Why is the UK in Afghanistan?

#1
From a liberal blog in the US:


Why is the UK in Afghanistan?


As Britain sends more troops to Afghanistan, a statement that it is 'not Berkshire' lays bare the contradictions in our foreign policy

Brigadier Buster Howes, head of overseas operations at the Ministry of Defence, spoke in a Chatham House/Radio 4 panel discussion on Afghanistan last week. But if people were expecting "the British Petraeus" or some tactical masterclass on counterinsurgency or new ideas about winning in Afghanistan, they were disappointed.

Instead, Howes explained the British mission as "not engaged in some misguided project to create Berkshire in the Hindu Kush". Later, when asked about the legitimacy of the recent Afghan elections, he said: "It wasn't perfect, yes, it's not Berkshire. But we're fighting for our own security."

Eric Joyce, former PPS to the defence secretary, responded: "I can't imagine anything more flippant than telling us that Afghanistan isn't Berkshire. It so preposterously simplifies the issue." Indeed the metaphor was ill-chosen for a number of reasons, not least that it forgets the real Afghan-Berkshire connection that on 27 July 1880, during the second Afghan war, 800 soldiers from the Berkshire foot regiment fought against 40,000 Afghan troops in west Kandahar. In what has been dubbed one of the bloodiest battles in British military history, 286 died and 32 were wounded.

In addition to poor historical awareness, the brigadier laid bare the contradictions in Britain's current Afghan policy. The Berkshire line was not a one-off; clearly all spokesmen on Afghanistan have been briefed on the line of reducing expectations. In August, after taking command of the British army, General Sir David Richards announced that "we must remember ... that we are not trying to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland". While this week in the Times, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Thomson wrote about how the 2 Rifles had helped Sangin's bazaar grow larger, while reminding readers that "it is definitely not Bluewater".

The remarks do sound silly, but if you are not in control of events then it makes sense to lower the bar on what success is. The crux of the matter, and the seldom mentioned elephant in the room, is that the British priority in Afghanistan is less about any particular vision for a democratic, stable or terrorist free country, but rather the strategic future of Nato and more importantly the US-UK alliance. As veteran Afghan-watcher Rory Stewart recently outlined, "the main reason we are sticking with it is that it will help us with the US to stay there".

British foreign policy today, whether on AfPak, the Middle East peace process or the Iranian nuclear issue, is identical to that of its stronger US partner, and beholden to it. This was very much in evidence at the joint UK-US press conference last week, where David Miliband outlined how "transatlantic co-operation is going to be at a premium as we confront the shared challenges and the shared opportunity". Hillary Clinton said all the right things for the "special relationship" obsessives, reaffirming the principles of standing "shoulder to shoulder" with Britain.

Yet with Afghanistan there can be little doubt that the US is in the driving seat of the coalition's strategy for the country. However, unlike in the Vietnam war, Britain is seemingly "all in" and committed to "burden sharing" whatever strategy may emerge from Barack Obama's "Kennedy moment". The best the British can hope for is secondhand transcripts of the decision-making, as Miliband proudly announced that he'd "had a full discussion of the discussions that have taken place in Washington".

Gordon Brown has just agreed in principle to send another 500 troops to Afghanistan. In September he outlined Britain's Afghan strategy within which he fully endorsed "his [General Stanley McCrystal's] new counter-insurgency approach", focusing particular support on the faster growth of the Afghan National Army and police. Yet one month on, McCrystal's ideas have dramatically changed, prompting speculation over what may be one of the most significant decisions in the Obama presidency to date. Brown is unlikely to reassess Britain's policy accordingly but instead will follow whatever line Obama leads.

While it is certainly true that the government's avoidance of the real reason we're in Afghanistan cheapens the lives of those who are fighting there, being a loyal ally to the Americans at this time may be more important strategically than avoiding defeat in Afghanistan. That of course cannot be said openly, as a democratic audience would unlikely stomach the loss of such blood and treasure in the name of such realpolitik. So instead we're stuck with stories about threats to our security, talk of the evil Taliban, the successes of schools and clinics being built, and just in case we get carried away, reminders that Afghanistan is not Berkshire.

[ James Denselow is finishing a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Geopolitics at Kings College London.

He has visited and worked extensively in the Middle East over the past few years. He worked as a researcher at Chatham House between 2003 and 2005.

