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What should foreign powers be fighting for in Afghanistan?

23:05 UK time, Saturday, 22 May 2010

UK ministers have stressed their commitment to redevelopment during talks with Afghan leaders in Kabul. What should be the focus?

Before the talks Defence Secretary Liam Fox argued that British troops were not in the country to fix Afghan society.

Later, Dr Fox and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell both stressed their commitment to redevelopment.

What should be the priority in Afghanistan? Should troops put their own country's security ahead of reconstruction? Do you live in the region?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    exterminating the taliban should be the primary goal

  • Comment number 2.

    Conservatives and people of knowledge in America told Obama. Don't set a timetable for leaving or you can never win. But Obama lives in his own little world of arrogance and ignorance and said we would begin withdrawing troops in July 2011 and is still in the process of bringing in the troops the generals asked for over a year ago.
    If your in a small remote Afghan village and are asked for help by NATO by day and by night the Taliban comes in and says you better cooperate with us because when NATO leaves we will still be here. What would you do?
    The day we begin withdrawing our troops will be the day the Taliban declares victory. Obama is an Idiot.

  • Comment number 3.

    They shouldn't be there in the first place.

  • Comment number 4.

    The priorities should be discussing immediate withdrawal and the amount of reparation owed to the Afghani people.

  • Comment number 5.

    It would appear that the USA's military memory is about one generation. Despite being humiliated in Vietnam, it insists on engaging in similar, pointless, unwinnable wars against a nebulous, amorphous enemy.

    You can't win an assymmetric war by periodic incursion or sweeping operations. You need to hold ground and deny support. The USA does not have the resources to do this or the will to engage in widespread black ops. Killing created martyrs, imprisonment makes political life difficult in the rest of the world. This is a no win situation that is costing western lives and no lasting benefit.

    Obama is an idealist in the same way that Carter was. He will become disillusioned because logic doesn't sway fanatics and will become as hardline as Bush when he realises that the American electorate can't see any significant difference in the annual body count.

  • Comment number 6.

    Wiping the Taliban of the face of the Earth, no more, no less.

  • Comment number 7.

    An excellent statement by Liam Fox. To my mind the only reason we are in Afghanistan is that it provides excellent live fire training for the Army. I still have to fathom out what possible political motives there are. Personally I couldn't give a toss about how the Afghans live.

  • Comment number 8.

    6. At 00:03am on 23 May 2010, Toad In The Hole wrote:
    "Wiping the Taliban of the face of the Earth, no more, no less."

    Careful,you will have human rights brigade on your case.

    4. At 11:48pm on 22 May 2010, Ax0l0tl wrote:
    "The priorities should be discussing immediate withdrawal and the amount of reparation owed to the Afghani people."

    Yes,lets withdraw.
    That way when next 7/7 happens people like you will not be able to come on here preaching it was are own fault that it happened.
    Maybe you will see for the first that are enemies are attacked us first.

    The military wont lose the war,it will be appeasers and apologists that will do it for us..

  • Comment number 9.

    "Should troops put their own country's security ahead of reconstruction?"

    Um... I'd have thought that by stabilising and reconstructing Afganistan we ARE attending to our own security.

    BTW folks - THE TALIBAN is not an interchangable term for AFGANISTAN. The Taliban in Afganistan are just one part of the nebulous and loosly affiliated whole. There are others. Please bear this in mind. It's not as clear cut as many posters seem to think, unfortunately.

  • Comment number 10.

    Liam Fox exposes the truth that Foreign powers aren't there for the Afghans but for their own selfish interests.

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    "Liam Fox exposes the truth that Foreign powers aren't there for the Afghans but for their own selfish interests."

    Every nation who currently has troops in Afghanistan has always said they are there for reasons of their own 'national security'. Why else would we have deployed troops there?

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh how we laffed and laffed when those silly Russians invaded in 1979.

    EVERYONE knows you can't win in Afghanistan.

    So the Soviets bombed everything they could, they razed entire villages, terrorised the population, poisoned water supplies and created so much mayhem that 5 million Afghans became refugees.

    They left with their tails tucked between their legs 10 years later, yet another wannabe conquerer from a long string of egotistical fools who believe that they can conquer places like Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.
    The annoying thing for me is our great leaders are perfectly happy to use the children of others in pointess stupid military actions.

    One child(over 18) from every MP with children should be conscripted to Afghanistan for a minimum of two years service, this should be a condition of becoming a member of the British parliament.
    We'd be out of that place within 12 months.


  • Comment number 15.

    The primary and the only goal should be to get both the Karzai government and the Taliban to the negotiating table in order to work out a peace that everybody can live with.We also need to ignore those who cry out for the elimination of the Taliban and a total victory and give up on establishing a Middle Eastern empire and vacate that country as soon as possible.

  • Comment number 16.

    For those of you wondering what the heck we are REALLY doing there it's for oil/gas pipelines.
    So we're there for 'freedom and democracy' when our so-called free press ever talks about Afghanistan.

    Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are floating on the stuff.
    Turkmenistan has the worlds fourth largest reserves.

    There are three pipeline routes out of the place, Russia, Iran and....yup you guessed right folks...Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 17.

    To leave as immediately as possible with minimum risk.

    What national interest do we have in Afghanistan? We went there to destroy al-Qaeda and their benefactors the Taliban, and discovered that al-Qaeda just moved out to Pakistan and the Taliban were much harder to destroy than expected - they don't find it hard to replace dead fighters since the Western forces act as a perfect recruiter for them... Afghans have a long history of fighting invaders.

    Anyone who thinks it's to stop terrorism in this country is looking in the wrong place - the terrorist threat here from al-Qaeda affiliated groups is from Pakistan, other countries in other regions entirely, or home-grown. 7/7 should have proved that beyond doubt.

    We would be much better to spend our resources more intelligently than wasting billions of pounds - as well as the lives and limbs of our soldiers - in an unwinnable war that may even be doing more harm than good. It's sad that so many have died for nothing, but losing more isn't going to change that, and probably the best memorial they could have is a permanent change in policy that means we think much harder about following the US into a war in future.

    For what it's worth I agreed entirely with the war in Sierra Leone too - it's not *just* about our national interest, it's about knowing what we can achieve and what we can't. But one major difference there is that we helped to support a legitimate government, not to overthrow an existing regime and replace it with one of our choosing.

