product at all and stick with smoking the Morphine based stage? (no surprise to hear it was the Dutch that invented that one).

Drugs are going to be taken, the prohibition proved that. We might as well make it as safe as possible, and at the same time give the Afghans a hand/ remove a need to fight them to 'stem the flow of drugs'.

*What effect did the removal of the Taliban actually have? We've all heard about how 'evil' they were, but does anybody know the actual effect of sending troops into Afghanistan?
 
#9
RE the Opium trade. I think you should note this piece from MrPVRd's contribution above....
''Previous analysis by the UN indicated that the Taliban had eradicated over 90% of poppy production in 2000. ''
 
#10
1 in 100 Scots are addicted to heroin, with the UK-wide figure a little lower.

Why should the most productive members of society risk their necks to try and save ne'er-do-wells from their own fecklessness?

As for terrorism - the majority of the World Trade Centre hijackers were Saudis, a nation that will be equipped with the very expensive Eurofighter before our own Royal Air Force.
 
#12
An Afghan farmer will receive a very small payment for his opium crop. What is the cost, I wonder, of buying in the annual crop of poppy when set against the cost of the current, predicted and I suspect increased deployment on HERRICK? Make this one facet of an integrated plan (attacking the distributors in the UK, attacking the supply line back across Europe, providing viable alternative crops within Afghanistan and, yes, supporting the Afghans in their fledgling attack on the warlords)? But please, don't allow the fatuous utterances of the now Home Secretary to have any weight: we are not, we should not be in Afghanistan to "expand the authority of the Karzai government". Having been part of the initial deployment into Afghanistan (and for those who are about to say, it was not with Younghusband.), we had at least a simple (to state) mission and a mandate from the Afghanis to do what we did. We now have a plethora of supposed missions ( Yes, pedants, I know you can have one aim with several objectives served within it) and, if we are to apply any or all of them successfully, inadequate resources to do so. At the risk of sounding like Cassandra, we will not be able to succeed, in anything but tactical terms, in Afghanistan by military means, therefore we will have to identify and implement an alternative strategy - and to do so before the casualty rate within Friendly Forces reduces the public perception of this campaign to the same level of antipathy as has been the case with Iraq.
 
#13
Along the same lines of amour_de_moutons but a little more drastic and probably more workable. We buy the opium from the farmers at a higher rate than they would get from the drugs lords. We now control the supply, we can tax it (the new tobacco), and we could guarantee to buy from the farmers food crops to sell on to local markets.

We would only buy from farmers who have a 50/50 food/opium crop and will pay as if all crops were opium. Then over a number of years the subsidy on food would go up and the as they reduce the opium.

It would be a lot cheaper than the money spent on fighting the drugs trade and it would produce tangible results.

But our politicians do not have the balls to make such a bold policy and the Christian fundamentalist in the US would not let the US do such a corrupt concept. Prohibition is the best way!!! It is bad now getting into the US could you imagine what it would be like if we legalised Drugs?
 
#14
Scabster_Mooch said:
remington said:
I believe the most important reason for us being there is to try, Christ knows how, and stop the opium trade. The drugs being moved into Europe and the West are doing greater harm than the terrorist can do with bomb and bullets. Not many seem to notice or care but the fact of the matter is those drugs create crime and corruption at all levels of society, which is almost endemic. But to just destroy the poppy fields would deprive the 'good' people of a living, for which the terorrist also make a nice income. A truly sh1t state of affairs. I personnaly believe us being there is a better cause than Iraq and my condolences go to the family for their loss. RIP fella.
The UK could ask the Taleban. They banned opium for about 1-2 years around 2002 -ish and opium seizure rates plumetted.
They did that at the pointy end of a bayonet. Anyone who did it was sentenced to death under Sharia law. Once thy realised how much money the heroine trade brought in, they were right on the band wagon. As bent as the next man!
 
#15
Anbody care to guess how well Plan Colombia is going on the War on Drugs?

It's simple microeconomics. Reduce supply- market price rises, market price rises- more suppliers enter the marketplace to cash in. A wonderful stabilizing mechanism, really.

The only way you can win any war on drugs is to reduce demand. Of course, something else can be done to help- end agricultural subsidies in Europe and the US so that Afghani agriculture is competitive in world markets. If farmers can make a decent living raising food crops, many will be less inclined to produce opium.
 
#16
As rickshaw already said, the farmers on the ground don't make all that much money out of growing the poppies. It's only after they've been refined down and transported to the West that the real jump in profits is made. So why don't we just buy all their crops off of them at current market price, plus a premium of say 5 or 10%. We use part of it for legitimate medical purposes like processing it into painkillers and then burn the rest.

This immediately turns us from a bunch of foreign bastards telling the locals that they're no longer allowed to grow the one crop they use to feed their families into business partners and allies. Link it to a program of gradually reducing the poppy harvest with a phased in selection of alternative crops and supported programs over a number of years and I think it would go a lot easier.

Here's the opinion piece from The Times I read a week or so ago that got me thinking about this. Brings up some interesting points I think.
 
#17
Eradicating the poppy crop will only cause more support for the enemy. I would rather see the US buy up the entire poppy crop and then destroy it. The farmers make a living and we prevent the crop from being used in the illicit drug trade.
 
#18
"The only way you can win any war on drugs is to reduce demand"

Yes I'll buy that. The problem is the 'Trendy whatever of the western world' spending his megga bucks for 'Relaxation' regardless of consequense.
Where I live Drugs are always have been a 'Problem'. The low lifes at the bottom of the trade are occasional blown away 3,000 the other year, to much Tut Tutting of the 'Rights' comunity.
The men at the top are never ever troubled, the press know their names and have subtile ways of informing the readership. The trade can only prosper because of high level protection, Could this be the same in the Western Nations I ask myself.
Tom Poor Bloody Tom, 11,000 in quite NI and 3,000 in the hotbed of of a most expireanced and dediicate Fighter.
john
Poor Tom.
 
#19
From 'the Times' today... http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2222700,00.html
Liam Fox, Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “This mission is turning out to be far more dangerous than the public and backbenchers had been led to believe just a few weeks ago. The question now is, do we have sufficient forces to deal with what are going to be some savage attacks by the Taleban.”

Lord Garden, a Lib Dem peer and former assistant chief of defence staff, said: “We thought Afghanistan was going to be a model for Iraq . . . now we’re back in with more troops but spread thinly and they’re finding themselves in combat pretty frequently. The real question is, is this mission do-able?”
 
#20
....and this:- Time for a hard look at troops' role.
Foreign Editor's Briefing by Bronwen Maddox
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2222699,00.html

''it is the slipperiness of the definition of the mission that should create alarm. If that does not become clearer, Britain’s deployment in Afghanistan will look like Tony Blair’s excuse for beginning to leave Iraq, poorly disguised with wisps of 19th-century colonial memory and 21st-century development jargon. ''

''Compared with Iraq, Afghanistan has been peaceful in the past four years, but that is misleading. It lacks Iraq’s educated population, oil wealth and water, and its feudal divisions are at least as deep as Iraq’s Sunni-Shia rift.

The expanded role Britain has chosen to take on in Afghanistan is more poorly defined than that in Iraq, and even more open-ended.''

(Edited because I forgot to add link)
 

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