Thursday 14 October 2010, 20:52

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

Tagged with:

Back in 1960 the travel writer James Morris went to Afghanistan. He watched American and Soviet diplomats jockeying for influence, both convinced they could persuade the Afghans to support them in the Cold War.

But, wrote Morris, the world the diplomats entered was a strange one:

While the Afghan climate is clear, brisk and extreme, the political atmosphere is blurred, inconstant and soggy.

Afghanistan is like the fairy wood in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and many a confident diplomat, striding briskly into its groves has come out with a donkey's head.

'Don't be alarmed my dear fellow', the Afghans will tell you, 'we know just what we are doing'.

Fifty years later nothing has changed.

This is the very odd story of the events that led to a horrific mass killing of Afghan civilians by coalition forces in August 2008.

At the time there was outrage. Hamid Karzai publicly attacked the Americans for the deaths.

It was also taken up by the anti-war movement in the west as evidence of the Americans' gross disregard of innocent people in their pursuit of the Taliban.

But the truth is far stranger.

It doesn't let the Americans off the hook. But far from being a simple piece of incompetence, the events that led to the killings are exactly what James Morris described in 1960.

It is the story of the Americans and the British striding into the fairy wood only to find themselves spun around so much by the Afghans that they do not know who is the enemy and who is a friend any longer.

And they come out with a donkey's head. But on the way they kill 90 innocent people.


Shindand is a town in the west of Afghanistan near the border with Iran. Outside of the town was an old Soviet airfield they had built in the 1980s.

In May 2007 the Americans started to revive it as an airfield. But they discovered that many of the locals hated them because of a previous killing of civilians.

The Americans had been pursuing a Taliban leader and had bombed a village near Shindand and killed around 50 people.

Here are some unedited rushes of the near riot in Shindand that resulted.

I think watching it as rushes gives a much better sense of the mood in the area than any news report. The middle section, filmed inside a house being looted also has an intense quality that you never see in news reports.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

And this is from rushes of Hamid Karzai coming four weeks later to meet with the local elders to try and deal with their anger. I have put up a very interesting section of his speech.

He is incredibly direct and open to the elders. The American troops are like a powerful drug, he says, that cures a disease. It had bad side effects. But we can't get rid of them - because of all the money they are pouring into our country.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

The last thing the Americans needed was another mass killing of civilians. But it is difficult not to do what you don't want to do in Afghanistan.

The new airbase needed protection, so the Americans went to a private security company called ArmorGroup. They are a British company who sent out managers from Britain to run the contract.

ArmorGroup turned to two local "warlords" to recruit the necessary men. The ArmorGroup management always referred to them in their emails and official corrspondence as Mr Pink and Mr White.

Their real names were Nadir Khan and Timor Shah. But in the imaginations of the ArmorGroup managers the "warlords" were fitted into a western category. They were characters from Reservoir Dogs. The modern western fantasy of nihilistic gangsters who acted only for their own benefit.

Mr Pink was recommended by the US military Team Leader as "a person we felt comfortable with". No-one remembers who recommended Mr White.

ArmorGroup has said that everyone hired by them would always undergo "extensive training"

Here is a picture of an Afghan undergoing his extensive training with an ArmorGroup trainer in Kabul. And also a picture of an ArmorGroup weapons room for their Afghan operatives

Paula Bronstein, Getty Images

Everything was fine until July 29th 2007 when suddenly a fight broke out between Mr Pink's men and Mr White's men at the gate to the base.

Mr White came out to the base and things calmed down. But as he drove back to town Mr White was ambushed and shot at. He was injured but he survived.

ArmorGroup said that it was probably the Taliban. And things quietened down.

But then on December 12th 2007 Mr White came under attack again while driving near the base.

And a complicated series of events began that would lead to disaster.

As a result of what happened the US Senate later ordered an inquiry into the events. It was published this month.


The report is fascinating, but it too adopts the terms Mr Pink and Mr White and the western vision of Afghan warlords and their motives. So it becomes a surreal story of American style gangsters fighting it out against the backdrop of distant Afghanistan.

In the declassified sections of the American report the ArmorGroup Team Leader is referred to as


Nigel realised that it was Mr Pink who was trying to kill Mr White. It was a gangster thing.

But that afternoon it got worse. The local elders called a meeting in Shindand bazaar to sort things out. But as Mr Pink arrived he shot Mr White in the head.