  • Comment number 18.

    President Obama thinks Sun Tzu runs a Tailor shop down in SoHo, with no experience at all in military matters he ignores the experts and announces a draw down date to leave Afghanistan virtually assuring that Iran and elements in Pakistan will pump in just enough weapons and supplies to assure that we can not win there.
    America led everyone into this and it is the job of the American President to explain our strategy.
    Mr. Obama has taken no serious questions from the American "news" media in almost a year, nothing on Afghanistan, Iraq, Oil spewing into the Gulf, Floods in Tennessee, the situation in Korea, or the falling markets around the world. He hides in the White House only coming out to make speeches criticizing the efforts of others.
    If the American news media will not ask him questions, perhaps the BBC should start demanding some answers as kids from both of our nations are dieing in Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 19.

    I too believe that the occupation by US and it's allies in Afghanistan, is more about the presence of oil in the neighbouring countries that is driving the agenda; here. Several other factors, including the opium & hashish trade and religion bring other reasons for being there. I imagine life in those regions for the ordinary person is hard enough without the constant harassment by armed militia. I feel sorry for the women and girls who are treated as chattels, etc. It is their lives and country and all of it's citizens aught to be able to live as they truly choose without the guns and bombs. No matter who is pulling the trigger.

    The irony is that the occupiers claim that it is for freedom, that they're there for? Whose? I'm hard pressed to see. Mine? I have lost more personal freedoms in the last eight years or so and I did not have to leave my home to have had them stripped away. I am scratching my head about why? I am now deprived of the liberties I had held, because others make war. It certainly leaves one with the feeling that the only beneficiaries are the government and security. i.e. more war. That governments are also willing to fabricate and manipulate, to justify and obtain the slave planet they seek. The megalomaniacs behind these governments, find their thrills in the machinations of circumstance to give false reason for their war. Thus enriching themselves again.

  • Comment number 20.

    1. At 11:22pm on 22 May 2010, ronnie wrote:

    exterminating the taliban should be the primary goal


    There have been various attempts to 'exterminate' various people over the ages, a more recent well publicised attempt between 1939 and 1945 having failed like so many before it.
    The result was to create survivors who were tougher, smarter and more ruthless than previous generations had ever been.

    What on earth makes you think it will be any different with the Afghans?

  • Comment number 21.

    No 13, Will of England wrote:

    "Every nation who currently has troops in Afghanistan has always said they are there for reasons of their own 'national security'. Why else would we have deployed troops there?"

    Time then that Afghans look after their own self interest by making peace with the Taliban and kick out the occupation forces. The Taliban afterall are going nowhere so only Afghans stand to loose.

  • Comment number 22.

    The primary focus should be on leaving as soon as possible. Give the Afghan army 3 months basic training, hand over and get out. End of story

  • Comment number 23.

    What should be the priority in Afghanistan?

    Immediate withdrawal of our troops.

    We all know that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place, so there is now no reason to prolong this illegal action especially when our most honorable servicemen continue to lose their lives as the direct result of the lies that were mouthed by Blair to get us there and then, latterly, Brown who chose to craftily and critically underfund the operation.

    Even so, if the argument remains that we need to search out and destroy the Taliban in that region, then OK, let's not argue the toss on that - one strategically placed nuclear bomb is all that's needed.

  • Comment number 24.

    The initial goal was to get rid of Al Qaida we have suffered from considerable mission creep since that mission was started. We need to leave Afghanistan and consider the next phase of the war. Lets not forget we aren't there to say who runs Afghanistan we are out to get Al Qaida which by its very nature does not "live" in any one country. Who cares about the taliban? I certainly dont. If Osama is alive the only way to get him to show his face again is to make him feel safe enough to come out and play. At which point im sure we could capture him.

  • Comment number 25.

    Send the ministers who want U.K. forces to remain in Afghanistan virtually permanently there and put them into combat roles.

  • Comment number 26.

    Having an exit strategy and a time frame for a withdraw. Complete elimination of the Taliban is not realistic but bringing the moderate factions into talks should be considered. Only if we win the hearts and minds of the entire population, can we defeat the Taliban. Build hospitals, schools, roads and raise the living standards of the poor. When Nato is seen as a helping hand and not an occupation force, then we are moving in the right direction. Don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • Comment number 27.

    What is it that our politicians do not understand? The French fought in Vietnam for ten years and lost...the Russians fought in Afghanistan for ten years and lost (civilian casualties ?...what civilian casulties?)

    The USA have trained? 170,000 Afghans and only 30,000 are in force. The majority can not read or write and many have no idea about a tooth brush.

    Publicly giving a withdrawal time table was very stupid...but as Forest Gump said..."stupid is as stupid does"

  • Comment number 28.

    4. At 11:48pm on 22 May 2010, Ax0l0tl wrote:
    The priorities should be discussing immediate withdrawal and the amount of reparation owed to the Afghani people.

    -You mean discussing our surrender terms with the Taliban, in effect. And not content with that, we are to compensate them for booting them out.

    A country which many Nato soldiers have died to protect from the Taliban.

    I won't say what I think of you or your proposal - the HYS mods would remove it and probably ban me for life.

  • Comment number 29.

    5. At 11:56pm on 22 May 2010, lohag motf wrote:
    It would appear that the USA's military memory is about one generation. Despite being humiliated in Vietnam, it insists on engaging in similar, pointless, unwinnable wars against a nebulous, amorphous enemy.

    -The US military never lost a battle in Vietnam - why should it feel humiliated?

  • Comment number 30.

    post 19...unfortunately, there has been an ongoing war in Afghanistan for the past 35 years. This country has NEVER been conquered by an outside force. The Russian tactics were more brutal than the Nazi Blitzkrieg and they still lost after ten years. The stinger missle changed the dynamics of the war when Russia was there.

  • Comment number 31.

    The problem with Afghanistan is that the taliban can go hide in Pakistan and when the coast is clear come back into Afghanistan. Nato troops aren't aloud in Pakistan to root them out. Also the Afghanis need a viable way to make a living instead of selling heroin.

  • Comment number 32.

