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One more heave

Nick Robinson | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

We're going in deeper to get out sooner.

That was the core message of President Obama's long-awaited new strategy for Afghanistan which Gordon Brown foreshadowed earlier this week. It represents a balancing act between the military's request for more troops and increasing public demands to know when "our boys" will be coming home.

President Barack ObamaCynics will note that the beginning of British withdrawal is timetabled for 2010 - election year - and that the start of the American withdrawal is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2011 - just before the long year of presidential campaigning starts in earnest.

Last weekend, Gordon Brown was rewarded with a politically valuable - albeit totally misleading - headline proclaiming "Our boys home for (next) Christmas" which led David Cameron to warn that "we should never look like we won't see it through".

Both prime minister and president will insist that, strictly speaking, they have not set a timetable. Instead, they will argue they have set a series of "targets or milestones" which are "conditions-based" and are designed to force the pace of the handover to Afghan troops.

This morning, the head of the armed forces, Sir Jock Stirrup, made it clear that he could live with that while stressing that he didn't believe that Afghan forces would be able to take the lead right across the country until 2014. So, a more accurate headline might have read "Our boys maybe home for Christmas in five years' time (if everything goes to plan)".

There are clear parallels with the planned military surge and handover to home-grown forces in Iraq. There are clear difference too which have been pointed out to me by worried sources on both sides of the Atlantic. Unlike Iraq, they say, Afghanistan has no recent history of a strong central government, of an effective army or of a political infrastructure.

Both President Obama and Prime Minister Brown's hopes now rest on:
• the military's ability to halt Taliban momentum
• training up enough competent Afghan forces to begin taking over parts of the country next year
• the buying off of those not ideologically committed to the Taliban
• the strengthening of Afghan's central and local governance

Few doubt that the first is achievable. Many doubt how far the rest are.

Last night in America and the past few weeks in Britain have been largely about politics.

The president has seen off those - including, let's remember, his own vice president - who have warned that America should step back from a Vietnam-style quagmire.

The prime minister has successfully confronted the coalition of disaffected military leaders, the Sun and the Tories who demanded to know "Don't you know there's a bloody war on?".

Both will now hope they can emerge from the shadow of Afghanistan to fight their political opponents on other fronts. They have done so with a strategy which can best be summed up as "one more heave".

Below are key extracts of Obama's speech (with my headings) in case you've not had time to read it for yourself:

The mission

"We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001..."
"Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy - and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama Bin Laden - we sent our troops into Afghanistan."

The problem

"Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al-Qaeda has not re-emerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe-havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan Security Forces and better secure the population."

The strategy

"[A]s Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan."

The objectives

"We must deny al-Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban's momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future."
"[T]hree core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan."

The timetable

"[T]he absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan."

The politics

"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow."
"[T]here are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history."
"[O]ur troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended - because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    here we go following the american lead yet again.
    thankfully blair and brown were not in power during the vietnam conflict that the americans wasted countless lives and multi millions of dollars and for what? nothing.
    our government is a joke and should resign due to inept leadership and loss of british forces lives backing an american ideal.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick -- but I thought one of the original Blair justification(s) was the poppyfield/opium problem. This then moved to the terrorism justification after the London bombings.
    As it has been said many times the reason and strategy has drifted to fit the political wishes of Blair and now Brown plus of course USA[George Bush]. Problem now is the USA [Obama] isn't quite so keen. They see another Vietnam in the making.

  • Comment number 3.

    'Instead, they will argue they have set a series of "targets or milestones" which are "conditions-based" and are designed to force the pace of the handover to Afghan troops.'
    A kind of Taleban SATS, perhaps.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pour more troops in, to make it easier and quicker to leave.
    This is the same strategy as that used in Vietnam.
    But let's not worry. I am sure that the MOD will find enough helicopters to fly our diplomats off the embassy roof in Kabul.
    There must be helicopters and they certainly aren't being used to protect our troops.

  • Comment number 5.

    And as soon as we get out, they will get back in again.

    IT has now become a waiting game for the Taliban. Couple of years thats all they need disappear for and then the area is their oyster, feeding off the despair that the Allies will have left behind after destroying the crops and income of the indeginous tribes.

    Ridiculous waste of resource.

  • Comment number 6.

    I doubt that the extra ground troops will make much difference as the Taliban are no doubt hiding out in the mountain terrain between Afghanistan and Pakistan.Rather than expose these troops to premature death, we need instead to mount a "shock and awe" high level bombing campaign of the mountain area to drive the Taliban out.The Taliban can then either choose to die in the mountains or surrender to Afghan or Pakistani forces.We must also remember the Taliban who are posing as civilians or members of the police force and ensure that they are dealt with too. If the coalition forces are not careful this could end up like another Vietnam with a lot of unnecessary deaths.