Mr White was taken to the hospital at the base. But he died.

Immediately Mr White's men on the base got together to seek revenge. But Nigel bravely managed to disarm them.

Mr Pink then disappeared.

The managers were terrified that there was going to be an all out war on the base between Mr Pink's men and the deceased Mr White's group.

But then Mr White's brother turned up.

He told Nigel that he could manage things and take over running the security. He also promised that he wouldn't take revenge for his brother's death. Instead he be good and follow legal procedures. He would take Mr Pink to court.

The ArmorGroup managers decided to hire him. He was called Reza Khan, but ArmorGroup managers immediately began referring to him as Mr White II in all their emails and security reports.

who was the project manager for ECC, the company building the airbase, was sort of convinced:

Then - at the end of January 2008 - ArmorGroup began to get rid of Mr Pink's men. They had been told by some of the guards on the base that Mr Pink was actually a member of the Taliban - and the Taliban had made him a Mullah for killing Mr White.

They were worried his men inside the base were sending him military information.

Nigel thought he knew why Mr Pink had joined the Taliban. It was because he had lost his income from the base.

But Rick the project manager decided that there was a wider truth about the world around them. That the idea of "The Taliban" as a distinct force had disappeared. It had been replaced by something else - a world of gangsters fighting only for their own interests.

Which meant they had been right all along to call them Mr Pink and Mr White.

As a result of all this Mr White II's men took over many of the jobs previously done by Mr Pink's men. They also got jobs as security on mine-clearing operations being run by ArmorGroup.

Mr White II was now becoming powerful. And Mr Pink was furious at being excluded

In June 2008 ArmorGroup sent out

To assess the situation. He said that there was a danger that Mr Pink was going to attack the base to kill Mr White II.


Tony said that they should bring in independent guards from Kabul. But another manager pointed out that they would be killed either by Mr Pink or Mr White II. So that wouldn't work.

Bit by bit the ArmorGroup managers were finding themselves trapped by people they had employed.

And then the American military got involved

They were told that Mr White II was also a member of the Taliban.

An army sergeant on the base knew two locals who he called "Romeo" and "Juliet". They told him that Mr White II was using the money he earned to bribe government officials in Herat. They said his aim was to insert a Taliban leader, Mullah Sadeq, into a government position.

Then - on August 21 2008 - Romeo and Juliet came to the sergeant and told him that there was going to be a meeting that night at Mr White II's home with Mullah Sadeq and other Taliban commanders and fighters.

Mr White II's home was in a village called Azizabad. So the Americans decided they would attack it that night to capture or kill the Taliban commander.

The soldiers crept up on the village.

What followed was - according to the Marine commander - incredibly fierce. Or as he put it - "The most kinetic engagement I have ever been involved in". They were shot at from every side.

So the Americans called for help. An AC-130 gunship poured fire from the air into the village. Then an unmanned aerial vehicle dropped a 500lb precision bomb onto the houses.

Here are some shots of the village taken the next day.

When the US troops went into the village and examined the bodies they found Mr White II dead and around him were seven of his fighters. They turned out to be employees of ArmorGroup.

Which led to the awful conclusion that both Mr Pink and Mr White had been associates of the Taliban - and Taliban-linked fighters had actually been guarding the American base while they indulged in murder, revenge attacks, bribery, and general anti-coalition activities.

The Americans announced they had killed between 30 to 35 Taliban. They said that only 5 to 7 civilians had died.

But then the United Nations investigated and a week after the attack they said 90 civilians had been killed - the majority of them women and children.

The US military responded by saying the villagers were fabricating the evidence. They were spreading Taliban propaganda.

Here is the BBC news report about the growing row. It is the News at Ten on the 8th of September 2008.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

But the US military insisted that most of those killed "were associated with the insurgency"

Here is the reference in the report that proves this

The US military said that their finds were corroborated by an "independent journalist" who was embedded with the US force that had attacked Azizabad.

He was Oliver North - famous for the Iran-Contra scandal - and now working for Fox News.

So in November a BBC journalist went out to Azizabad to talk to the villagers. Here are some sections from the rushes.

At the time the story was whether there had been a massacre of civilians or not. But in the section of the tape where the cameraman is recording GVs and cutaways the villagers are trying to explain something much more complicated.

It is confusing. The main speaker is Mr White II's brother - called Gul Ahmed. He and the others are showing the camera colour photocopies of ArmorGroup ID cards from the airbase.