    The word 'priority' may relate to; 'what-comes-first' in terms of selection of a few things we may try to achieve in the 'passing-of-time'.
    Our choice of military defence jobs may go beyound other job conditions and from time to time the idia of visits to the 'front-line' signals the respect of correct patroitism and bravery.
    The whole idia of afghanistan; either the "religion-tinted-taliban"- with no 'sustainable nation building miracles in the past' or the "awareness-based-vision-idialists" in terms of globalisation are rooted from the same "stem".
    "Civil-rights" could be a priority-in my mind for the unsuspecting women and children-afghans.

  • Comment number 33.

    21. At 02:32am on 23 May 2010, for a just world wrote:
    Time then that Afghans look after their own self interest by making peace with the Taliban and kick out the occupation forces. The Taliban afterall are going nowhere so only Afghans stand to loose.

    -There is no peace to be had with the Taliban. The only peace to be had is for the Afghan people to bow down before the Taliban and beg for mercy (of which there will none).

    -What 'occupation' forces? Nato is there, fighting alongside the Afghan people - they are the good guys. Then on the other side you have the Taliban - they are the bad guys).

    There are no other forces there, to my knowledge.

  • Comment number 34.

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

  • Comment number 35.

    19. At 02:18am on 23 May 2010, hirundine608 wrote:
    The irony is that the occupiers claim that it is for freedom, that they're there for? Whose? I'm hard pressed to see. Mine? I have lost more personal freedoms in the last eight years or so and I did not have to leave my home to have had them stripped away.

    -Please clarify exactly what freedoms you have lost in the last eight years that you had under the Taliban? Most people regard the Taliban as the most repressive regime in history - even the Iranians are scared of them.

    I know of several freedoms that you have gained in the last eight years- freedom to vote, and freedom for girls to go to school, to mention two.

    I really wish posters wouldn't make sweeping statements such as yours without providing any substance to them.

  • Comment number 36.

    The West should first of all understand the Islamic culture before going full throttle. Bush went to Afghanistan to hunt for Osama but lost the way by simultaneously running after Saddam. The Afghanistan war has become a lost cause. We got another enemy in the surge of the Taliban. The Karzai administration flip-flops on several issues and has no firm direction. What on earth is the meaning of redevelopment in Afghanistan by the West in the ongoing war that spells fear and destruction. USA and its allies should pull out of Afghanistan pronto, stop catering to Israeli whims and act justifiably towards the poor Palestinians who have become refugees in their own land. Then and then only the war will be said to have been won.

  • Comment number 37.

    The Taliban will forever be a thorn in someone's side; both on the inside & on the outside, of Afghanistan. & because of them...lots more in there & out of there are sadly going to bleed!

  • Comment number 38.

    hirundine608 wrote: The irony is that the occupiers claim that it is for freedom, that they're there for? Whose? I'm hard pressed to see. Mine? I have lost more personal freedoms in the last eight years or so and I did not have to leave my home to have had them stripped away.


    What liberties are they? I'm sure the Taliban are missing their freedom to beat women who don't wear the right cloths, or execute people for changing religion, or executing people for adultery, or executing people for being homosexuals. But they must be please people like to are standing up for their freedoms.

  • Comment number 39.

    16. At 01:27am on 23 May 2010, ady wrote:
    For those of you wondering what the heck we are REALLY doing there it's for oil/gas pipelines.

    The oil and gas pipeline is good for the Afghan people as well as the consortiums involved, ya know (even the Taliban signed up to it in 1998).

    If you are suggesting that Nato is involved in Afghanistan purely because the US wants to get this oil and gas, then there is simply no hope for you.

  • Comment number 40.

    Are NATO engaged in an ongoing 'policing' action, or a war? Those posters who form comparisons with Vietnam, recognise the continual leakage of casualties, with very little in the form of even medium term gain to show.

    Militarily we owe it to our sevicemen & women to apply overwhelming strategic force, for a period and over an area (including Pakistan)which will eradicate the threat. If we are not willing to commit at this level, we should withdraw and undertake an alternative policy in the region, not just continue putting our children in the ground for little or no gain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Afghanistan? What should the focus be?

    This question rather relies on believing the reasons the UK troops are there in the first place.

    US, UK and all other troops are there to try to clear the ground for the building of the oil pipeline from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan. It won't be built all the while those pesky Taliban stop getting in the way of the wishes of the US-installed Afghan government.

    The focus should be on pulling all UK troops out and letting the US oil companies fight their own fight.

  • Comment number 42.

    It was Muslim fighters who overthrew the Taliban and the meddling in their country by Pakistan. Our troop are there at the request of the Afghans to help secure a lasting peace and that is what they should do until the job is done, becuase the world cannot afford to have that country return to the mass terrorist training camp that it was before.

  • Comment number 43.

    joecool1938 wrote: This country has NEVER been conquered by an outside force.

    Many powers have conquered Afghanistan over the years, Greco-Bactrians, Indo-Scythians, Parthians, Sassanids. In the 10th century the Ghaznavids forced most of the population to convert to Islam. Genghis Khan and his Mongol army devastated much of Afghanistan and totally destroyed major cities. The Taliban is just one of a long like of invading forces which occupied the country for a while. They probably didn't count on their allies carrying out 9/11 and bringing NATO into the war on the side of the Afghan people.

  • Comment number 44.

    For nothing except that they were bullied into Afghanistan by the Americans...
    "with U.S. or against U.S."

    Now when we realize that it was a futile war we want to go out but pulling out will be to admit tacitly that we were wrong to be there
    or it means that lose an ally (the US, for deserting them)

    but i think personally after being a skeptic of the theory that the 9/11 was not perpetrated as it has been sold to the media... everyone i spoke to say that at least there is something that is not right in the official version...

    So we should stand for truth and should not even be there

  • Comment number 45.

    What should foreign powers be fighting for in Afghanistan?

    This is about as complex of a question as could be posed, I guess the simple answer to that question is stability and for local self determination. These should be the over riding principals adhered too in Afghanistan by all coalition forces. Although there has been recent policy changes by the new American General, which focuses more on the hearts and minds approach and must be applauded it is a slight case of too little too late.

    Is an Afghan campaign winnable? Now? In the traditional sense?