  • Comment number 7.

    The war on terror seems to me to be a score draw at the moment.

    We've deposed one evil regime (for now) in Iraq, but are now supporting a new one in afghanistan.

    hmm

  • Comment number 8.

    Nick - not sure where on earth you get this from?

    "The prime minister has successfully confronted the coalition of disaffected military leaders, the Sun and the Tories who demanded to know "Don't you know there's a bloody war on?"

    Has he? Let's be clear: the key criticism of Brown from the military, the Sun and Tories was NOT that the war per se was wrong; Ths Sun and the Tories both support the aims of the war entirely.

    The criticism was that if we go to war, we need to equip our troops properly. This was manifestly not done for the first eight years leading to many unncessary deaths and casualties (read the coroners' reports, Nick), but after enormous pressure has maybe - we are told - begun to improve. I for one still regard Brown's penny pinching re our troops as dishonourable and sick; even if the situation is improving, it was only because of enormous pressure which shouldn't have proven necessary.

    Brown has not therefore 'successfully confronted . . .,' he has 'successfully caved in and committed the resources he should have committed in the first place for the war effort, which continues to be supported by . . .'

    Your statement above is therefore an appalling and incorrect twisting of the actual facts. Great reporting, BBC! (By the way, those questioning most whether we should even be at war sit largely on the left; hardly the Sun or Tories.)

    The fact also remains that Brown has done an absolutely appalling job of selling why we need to be in Afganistan properly to the British public. Much of the weakness of his case so far has been that he has funded it properly. After all, if you say it's a critical priority, why wouldn't you fund it properly? Particularly when people are dying and being maimed as a direct result.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hmm... this bit bothers me, and has done since before the start of the invasion;

    "Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy - and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama Bin Laden - we sent our troops into Afghanistan."

    The Taliban did refuse to turn over OBL, but they had every right to do so. The Americans instructed them to hand him over, the Taliban said they wanted to see some sort of evidence that he was the one responsible for the September 11th attacks, the US Govt. scoffed at the concept that they should have to prove anything and sent in the troops.

    Can't really hold Obama responsible for that, as it wasn't his call; but I do take umbrage at his talking, now, about "international legitimacy". I don't know where the Americans get this idea from that they have the legitimate right to demand other countries hand over their citizens - or even foreign nationals such as OBL in Afghanistan - without having to give some sort of proof that they've actually committed a crime.

    Actually, I kinda do know; they get too used to it from countries like us. Countries prepared - and obliged by treaty - to give over their citizens simply on the basis that the Americans suspect them of something.

    Now, I can't see that it's likely that I personally am ever going to be accused of being involved in terrorism; nonetheless, if it DID come to that, I would expect my government to demand exactly the same sort of proof that the US wants in order to extradite one of their own people - or else, tell them to get lost, exactly as the Taliban did.

    There's been talk, in recent months, of a "cooling" in the relationship between the UK and the US. And quite frankly, I'm really beginning to think that's a good thing. The "Special Relationship" basically seems to boil down to the Americans saying "Jump!" and the British Govt. replying "Certainly... but how high?"

    Frankly, I'm prepared to give my vote to any party that's going to insist on a reciprocal arrangement in respect of extraditions to America. If it's ok for the US to demand people be handed over on the basis of a suspiscion, they can damn well do the same thing for us; starting with anybody involved with NORAID, whose funding kept the IRA in lethal business for years.

    And if it's NOT ok for us to do that, then the Americans need to give us the same sort of proof that they demand, when they want to take somebody out of this country and try them for something.

  • Comment number 10.

    In the short term not much will happen as the Afghan winter is very harsh outside of Kabul and the larger towns. Besides getting 30,000 troops plus their equipment from stateside to Afghanistan, and securing their accomodation will take months.

    As long as ISAF is fighting under UN rules of engagement the Taliban will always win in the end.

  • Comment number 11.

    #3 poprishchin

    Bound to fail then......

  • Comment number 12.

    Realistically Brown and Obama cannot just walk away from this war. They can however follow the lesson of Northern Ireland that a military victory was impossible and insist on negotiations with the Taliban (or elements of them) are prioritised. The implications for Afghanistan civil liberties may not be attractive but the country will quickly be rid of endemic corruption. If Brown really thinks that the war against terrorism is won or lost on the battle fields of this troublesome country then he needs to prosecute the war with extreme prejudice as the Americans would say.Is 500 of our children enough? Maybe their recent equivocation reflects that they do not believe in Brown's justification for the spilling so much of our boys' blood but lets suck it and see anyway. Would it not be more productive to offer direct military assistance to Parkistan? The number of our kids slaughtered or maimed on the poppy fields of this country well exceeds those fallen to UK terrorism. Perspectives should also consider the 5000 hospital deaths of patients admitted without life threatening conditions - what resouces should we comitt to this?