They refer to them as "spies". What they seem to be saying is that these are some of Mr Pink's men on the base who persuaded the Americans to bomb Azizabad.

Then they say that Nigel has been persuaded by the US Special Forces to sack all the security men. But they insist this is not fair because they are not Taliban.

And what's more they insist there were no Taliban in the village that night. The meeting was in reality a memorial for someone who had died.

There are glimmerings of a terrible truth in what the villagers are saying. The Americans might have been tricked into the bombing by Mr Pink.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

And then it turned out that what the villagers said was true. There had been no Taliban in Azizabad at all.

The Taliban commander, Mullah Sadeq, the Americans said they had definitely killed turned up alive. He had never been at the meeting.

And it was discovered that the "meeting" at Azizabad that night had really been a memorial for the late original Mr White (who had, of course, been killed by Mr Pink)

The Americans did seem to have been tricked into the attack by Mr Pink.

"Romeo" and "Juliet" had been sent by Mr Pink to persuade the Americans that Mr White II was meeting with the Taliban. Mr Pink knew that this would probably lead the Americans to go and kill Mr White II.

It was revenge for getting forced off the lucrative security contract at the airbase.

The investigator from ArmorGroup couldn't help but express his admiration for Mr Pink the Reservoir Dog.

In the wake of the civilian deaths there was outrage not just in Afghanistan but in Britain and America. The American forces were portrayed as disastrously incompetent.

But the truth behind the massacre reveals something completely different.

The American forces are not incompetent. They are being used as weapons in a war that they don't understand.

The investigation makes it clear that the US forces are not simply blundering around in a society they don't comprehend - as many in the anti-war movement argue. The reality is far more complicated.

The western military and their powerful bombs are being ruthlessly manipulated by different groups in Afghanistan. All the Afghans have to do is go to the Americans and describe someone as "Taliban" and they will be annihilated.

There is growing evidence that the raid on Azizabad was not a one-off. That a number of the terrible civilian massacres where villages have been bombed are the direct result of the Americans being told that there are "Taliban" meeting there. It then turns out that their informants were simply using the Americans to wipe out a rival.

Which raises the question - who are we really fighting in Afghanistan? Do we, and our leaders really know?

But there is a further point. Tony from ArmorGroup may be right that the "Taliban" no longer exist. But he, and the investigation into the massacre, have simply substituted another western fantasy. The Reservoir Dogs fantasy.

This says that really we are dealing with nihilistic gangsters who are just out for their own power and personal interests.

But this may be far too simplistic as well. The truth is that Mr Pink and Mr White may not fit into either category. One western fantasy - that of the "religious fanatic" - has simply been replaced by another western category of the ruthless gangster.

Neither category may be true. And we really are lost in the forest with a donkey's head.

Mr Pink was put on trial for providing false information that led to the raid on Azizabad. In February 2009 he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

But the verdict was later overruled. The report does not explain why.

And the White family weren't finished either. Mr White II's brother - Gul Ahmed - turned up at the base and said he would take over the security contract for the mine-clearing. And ArmorGroup agreed.

They decided to call him Mr White III

And Mr White III replaced all the guards who had been killed in Azizabad with their brothers.

Nigel sent out an email with the good news to his colleagues.

Marty - Nigel's junior - wrote back:

"Great news. Strange how business goes on."

Tagged with:


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    A terrible shame. I'd have to see evidence that this had happened elsewhere to agree that it is widespread. The event itself is bad enough on its own of course.
    It's all very well saying the Americans are stumbling asses but as the article displays, it's pretty hard to work out who to trust. Work closer with the government like the soviets did? The government are surely as susceptible to false information. It could also result in more red tape & delays. I think the blog emphasises that pulling out of the country would just take out the middleman and the tribal warfare would continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    An incredible and tragic story. Thanks Adam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I saw this recently and wonder what other people think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I actually think the Americans are incompetent, and out of their depth. What were they doing making two bosses? Of course there would be rivalry. It makes me wonder if they're deliberately making excuses to fight an enemy, even subconsciously.

    Americans are corrupted by their idealism and by money and power. The Afghans are realists, and so can easily manipulate the Americans. Meanwhile, the culture of power is fostered among the Afgans so nothing changes. Rather, a different civilised world should be part of the reconstruction or reform.