    I would say highly unlikely. So should we walk away and leave the Afghans too it? No I cannot agree with that. It is a failure because of NATO and more specifically the Americans and even more directly because of American domestic policy. The invasion of Afghanistan was as a direct result of 911, it was a knee jerk big Texan reaction when the American people were demanding action for 911. The American domestic reaction to Bush not shouting the rhetoric and going after Osama would have been fatal for his Political career.

    Was it right to put US and NATO forces into Afghanistan, that again is a divisive question. I believe it would have been wrong to have ignored Osama and the extremest views and rhetoric coming out of Afghanistan. But having said that, the American invasion was badly badly mishandled and badly thought out and the American military and political leadership must take a HUGE amount of the blame for that and to a fair extend Tony Blair too. It was obvious to anyone that knows the region and the culture of Afghanistan that the American gung ho approach of storm in there with limited forces and cut the head of the Afghan chicken and therefore disable the structure of Al Qaeda and then impose democracy was never going to work. Afghan culture was and is too tribal based to impose any sense of "Western Democracy" additionally American Military culture is not suited to Hearts and Minds campaigns, neither is it suited to playing policeman to another country. American military ideology was and is still stuck in cold war mode, big army, big guns and boots on the ground. The Russians had already received a massive defeat there with the same military ideology.

    How could it have been won? Hearts and Minds was and is the only way any measure of success could have been achieved there. Military force should have been used in a more targeted way, but it should have been more about providing support for the Afghan people, asking them now the Taliban are gone, what do you want, ignoring western ideals of democracy for day 1 and embrace and support there tribal culture, engage with the tribal elders and provide real support for there needs, power, sanitation, agricultural support, medical. Then giving the Afghan people time to build self determination. This of course didnt happen, in fact very little rebuilding and support happened, which of course alienated the population and was compounded by ignoring Afghan tribal culture and sticking two political fingers up at the tribal leaders.

    To remove any oppressive regime and then leave a vacuum where there is nothing to take its place, will always result in Social and Economic break down, which further exacerbates the populaces feeling of abandonment and despair. This will always be exploited by those with the loudest voices and this tends to be those with extremest views in this case the Taliban, the very people the military went there to deal with but ended up empowering them further.

    Can there be any sort of a "Win" there now? Maybe, just maybe, it wont be easy to turn around the negative feelings now, in fact it would cost a 1000 times more in financial and human terms, than if it had of been done right in the first place.

    Can something like the fiasco's of Afghanistan and Iraq be prevented from happening again? This I am not so sure of, it will require a lot of changes in military thinking and political strategy. The idea any war can be won by Big guns, lots of boots and rushing in gung ho blatting of lots of fire-power everywhere. This thinking needs burying in our military colleges and new thoughts on smarter ways to achieve political aims. Just as in the start of the first world war the ideal of Cavalry charge had to be abandoned, just as the start of the second world war the idea of trench warfare and big concrete defences had to be abandoned for a more mobile battlefield. Now the ideas of big fire-power have to be abandoned for more engagement with the population to achieve your political and military aims.

  • Comment number 46.

    History has named Afghanistan "The graveyard of empires". USA can break this mold by realizing that the war in Afghanistan is a war of legitimacy. You could force your will in Uganda, Jordan, Philippines, Thailand or East Timor, but this area is ideologically aroused with a deep martial tradition. Here are some suggestions;

    Give the Muslim world a reason to believe that you policy is not based on raw hate for Islam and Muslims. Get India out of Afghanistan. Cut down civilian casualties by a factor of 50 and don't be cocky when there are any. Don't hold fraudulent elections. Don't make false accusations, people are too smart for that like Taliban are supported by Iran.

    Don't negotiate with any Taliban group without taking Pakistan and Iran into confidence, there is already a strong feeling in both countries that USA is using some Taliban against them. ISI recently arrested a senior Afghan Taliban commander in Karachi, Americans admitted that they were in contact with this Afghan Taliban commander and knew his whereabouts.

  • Comment number 47.

    The parallels to Vietnam are striking: a country that has been invaded by one foreign entity after another for thirty years.
    There is hideous poverty and drug-related crime and disease, a fifteenth-century mindset. People there would, like the NKoreans, do practically anything for decent food and living circumstances.
    Voting can't be trusted because of rampant corruption. It is like a piece of the worst of Africa right there in the middle east: ongoing thievery, subjugation, fear, primitive tribalisms, ongoing conflict.
    The best the West can do is to legalize drugs so criminals can no longer run those operations. That would be a good start, and it could be done without meddling directly in Afghanistan's affairs, so no one could be accused of taking over the counrty. But no one wants to consider realistic solutions yet.
    It might be too early to envision what an endpoint might look like, but one early decision that should be made is how much of Afghanistan's future will be left to Afghans, and how much will be dictated by others.

  • Comment number 48.

    lohag motf wrote:

    -The US military never lost a battle in Vietnam - why should it feel humiliated?


    I will go to Google map and check if the US flag is still flying over Hochiminh City, sorry Hanoi.

  • Comment number 49.

    Ripley: "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

  • Comment number 50.

    The Afghan war was long been won. Its the question of stability that remained volatile.

    Afghanistan will never achieve that as long as the Taliban has safe havens in the neighbouring countries.

    Now the question is what Taliban wants? Resurrect Osama Bin Laden and stage terrorism breeding grounds?

    I don't think any sensible person will allow that to happen.

  • Comment number 51.

    What should we be fighting for?
    I've got it, I've got the answer.
    We should be fighting Afghanistan, to stop these religios zealots running Iran from blowing up our ships and cities like the maniacs in N. Korea are doing. Hey Politicians.....
    I WANT you to Deal with Iran.

  • Comment number 52.

    A real setback was when GWB went into Iraq without provocation, that really took the edge off of the Afghanistan attack, which was justified on the basis of the staging area for 911 (although the criminals involved with 911 were mostly from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and none were Afghans, I believe).
    So the US invaded Afghanistan then it got ridiculously sloppy when attention was turned to Iraq (thanks a heap, "MIA-from-the-nat'l-guard" GWB). (notice how you can't really discuss failures in the ME without bringing the little guy's name into the equation ....)
    SO NOW, it seems imperative to lay out some very well-defined and realistic objectives ("well-defined" and "realistic" being the impt terms here), then go after them in a time-limited way.
    Or get out, because without well-defined, realistic, time-limited objectives, what's the point?