Mr. Denselow has written articles for The World Today, The Daily Telegraph and The Yorkshire Post and has been cited in many international publications including The Boston Globe, Reuters and AFP.

He has appeared on numerous occasions to discuss Middle Eastern issues on the international television and radio media, including BBC World Service, Newsnight, Sky News, ITN and CNN.

He is currently working on a book on 'The Geopolitics of Iraq' with Richard Schofield to be published by Hurst in 2007.]



Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-denselow


Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-denselow/why-is-the-uk-in-afghanis_b_322010.html
 
#2
'Why is the UK in Afghanistan?"


To make Liebour appear relevant on the world stage
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
Firstly - "it's not berkshire" - typical British understatement - move on
James Joyce - "it inappropriate" - just resigned from his job, needs a higher profile, so making noises - nothing to see here - move on.
"it forgets the real afghan -berkshire connection... berkshire Regiment...death of lots" wtf has that got to do with the Brigadier's talk, apart from demonstrating that the writer can use google? - move on.

Why are we in @stan? - because the US asked us to, we've made a commitment to help sort the benighted place out and it would be politically and militarily embarrassing to leave. Any further answer is just flimflam
 

Legs

ADC
Book Reviewer
#4
Just think. If we unilaterally pulled out of Afghanistan then the government would have an excuse to cut the size of the forces, and more soldiers would get those brown envelopes.
 
#5
Are we not in Afghanistan at all to aid the Americans after the atrocity of 9/11? Where in fact a large (large than our own 7/7 bombings) number of British people died?

I personally think that despite hitting America, it was an attack on the whole West by a militant minority who at that time were based in Afghanistan. Therefore we needed to respond as the West.

8 years on and I'm not so sure if Al Queda are in Afghanistan, but in reality will there ever be peace with AQ? If not Afghanistan, there will be a battlefield somewhere else.
 
#6
Bouillabaisse said:
Firstly - "it's not berkshire" - typical British understatement - move on
James Joyce - "it inappropriate" - just resigned from his job, needs a higher profile, so making noises - nothing to see here - move on.
"it forgets the real afghan -berkshire connection... berkshire Regiment...death of lots" wtf has that got to do with the Brigadier's talk, apart from demonstrating that the writer can use google? - move on.

Why are we in @stan? - because the US asked us to, we've made a commitment to help sort the benighted place out and it would be politically and militarily embarrassing to leave. Any further answer is just flimflam
.


The Berkshire point is important in my view - though maybe it could be expressed better. There is an expectation in parts of FCO, DFID and some parts of society at large that the end state will see a significant change in the Afghan society and culture with respect to governance, education and the treatment of women, for example. These expectations need to be managed, are undeliverable in the short term and will not be the output of any military activity. The root cause of many of our current difficulties in Afghanistan is that there is no unity of purpose within UK governement, let alone between coalition members.
 
#7
Because AQ wanted us there............

According to an article in The Asia Times, AQ planned to suck the US, (and I guess allies), into Afghanistan on the basis it would be a better killing field than elsewhere in the world. Obviously, read the article with a pinch of salt but it's chilling nonetheless.
 
#9
Bullshot! said:
Bouillabaisse said:
Firstly - "it's not berkshire" - typical British understatement - move on
James Joyce - "it inappropriate" - just resigned from his job, needs a higher profile, so making noises - nothing to see here - move on.
"it forgets the real afghan -berkshire connection... berkshire Regiment...death of lots" wtf has that got to do with the Brigadier's talk, apart from demonstrating that the writer can use google? - move on.

Why are we in @stan? - because the US asked us to, we've made a commitment to help sort the benighted place out and it would be politically and militarily embarrassing to leave. Any further answer is just flimflam
.


The Berkshire point is important in my view - though maybe it could be expressed better. There is an expectation in parts of FCO, DFID and some parts of society at large that the end state will see a significant change in the Afghan society and culture with respect to governance, education and the treatment of women, for example. These expectations need to be managed, are undeliverable in the short term and will not be the output of any military activity. The root cause of many of our current difficulties in Afghanistan is that there is no unity of purpose within UK governement, let alone between coalition members.
Very insightful BS!
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
Bullshot! said:
The Berkshire point is important in my view - though maybe it could be expressed better. There is an expectation in parts of FCO, DFID and some parts of society at large that the end state will see a significant change in the Afghan society and culture with respect to governance, education and the treatment of women, for example. These expectations need to be managed, are undeliverable in the short term and will not be the output of any military activity. The root cause of many of our current difficulties in Afghanistan is that there is no unity of purpose within UK governement, let alone between coalition members.
And exactly what the Brigadier is saying and the article writer fails to understand (either fails or deliberately ignores to big himself up).
 