    It is a tragedy because as Adam Curtis has pointed out, this is the folly of positive liberty. You can't impose freedom on people, especially if you're fostering the rule of power and might. You can only take their weapons away and after a generation create civility, like they did with the Japanese.

    But I suspect that corruption, money and corporate interests are more important than the future stability of Afghanistan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Dear Mr. Curtis,
    are there any plans for your back-catalogue of documentary series' to be released on DVD?
    I first discovered your work through the original broadcast of the Century of the Self which I thought superb. I have watched all your successive documentaries but not seen anything made prior to the Century of the Self (BBC; WHY have you not reshown these earlier documentaries in recent years on BBC2 & BBC4? They would be hugely welcome in place of the endless stream of identi-kit 'science' documentaries currently beig produced.

    Many thanks for any reply & please keep up the great work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.


    Maybe it is the US government's intention to have both sides fight each other? Maybe they want both sides to lose and are helping to foster it? If so, that is more realist than idealist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    ccL1, that might be true. However, going by Mr Curtis's documentaries and by our general experience of American foreign policy, it would be rather unlikely. Americans really are pretty green and fresh when it comes to wars and gathering intelligence, and protecting their own nation from attacks. I'm not anti-American, but they really don't have a moral authority over the rest of the world, only the authority of being a super power with lots of nukes. That's a pretty scary world, and it's getting scarier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    egbert, I definitely agree with you. I am just trying to see this from different angles. And don't worry, I don't think you're anti-American.

    It's just that from what I studied about American approach to warfare is that they seem to always have instances of "when in doubt, kill everyone". It's like a better-safe-than-sorry attitude. During the Korean War, instead of viewing the fleeing South Korean refugees, who were running away from the North Korean military advance, as something innocent, the US military viewed these civilians with suspicion. The thought that they could truly be innocent occasionally went through their thoughts, but for a lot of the time, the US military felt that communist spies were among these civilians. That's why many thousands of South Korean civilians were fire-bombed and machine-gunned down.

    The same happened in the Vietnam War, with thousands of innocent civilians massacred because of the suspicion that they were Viet Cong members or the fact that a couple of Viet Cong were hiding among them. It's a very crude form of warfare.

    I see the same thing in Afghanistan. Instead of filtering out who the real enemy is -- probably due to impatience, laziness, indifference, or just plain maliciousness -- they seem to be employing that same policy again. Kill now, explain later. But unlike in other wars, this kind of policy can totally backfire in Afghanistan. This war is quite delicate; i.e., killing one civilian can possibly turn that civilian's uncles, brothers, father, grandfather, friends, and cousins against the US very easily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.


    The Internet Archive ( hosts films and clips that are out of copyright or have - I hope - had permission for use. Some of Adam's films are on there, including short films that were shows withing the series Newswipe.

    There’s also a digital archive that contains tens of thousands of culturally important films and video clips, many of which, a fantastic snapshots of how society was at the times they were created.

    They often have a “Hi, I’m Troy McClure…” quality to them, but they are the actual films that The Simpsons have been spoofing for years. Among the archives are old U.S. Office of War Information propaganda films, including Our Enemy: The Japanese. The film informs the American public about the "primitive, murderous and fanatical” enemy that the country is currently facing. Some would argue that while the delivery has become more subtle, the enemy changed and the medium switched to news channels rather than films, the same thing is being disseminated today with the likes of Fox News commentary.

    Likewise, hysterical anti-drug films seem hilariously dated, with deadpan delivery of lines such as "They both smoked pot — that's jive talk for marijuana" and claims that “Reds” are promoting dope traffic in the United States to undermine national morale. The thing is, the same films are being made today with updated language and austere warnings that drugs fund international terrorism. It seems that in many cases, the medium has been updated but the message stays constant.

    Others are just wonderfully dated, including How to Use the Dial Phone (1927), in which the viewer is guided through the process of using the new fangled telephones, rather than the operator system. Also present is Duck and Cover, the famous Civil Defence film for children from 1951 in which Bert the Turtle shows what to do in case of atomic attack, including useful advice such as "an Atomic Explosion can knock you down". Yes, yes it can Bert.