  • Comment number 53.

    Technology is allowing people to attack whomever they wish no matter where they are. There are regions of this world, that were once countries but have devolved into lawless areas. Somalia, Afghanistan, large parts of Pakistan, and other areas where human presence is sparse. Groups can set up in these areas and set up ways to wreak havoc on the societies they deem to be their enemies. So the question could be: "How should the world deal with lawlessness on a grand scale in areas in which people live who have no working government?'. This is a big problem facing the world. asymmetrical warfare from vast lawless areas, with innocent people thrown in who have lived in these areas for generations only to be caught up in the middle. These people are poor and cannot defend themselves against the foreign influenced troops that come in and enlist their children, through coercion, brainwashing, or, they join voluntarily.

    The bottom line is these areas, left to their own means will supply the people needed to disrupt and kill people who would otherwise wish to live in peace, (in these lawless areas and out of them). That is not to say that there are not other people in the world who wish death and war, there obviously are.

    Foreign powers should be represented from all the world governments, to try and bring law and order to these places, and give the people who live there and wish to live in peace the means to do so. That may mean helping them out forever. It is a small world after all, and if we do nothing, we will end up with nothing.

  • Comment number 54.

    Vietnam is a good example for UK,UK shouldnt go there at the begin,even American also cant totally win these kind of war,i dont think UK can be success in Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 55.

    Undoubtedly the focus on Afghanistan should be redevelopment, particularly the reconstruction of the socio-economic infrastructure destroyed by the war illegally and unjustly waged by a coalition of foreign powers under the leadership of the two superpower war mongers,the United States and the United Kingdom. Even in the twentyfirst century the superpowers showed the temerity of conquering Afghanistan by force.Before invading Afghanistan, puffed up with pride and arrogance of powers, the power hungry superpowers ignored the history and geography of Afghanistan.Historically, the Afghanistan could never be conquered by foreign powers. The warlike Afghans are always invincible. It is a pity that the superpowers did not realize the futility of launching the Afghan war which they can never win.The Taliban, and all Afghans for that matter, are duty-bound to protect their home land from the clutches of foreign powers. It is short-sighted to establish democracy in Afghanistan by military powers. It is doomed to failure.The best way to entrench democracy in Afghanistan is to provide massive aid for economic development in the country and help the Afghan Government spread modern education.
    Afghanistan's terrain is unfamiliar to the foreign troops.Nor can they expect assistance from the local people in fighting the war effectively.It is wrong to presume that Afghanistan is an eternal threat to the security of the United Kingdom and the United States.A resource-poor country, Afghanistan is no match for the USA or the UK. But driven to the wall, they know how to fight back and free their dear home land from the foreign enemies.The Taliban, nay, all Afghans, have nothing to lose.They have mastered the art of guerilla warfare exceedingly well. They are prepared to embrace martyrdom.The Brtish and American troops are suffering from war fatigue, and no amount of indoctrination can boost up their morale.They cannot crush Afghanistan as they wanted.
    It is high time the foreign troops left Afghanistan and let the Afghans alone.

  • Comment number 56.

    (((((52. At 05:12am on 23 May 2010, Gary Roberts wrote:
    A real setback was when GWB went into Iraq without provocation,)))

    (Without Provocation) not counting the 10 year failure of Saddem to completely disclose his weapons arsenals, the 30 or 40 so UN resolutions dealing with Iraq, The attempted assassination of Bush's father an American President, Openly Paying people to blow themselves up in Palestine, the gassing of the Kurds, the 10 years of No Fly zones, and the 10 Unanimous Security Council Resolutions Bush obtained demanding Saddem's full compliance. Without Provocation?

  • Comment number 57.

    Getting out springs to mind....

  • Comment number 58.

    The world is a complicated place.

    Time is transient, and so is life.

    Clearly we should leave, and defeat the Taliban via a proxy war through the Afghan government, as our own occupation has solely worked against all our causes and goals. Egos are the only thing fueling the 'war', and they are infinite in source and size. "The Taliban can sustain it's efforts indefinitely" (quoted general McChrystal 2009), but we cannot.

    Afghanistan is relatively simple compared to Iraq, but in the end we will still have to leave there too, and it's unlikely to improve before then.

  • Comment number 59.

    Why should our ministers be in redevelopement talks. It is the job of the USA, which lead and lied its way into the war, to pay for all the damage they have done.

    Our troops should be pulled out immediatly and leave the US to carry on if they wish.

    The UK can not afford to carry on any war at present due to Labour's massive government debt, something they leave every incoming Tory government with, a debt that will this time take more than the 15 years that the Wilson government's took to clear.

  • Comment number 60.

    I do not live in region, however, the universal role of any liberating force should be simple: put the people in charge. Then and only then, when governments fear their people and when populaces dominate their political system will tyranny, servitude and oppression be abolished. Until the Afghans are ready to accept for themselves the heavy burden of responsibility as responsible members of a chaotic world, larger, wealthier and more powerful nations (or continents, EUROPE) should help them rise so that all are made stronger and none are made weaker. The primary goal is twofold, make the nation self sufficient and install a popularly elected government to effectively lead the nation. by doing this, the nations who send their troops will be made safer for it.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm happy to be part of a society that doesn't sit on the fence, but acts to remove repression. WWII could have been avoided if we had taken action in advance of the Nazi's took power and slaughtered all those people in the concentration camps.

  • Comment number 62.

    SnoddersB, what is to keep an oppressive minority from overrunning an instable nation and allow the nation to "carry on if they wish" when the US and other nations won't help them when they are down? How is one to heal one's self when one has no supplies or knowledge? This is not some jingoistic "white man's burden" imperialistic B.S., (Bullocks Stock for you of virgin ears), this is the essence of international charity that celebrities and political figures rave about but they don't see it as it is.

  • Comment number 63.

    Seeing as our news media keeps telling us Al Qaeda are mainly in Somalia, Yemen & Pakistan, I'm really strugging to understand why we're there. As soon as we invade a country, I'm guessing they all move somewhere else - or is that too obvious?

  • Comment number 64.

    worrying that a minister goes into a meeting beliving one thing comes out saying someting completly different ,must be something to do with coalition government . theresa may did the same sort of thing over gay rights issues (vote one way then when under pressure just change your mind). is this what makes a strong government .