#11
To be fair the article is correct in that the reason we're commiting so much more to Afghanistan than anyone other than the US is the same reason we went into Iraq with the US - to keep alive the idea of the "special relationship" and show we're useful to Uncle Sam. If you beleive the in the "special relationship" and think it's worth preserving (and I think most of the UK polity and Establishment does) then it's doubly necessary to stay in Afghanistan after the UK's failure in Iraq.

Personally I think the US likes to play to the vanity of UK politicos to get what it wants when it needs us but then just ignores us the rest of the time.
 
#12
AndyPipkin said:
Personally I think the US likes to play to the vanity of UK politicos to get what it wants when it needs us but then just ignores us the rest of the time.
Perhaps in former times--based on the treatment of your PM and Queen by the MASTER OF THE WORLD I am not sure that the current US government doesn't ignore you all the time now.
 
#13
The pragmatic and uncaring side of me says that we are all victims or beneficiaries of the time and place that our individual lives occupy.

The concept of exporting Western democracy and ideals throughout the world and expecting the supposed errant regimes to roll over and die quietly and quickly when our own civilisations have taken centuries to reach where they are is bollox.

Pull up the drawbridges, keep well armed and prepared and look after ourselves and wait for the others to play catch-up which they will do in their own times. Deal only with like-minded nations.

It sounds like it's a case of "I'm alright Jack" because it is. I tend to behave to people the way I expect them to behave to me and in a nation to nation scale, i can't see many of the nations we give any form of aid to to have ever be willing to do the same for us. Giving India (a nuclear nation with a space programme) £800 million in aid is a case in point. Soon enough we will need all the aid we can get when we become a bankrupt nation. How our kids will thank us.

But then again I suppose that oil is the main driver here rather than good intentions ............... :x

I daresay that BLiar will be immune from prosecution whilst head of the new European Super-State :x

D_B
 
#16
Hobo-Ken said:

Why is the UK in Afghanistan?
F*** me, it was somewhere just off the coast of Europe when I last checked. Did someone move it when I wasn't watching?
You sir have a sharp and observant mind. No wonder things are as they are--we cannot even seem to keep track of the countries involved. See if you can locate it=--perhaps there is a finder's fee! :D
 
#17
Hobo-Ken, I think your being geographically challenged must have to do with fog in the channel. As per usual when the continent is cut off. :wink:
 
#18
to Hobo ken and the others who were wondering, my grand daughter, who has a close friend who is in the Australian army, and apparently been given a date they will be going to Afghanistan, also asked me "why is Australia in Afghanistan" and I gave her a similar answer to the question which is sort of like the answer you have given. I told her Australia is not in Afghanistan, but is located just somewhere south of Papua-New Guinea, and North of New Zealand, and she gave me that funny look that teenagers will give us old people when we give them what we consider to be a sensible answer.

So she still doesnt know why Australia is in Afghanistan, but I will show her this site, and Im sure she will work out the reason as being the same as that given for "Why is the UK in Afghanistan:
 
#19
to Hobo ken and the others who were wondering, my grand daughter, who has a close friend who is in the Australian army, and apparently been given a date they will be going to Afghanistan, also asked me "why is Australia in Afghanistan" and I gave her a similar answer to the question which is sort of like the answer you have given. I told her Australia is not in Afghanistan, but is located just somewhere south of Papua-New Guinea, and North of New Zealand, and she gave me that funny look that teenagers will give us old people when we give them what we consider to be a sensible answer.

So she still doesnt know why Australia is in Afghanistan, but I will show her this site, and Im sure she will work out the reason as being the same as that given for "Why is the UK in Afghanistan:
 
#20
Jumpinjarhead

I doubt many on this site will blame Obama for treating Gordon Brown like the ladypart he is.

You also seem not to appreciate that Obama is very popular over here in Yerp. Certainly infinitely preferred to Bush Jnr.
 

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