    Fans of the series Mad Men might like to see some of the actual adverts from the era that the series has been dramatising. The old cigarette ads are especially noteworthy, with Virginia Slims piggybacking on the woman’s liberation movement and being marketed as empowering (“You’ve come a long way, baby. You’ve got your own cigarette now, baby.”) as well as a somewhat disturbing advert with The Flintstones shilling for the tobacco brand Winston.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    It's very easy to paint the picture that America is some evil imperialistic nation intent on fostering onto people a bleak existence of consumerism supported by a police state.

    The truth is, America really does live in both a dreamworld and a nightmare. The dreamworld part is the fantasy of freedom, religion and consumerism, the white picket fences, while the nightmare part is the real world of selfish hostility, both within from 'criminals' and without from Communists, and now Islamists and those who hate freedom and America.

    But those same enemies of America also live in a dreamworld and nightmare, mistakenly thinking that America is an imperialistic conquering idealogy.

    America is not the enemy but Idealism is. Idealism is the escape from reality, because--to the idealist--reality is a nightmare of hostility, selfishness, violence and chaos.

    When Americans go off and fight into hostile nations, they face reality and it's evil and foreign and other. And the enemies of America think exactly the same thing about America.

    But here in Europe, we've had the bitter realities of two wars and suffer a pragmatic and humanitarian type of politics where evil is perceived to be selfless nationalism, lack of freedom and most important of all 'tolerance'. Europe does not have such an idealistic optimistic vision of the future, but increasingly faces the nightmare of reality in the form of intolerance and ever increasing loss of freedom in it's fight against intolerance.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.


    Egbert, Do you tolerate other peoples choice for their religion?

    Or would you implement: "...civilised world should be part of the reconstruction or reform."?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    "It's just that from what I studied about American approach to warfare is that they seem to always have instances of "when in doubt, kill everyone"."

    It's more than this - it's the paranoid style in American warfare. Americans (sorry, guys) don't, in my opinion, have the same grasp of reality as other cultures. They (as a nation - lots of individuals aren't like this) see things mediated through images far more than other cultures. They have a strange black-and-white manner of viewing the world.

    So when they see a contagion - be it Communist or Islamist - they totally freak out. The US (again, as a nation) can't understand nuance. There is no grey area from them. This tendency - a tendency to view the world in terms of good and evil, which is ultimately traceable to Puritanism - makes them a violent nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Phiiip Pilkington, that's an interesting point of view and something that I have noticed as well. A false dichotomy is often set up in terms of cultures in America, not only on a macro-level but on a micro-level as well.

    Personally, I'm not too versed on early American history (e.g. pre-Revolutionary War era), but it seems like the settler-mentality is quite strong in the US -- i.e. to each unto his/her own, be self-reliant, and treat people who don't belong on your land as a potential threat instead of a welcomed guest. It's this fear of outsiders that causes culture clashes, and there are numerous instances of this in US history. And it's this fear that can manifest into the conspiracies and violence, as you stated in your final paragraph.

    This is not healthy at all, especially when America is supposed to be the champion of democracy and operates in many countries around the globe, militarily and non-militarily. They take this baggage with them wherever they go; thus, it is not surprising that you have civilian massacres, friendly-fire incidents, and mistrust sown among America's allies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    9. At 09:35am on 16 Oct 2010, fletch_in_Dubai

    Thank you Sir!

    That is superbly helpful & insightful - seems like an absolute treasure trove of a site.

    I do hope though, that one day Mr. Curtis' films are given a mainstream commercial release (if infact he even wishes it) and that they can garner wider recognition for their unflinching insights.

    All the best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @ Phiiip Pilkington

    I agree about the detach from reality, and as I said, I think it is because of idealism. Adam Curtis does a wonderful job of identifying the idealists hope for a better rational future, and then live trapped in this rational future in their head, detached from reality.

    @ StenkaRazin

    "Do you tolerate other people's choice for their religion"

    Firstly, I don't think the majority of people choose their religion. Religion is part of the culture they grow up in. Their parents often instill their religion into their children.

    Secondly, If a person goes and does some research for why they feel spiritual and look into what works for them, then of course I respect that. But if that person then tells everyone they have found the 'truth' then I'll conflict with them.

    As for reconstruction and reform, if you are going to invade a hostile country and make it a friendly country, then you're going to have to disarm its citizens and educate them into being friendly. Giving them weapons and allowing corruption and organized crime to rule is of course not helping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    A terrible tale with a fitting conclusion, if the evidence put forth is correct. Of course this is impossible to know so we can only go by what we see with our own eyes. That on the night in question a huge fire fight broke out, resulting in the deaths of so many Afghans does lead me to wonder who stood to gain the most. The coalition were apparently, stuck in a political quagmire, the two local security forces seemed to be locked in a dual for power. Egbert, above, asks a good question - why was it deemed necessary to have two leaders? I'd ask also why was it necessary to provide them with monikers of Hollywood gangsters, who all die by the end of the story?