  • Comment number 65.

    We should be getting out of that place as soon as possible. Its quite obvious the real reason for being there has not been pursued. The worlds heroin trade is centred around this grubby country and it funds the Taleban.Everyone knows that,yet the powers that be refuse to destroy the poppy fields.The whole area could be rendered useless for decades to grow these poppies but it hasnt been done-why?All the deaths the Nato forces have suffered has been for nothing if you cant stop the terrorists from obtaining weaponary to carry on the fight.You have to ask who is taking backhanders?Is it the governments who are keeping quiet? If so why?

  • Comment number 66.

    I've said this time and time again we have no repeat no right what so ever being there in the first instance. The only loser will be the family's. When the parades in wotton basset stop receiving their loved ones only then will we have learn't our lessons and the folly of putting are noses in where they don't belong Mr Blair.

  • Comment number 67.

    Why are they there in the first place? The world has got a whole lot more dangerous since they went there.

    The priorities must clearly be immediate withdrawal and how much reparation is owed to the Afghani people.

    If more nations kept their armies within their own borders the world would be safer. Over a century of meddling has got us where we are now.

  • Comment number 68.

    8. At 03:23am on 23 May 2010, Simon Morgan wrote:
    4. At 11:48pm on 22 May 2010, Ax0l0tl wrote:
    The priorities should be discussing immediate withdrawal and the amount of reparation owed to the Afghani people.

    -You mean discussing our surrender terms with the Taliban, in effect. And not content with that, we are to compensate them for booting them out.

    A country which many Nato soldiers have died to protect from the Taliban.

    I won't say what I think of you or your proposal - the HYS mods would remove it and probably ban me for life.
    Simon, I think you should read the comment before making comments. Or are you saying that all Afghanis are members of the Taliban?

    Also your veiled threat is well out of order - something I would expect from a supporter of the Taliban.

  • Comment number 69.

    ** A lasting solution could be achieved only by the local people- for the local people **

    Afghanistan is not a local problem- It is a global problem, one of several areas where a different type of war is fought- not the wars in which the western society has being engaged

    There is no instant and short solution to this type of war

    1: Support locals willing to change their country
    •From being a global treat to every single person willing to leave in a free world
    •From a Islamist sanctuary haven that preaches for world domination and terrorists training camps to a country carrying for their own people welfare
    •Modernize the parts of middle age doctrine claiming for :
    "One worldwide- religion- government-culture—imposed by force"
    To include and teach for:
    "Peaceful worldwide coexistent with all: religions- government-cultures-people"
    2:It will be a big strategic mistake leaving the country:
    •without a strong local government
    •The Islamist will claim for a major victory –Many people worldwide will join the Islamist way - The existing treat to modern society will increase everywhere :
    •The democratic countries don’t have the mentality for long war periods and impose solution by brutal force regardless human rights (Correctly claimed by Islamists)
    The same cannot be said for other types of governments

    •The democratic countries should focusing on building critical masses and long time support for:

    Training local forces willing to straggle for a change in:
    Government skills- military and police forces- economic management-teaching human rights
    Transfer all ruling powers to locals as soon as they are ready
    Contact of local people only by locals and not foreigners
    •They should avoid dictating:
    the type of local government
    the constitution
    locals daily life preferences

  • Comment number 70.

    The focus should be'Right we have given you a great deal of time ,money and the British have helped your country,we will give you three more months and then we are going home within the following three months. So the choice is yours,get your own act together because if we catch anyone trying to get drugs into Britain we will go to war against you and bomb your flipping heads off.''Get it?''Oh,and we can advise you,stop those religious fanatics by banning the practice of extreme forms of muslim and if you do not start this,now,we will be going home tomorrow.'NO NEGOTIATION.'

  • Comment number 71.

    65. At 07:19am on 23 May 2010, DIDYOUKNOW wrote:
    The worlds heroin trade is centred around this grubby country and it funds the Taleban.Everyone knows that,yet the powers that be refuse to destroy the poppy fields.The whole area could be rendered useless for decades to grow these poppies but it hasnt been done-why?

    This sounds like the final solution.

  • Comment number 72.

    The focus of the Afghanistan government should be to create full employment and permanent growth, using the five Buxton Coefficients of Unemployment which Gordon Brown used while he was Chancellor. When everyone is making money they do not have time to kill people for a pittance.

  • Comment number 73.

    Liam Fox should instruct the Afghans to get themselves organised because the British are going home.

  • Comment number 74.

    Should'nt Messrs.Liam Fox & Michell at least be on the same page & dispense with the electronic toilet papers. What's the point in good men being killed for nothing ?

  • Comment number 75.

    Oh,and do not send any more of your people to Britain,they will not be allowed in.

  • Comment number 76.

    What should foreign powers be fighting for in Afghanistan? They should be fighting their superiors for the right to pull out.

    They shouldn't be there. The war is a waste of lives, both Anglo-American and Afghan. They should be brought home.

  • Comment number 77.

    Afghanistan is its own solution and just as soon as the Coalition leaves we will get to see how they intend to demonstrate to us what the problem always was. We may not like what we see but it should act as a constant reminder not to get involved in other people's business.

  • Comment number 78.

    Once again i will put words to print,
    Blair and brown both advocate that we are there to stop insurgents from being trained and sent two Brittan to attack you this is nonsense.
    If any thing the enemy is already in england flown in before the ash clouds stooped movement from place to place .
    So get the lads home at the double.
    Ready and waiting like we were during the war.

  • Comment number 79.

    What i would like to see would be the purchasing of the poppy harvest from the farmer, set at a good price, the harvest to be used within the NHS and to supply good quality clean heroin to addicts, which would cost US the taxpayer approximately £1.50p - £2 per day.
    This would have a massive effect within Afghanistan giving them a stable economy,and the farmer a good reason to turn on the Talibs with hopefully less of our troops being injured or killed.
    It would also save US an absolute fortune on the war on drugs and mean crime rates would fall dramatically within the UK.

  • Comment number 80.

    Q: What should the be the focus of foreign powers fighting in Afghanisthan?

    A: Pakistan.
    Beacuse thats where Al Quaida is and thats where Taliban regroup under the auspices of the Pakistan millitary and ISI.

    For those invoking Russian invasion: Russians would have won in Afghanistan were it not for the santuary, weapons and money supplied to the Mujahiddin from Pakistan, the US's client state.

    Unless the coalition takes down the Pakistan millitary and its intelligence wings, the coalition will NEVER suceed in Afghanistan. Fighting only in Afghanistan is like containing a disease instead of curing the root cause of the diease emanating from Pakistan.

    -Does NATO have the will to confront Pakistan, a nuclear armed state? NO!
    -Will NATO loose in Afghanisthan? Yes!

    And ignominiously at that.

  • Comment number 81.

    @29. Simon Morgan wrote:

    "The US military never lost a battle in Vietnam - why should it feel humiliated?"

    Sounds like Scotland at the World Cup....never lost a match but still dropped out. Of course the US military was humiliated: it was shown that overwhelming force alone could not bring about a political solution. War is not an end in itself - refer to Clausewitz - no matter what the generals think. How can you win "a battle" against an enemy that is not obviously identifiable and refuses to take the field in conventional operations?

  • Comment number 82.

    As far as I understand the question, it is what should be the UK's role in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to development. I know there are a lot of comments here, and I'll be honest that I haven't had (nor do I intend) to make time to read them all. I'm sure a number of them are totally off, and a few are probably on the mark. Regardless, here's my bit.

    I'd like to reference the recent article in the New York Times describing the situation in Karachi because it illustrates that we here in the West, including the US and UK, and NATO in general are playing a big role indirectly financing the very people we seek to defeat. This is obviously completely insane, unless of course you support the Big Brother version of our collective foreign policy future, in which case, carry on, because we're moving splendidly toward realizing it.

    Secondly, regarding development, a few points come to mind. One, what role have we as Western, outsiders to develop someone else's country for them? And expect them to be grateful and cooperative? Especially while our very presence is offensive to the majority of the people? Was not requested and remains odious? Formula for success? I doubt it.

    Two, re: development. People develop themselves. We can help, only when asked, and only in ways asked for, by people. Our current policies uphold corrupt Karzai allies. This is entirely ridiculous, except for the fact the it feeds the insurgency. Real development supports the genuine self determination of people on the ground, not corrupt political appointees. As soon as we left Karzai and his cronies float adrift and actually support tribal leaders in their own development strategies, we might get somewhere.

    Three, re: development and military presence. The tribal world of Pashtuns and others in ancient, complex, unresolved and exploits our own funding and military presence. We often do more harm than good just by being there. Withdrawal advised. See the work of FIDA and Faisal Alikan, for an excellent model of really participatory and effective development. No USAID or DFID funding there...

    Four, re: development. Who are we to save the world? Such activity is fundamentally denying the basic capability of the people themselves to create their own solutions. Yes, many are victims. Open immigration and resettlement programs cost less and spread more goodwill than military occupations. Maybe we could consider some different options.

    Last point: military occupation. This one is deeply complex, and yet, I have to make a very simple point that will seem counterintuitive to most people. Our very fighting the battle perpetuates the conflict, making resolution harder to achieve. Only a political solution is possible, and we cannot broker it.

    What could we do? We might consider "feeding our demons." If we're seeking peace and security from Al Qaeda and the Taliban, we might ask, what do they actually want? what do they need? what would satisfy them? not just once but completely? I'm not saying, let's give in to them. Rather, let's be realistic and realize we can't win if we just keep feeding the fire. I recommend the work of Lama Tsultrim Allione and her book on Feeding Your Demons for understanding how we can transform conflict.

    We don't need to be fighting this war. We can engage conflict differently, as long as we're willing to think differently.

    My best to Nick and Dave- good luck, you'll need it

  • Comment number 83.

    The British are there to stop the Taliban reasserting their influence and allowing Al-quaida reinserting itself into the fabric of the country to set up training and development of future anti-Western terrorists.

    We should not be there to fund redevelopment.
    We should not be there to support a chaotic, illegal and corrupt government.
    We should not be there bombing innocent citizens.
    We should not be there to allow a backward, ill-educated and poverty struck nation to continue to treat women as chattels and on the same level or lower than an Afghan sheep, goat or cow.

    Whilst we are there we should have an eye to getting out of the country sooner rather than later.

    Unfortunately, I suspect the British will be nose-led into doing all the things we should NOT be doing and, therefore, NOT achieve the main objective of my first paragraph and, thus, find ourselves stuck in a long and protracted stay in the country.

  • Comment number 84.

    We invaded Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires, under the premise that Usama Bin Laden (not Osama, the americans renamed him cos they didn't like the fact the first 3 letters of his name were usa) was there.

    We were after UBL beacause he was wanted in connection with the attacks on the World Trade centre, both the September 11th ones and an earlier bombing attempt.
    Note that. Wanted in connection with- not proven. There has still been no trial, not even in absentia!

    So, in order to catch a terrorist boss wanted for 2756 deaths, the invasing US forces have (so far) killed a minimum of 5568 civilians by direct means.
    A futher 61,000 civilian deaths are attributable to the invading force indirectly, but are less 'provable'. Note that the vast majority of these have more evidence to prove culpability than the evidence against Usama for September 11th.

    To put it another way, to date we, as a nation, have supported the killing 24 Afghan civilians for every civilian lost in the New York attack. Meanwhile many are claiming (by one argument or another) that this still isn't enough.

    Liam Fox was correct the first time around.
    We did not race into Afghanistan and immediatley set up defensive perimeters to protect teams of builders and plumbers and the like as they erected schools that would educate their poor as soon as was feasibly possible. We didn't prioritise the reinforcement of infrastructure, and get elections in place in the first couple of months.
    We didn't provide escorts to ensure girls could learn to read and write without being assaulted for the temerity of wanting an education- and we still aren't!

    No, we went in first and foremost to KILL certain targets in the name of 'justice'.
    We wanted 'democracy', and instantly complained when they didn't vote for the politicians we supported.

    Over what is now approaching a decade we have inflicted terror upon the people of Afghanistan in a manner all too reminiscent of the 'error of judgement' the USSR made 20 years earlier- for which we condemned them.

    You can not fight a concept with force of arms!
    A war on terror can never be won, because a war by definition will inflict terror and thus perpetuate it.