    The Afghan people managed to recover from the Russian invasion before and will, I'd expect and hope, recover from this one. Hopefully 'Romeo' and 'Juliet', plus the 28 million or so other Afghans will soon be allowed to resume their normal lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @ egbert

    I don't think it's about idealism at all. Lots of other cultures have strains of idealism, but they're somehow different from that found in the US. Sure, there's an element of Wilsonian idealism present every time the Yanks try to deliver some backward, third-world country from undemocratic evil - but that's not what accounts for their bizarre tendency to hide in images and view the world in black and white.

    I think this comes down to a certain grasp of irony - or lack thereof. In other countries we have ideals - be they national, military, religious or whatever - but we also possess a certain distance from these ideals. Most people - especially those in politics - know that reality isn't a zero-sum game. You can see this, for example, in Soviet posturing during the Cold War. Sure, Khrushchev would talk big - he'd even bang out a shoe from time to time - but he didn't mean it. He knew it was all a rather flamboyant act.

    In the US things are different. They don't have any distance to their fantasies - they immediately believe in them wholly and completely (in an individual this would be a sign of psychosis, incidentally). You often hear this from stories of foreign diplomats meeting US officials in back rooms. They describe how some of them are creepy pseudo-men who seem to be a sort of weird embodiment of an abstract principle. I suppose it was all there in Kubrick's Strangeglove...

    Anyway, as far as Curtis' piece goes, I think this knowledge is becoming fairly widespread these days. We're becoming increasingly aware of just how false this war is:

    ..[The] press releases uncritically repeated by the press after a bombing always brag about "senior al-Qa'ida commanders" killed – but some people within the CIA admit how arbitrary their choice of targets is. One of their senior figures told The New Yorker: "Sometimes you're dealing with tribal chiefs. Often they say an enemy of theirs is al-Qa'ida because they want to get rid of somebody, or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable so they could make money."

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I think many of you are confusing the motives of America's getting into a war, with some ideas of what idealism of 'America' or 'Americans'. There are no great resources in Afghanistan -- the US was attacked, the attackers were being sheltered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and so they went in to get them. After that it turned bad, not all at once, but mostly it seems owing to some incredible neglect by the Bush Administration, the main protagonists of whom were anxious to start a new war in Iraq (which really was born of a Utopian neo-conservative mindset, that toppling a regime would suddenly result in a Democracy -- see John N. Gray's 'Black Mass'.)

    The reasons why we stayed there when things continued go sour, and why we are there now (I'm American) have to do with the incredibly dangerous situation in Pakistan. This is not idealism. Call it Kissinger-style Realpolitik, maybe that's not totally wrong, but it's not Neo-Con Utopianism of Democracy sprouting out of nothing. Nor is that the outlook of Britain or the other coalition partners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Also for Egbert and some others who would just blame the American military for the deaths caused by bombs, it has also been non-US coaltion partners who have been responsible for calling in some bombing raids that have resulted in civilian deaths. It's a dangerous and confusing situation there. Without a doubt there has been a lot of bungling, and the people who wage the war are often ignorant of the culture and customs and out of their depth.

    Assuming the US does pull out without achieving its goal of achieving stability in Afghanistan without having a Taliban hostile to the US take over the country again, I can tell you that the result is not going to be less bombing, but more, and with less intelligence on the ground which means more mistakes. And with no protection for much of the Afghan populace as a whole who if they had a choice would not wish to be under Taliban rule (especially non-Pashtun). It's easy for Europeans to take the high ground, because the Americans are there in force, and so you can say that it's all a bad idea and its the fault of the US for waging and continuing what looks like a hopeless war. However your governments have the same goals there as the US. And the main goal is really to keep Pakistan's government from imploding.


Page 1 of 3

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts


Friday 24 September 2010, 14:05


Thursday 28 October 2010, 18:13

About this Blog

This is a website expressing my personal views – through a selection of opinionated observations and arguments. I’ll be including stories I like, ideas I find fascinating, work in progress and a selection of material from the BBC archives.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?