  • Comment number 85.

    I can't think of any reason to be in Agfangistan. No, not a single one. Let's go home now.

  • Comment number 86.

    Afghans should realise that for their own sake, they should rid themselves of the yolk of Taliban tyranny. Only then will they be able to focus on efforts to rid themselves of the Taliban. The Afghan government does not have a grip on the situation. The Taliban have spun a very delicate web which incriminates top Afghan officials! Until the Afghan government is able to give total security to its citizens, Afghans would be in the clutches of Taliban machinations and terror. The Americans, the British and other Nato allies have to try and woo ordinary Afghans: a fool-proof strategy to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in their own game! Corruption is at the heart of the matter!

  • Comment number 87.

    I believe that if a secure area was developed with education for all, no matter what age, then the Afghani's would see the benefit of peace and provided it all spread, then the Taliban would eventually move on. People will protect wealth more than anything.

  • Comment number 88.

    The priority should / shall be getting out of Iraq / Afgan and protecting our own borders.
    I am waiting for this gov now to state so many billions have been cut from defence !!! So much for support for our troops. Pull them out and bring them home.

  • Comment number 89.

    #82 pragmatic Very fine words indeed .
    I take it your good luck was for two friends about to be sent to the very conflict we are discussing here?
    We don't need to be even in this snake-infested corner of the woods.
    Unless you would like to perhaps purchase the poppy residue they peddle two the rest of the world with devastating consequences on the young etc. Secondly we don't owe the world a living especially to a Muslim movement that are hellbent on world domination starting in the united kingdom.
    They can take their poppy fields and berka garb back to the streets of Pakistan and India where it it more welcome.

  • Comment number 90.

    The focus of international forces must be now on Pakistan rather than Afghanistan because it is Pakistan which has become an epicenter of terrorism of the whole world today. All the dangerous extremists and terrorists groups like Al qaeda and Lashkar e Taeba have taken refuge in Pakistan. The US was lucky that it could prevent the New York Times Squere terrorist attack which was plotted by a Pakistani Faisal Shehzad. I have talked to a lot of Pakistanis and have been observing their news channels for a long time now and one thing I can say for sure they hate India, America and the UK big time. There are hundereds of Faizal Shehzad kind of young men who are waiting eagerly to take revenge and attack our countries. We gotta stop it before its too late. Focus on Pakistan if u want to win the War On Terror.

  • Comment number 91.

    2. At 11:35pm on 22 May 2010, ONE-SICK-PUPPY wrote: "Conservatives and people of knowledge in America told Obama."

    So any influence of the latter was cancelled out by the former?


  • Comment number 92.

    81. At 08:22am on 23 May 2010, lohag motf wrote:
    Sounds like Scotland at the World Cup....never lost a match but still dropped out. Of course the US military was humiliated: it was shown that overwhelming force alone could not bring about a political solution.

    - Khe San - US military victory

    Tet Offensive - US military inflict heavy losses on NVA

    Eastertide Offensive - NVA casualties said to exceed 100,000

    That's what I mean by saying that the US military has nothing to be ashamed of. The American people gave up the fight, not the military.

    It is true that the NVA won the war through clever propaganda, and that strategically the US could have waged the war in a smarter way.

    But humiliation? No, couldn't disagree more.

  • Comment number 93.

    Getting out!!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    Excellent question, it has never been explained why we are there. Vague references to 'war on terror' and 'prevention of terror in the UK' are all I've ever heard. Total tosh the lot of it.
    I want to know why we are there. I want Blair held to properly account for his warmongering ways and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people that have died as a direct consequence of his actions. He may well be guilty of genocide.

  • Comment number 95.

    No Victim No Crime wrote:
    What i would like to see would be the purchasing of the poppy harvest from the farmer, set at a good price, the harvest to be used within the NHS and to supply good quality clean heroin to addicts, which would cost US the taxpayer approximately £1.50p - £2 per day.

    ---- yes, legalization is the best soluiton b/c illegal heroin funds the taliban insects, but legalization is too obvious. It would end things too quickly, and is too political for many countries to deal with. They'd prefer the threats that the Afghan invasion was originally designed to stop.
    Past is prologue: it has already been shown (S America) that "destroying" the illegal drug crop only increases its acreage.
    Distinct impression that there is a great deal of profiteering c/w keeping hostilities going in Afgh, Pak et al.

  • Comment number 96.

    We are wasting out time, our brave soldier's lives and much needed taxpayers money.

    No politician has the courage to admit we are getting nowhere.

    Karzai's govt is corrupt beyond belief.


  • Comment number 97.

    Far more British troops have died in Afghanistan that British people died in the 7/7 attacks.
    The cost of being in Afghanistan is also much higher than the cost f repairing bomb damage.
    If we brought the servicemen back and spen all out effort in making the UK safer and in working with the secret services, root out those within us who do not share our values and are happy to destroy property and take life.
    I do not want these few thousand individuals in the UK and we could send them to Afghanistan if that is the lifestyle they wish to live under.

  • Comment number 98.

    Why should one own's security become more important than redevelopment of AFghanistan? If only the troops support the redevelopment in Afghanistan the locals would certainly start supporting the troops. India's efforts in redevelopment of Afghanistan are thwarted by the priority set US and NATO that ignores the redevelopment per se. Take a survey again and find out why Afghans support India than any other country anywhere. Afghanistan played cricket in T20 World Cup. If IPL 4 could come out with at least a few Afghan cricketers there would be a tremendous opportunity to promote business enterprise for Afghanistan other than opium trade.NATO's strategy should work with Indian mind-set to promote opportunities of development including some bollywood films with Afghan actors instead of getting stuck up there with troops doing nothing of importance.

  • Comment number 99.

    My only policy would be get out!!

  • Comment number 100.

    I wish some people would stop banging on about 'we shouldnt be there in the first place', the fact is we are, and show some support for the men and women out there. How would you feel if you were out there watching your friends spill blood for your country and there were idiots at home harking on about something thats already done. Whether they should have gone or not is an important factor but dont go on about it in public because its people like you who are driving down the morale, and there is few things worse than going into battle thinking 'whats the point, no one cares anyway'. And we should be in Afghanistan whether it suits your beliefs or not. right, rant over...


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