  • Comment number 13.

    At least after eigth years of rudderless vacuity over Afghanistan there seems to be some leadership at last. It is only now that one fully realises the extent of the stupidity of Bush and Blair who seemed to have started wars with no idea as to how to fight them and finish them. Typical civilians!

    After 9/11 the US had no choice but to go out and get those responsible and those who were allied to them. I had no problem with that. Yet the original intervention in Afghanistan was under-resourced and left incomplete; leaving the new government there to line their pockets with foreign aid and drugs money. In the interim though we had the distraction of Iraq; the details of which are gradually becoming clear day by day, or should I say drip by drip.

    I have said all along that Afghanistan is do-able given the right strategy and resources. Obama has said it how it is: hopefully the drift is over. My main concern is whether or not the incompetence is over as well.

  • Comment number 14.

    looks like OB and GB are putting there election propects over and above what is actually required to do the job they have sent MEN to die for.

    dispicable

  • Comment number 15.

    Obama's acceptance speech when he collects his Nobel Peace Prize. I can hear it now "I have ordered 30000 more troops into war zones to extend our killing further and faster. I have pressured other countries to send lots more troops into existing wars we have started. These new troops will be heavily armed and will be killing people. Lots more killing in the name of peace. So I am glad to accept this award for my contribution to world peace".

  • Comment number 16.

    bluntjeremy

    Re #8

    To be perfectly blunt you have absolutely no proof of any shortfall of Military equipment for Afghanistan except that the original troop transport vehicle and helicopters were not of the latest version.

    It amazes me how people who seem to know almost nothing about the actual logistics and working of a frontline combat operation seize upon a point as if that is evidence of wholseale unpreparedness and incompetence! Never mind absurd allusions to poor Strategic Mission control every time a soldier gets blown up.

    Army personnel are fitted out with eqipment prior to any operation: Some things take priority over others and it is a Military decision as to what that order of supply is.
    In operational theatre the 'kit' becomes by its very purpose worn down and is then either re-jigged or disposed of: That some equipment is always behind the times, or there's a shortage, it's behind schedule, or, plainly beyond use for particular operational duties is the nature of in-your-face warfare.

    Killing the enemy and not being killed/injured is the name of the game - - it really is still that basic - - that is the job of a soldier and they did not volunteer to serve in HM Armed Forces without being aware of that ultra human fact of life and death.
    Seems to me a lot of British public now want bloodless wars - - well, it never was and never will be.

    No Army ever has enough of anything: War conditions change on an hourly/daily basis according to enemy combatant deployment and local conditions on the ground: An Armoured Personnel Carrier carrying 8 men suddenly finds 100 Taliban and calls for support - - 3 types - - more ground forces (in by any helicopter/other vehicle available, but they may be elsewhere - - remember there are never enough), Tactical Air Support (is there Aircraft in the vicinity? are they appropriate aircraft - - cos if they are already returning from a mission they will not have the ordinance and be no use at all - - such is the live combat situation, and so it goes on... Maybe they have the wrong ordinance fitted, i.e. its close-quarter and a 5,000 tonne explosive wont leave much of the 8 or anything!), and Staff Intel (what exactly have they come up against? Are locals hostile? Any nearby vantage points? Why is this bloody map showing a road-bridge but its a footbridge!), and in the meantime you keep your head down and return fire as best you can.

    If all goes well, you get out in one relieved piece - considering 2001 to 2009 and approx 180 combat deaths that seems fairly much how things have gone - - you win some, you lose some - - nobody likes the latter and mistakes are made at every level.

    However, this idea the Government are to blame for everything and if they had acted differently the Afghan campaign would be almost over is utter tosh - - the US have 60,000+ there with all their resources - - still, a guerrilla force in mountainous/desert terrain with at least a dozen different regional tribal elements eludes defeat. How odd!

    The 'fog of war' is about as apt a phrase as any ever coined!

    Yes, the UK Armed Forces deserve the very best and yes there are far too many Ministry of Defence civil servants/jobsworth - - that type of MOD was there long before NuLab - - in fact the last shake-up was under that supposed war leader Thatcher, so clearly even she got it out of kilter at times.

  • Comment number 17.

    9. At 11:39am on 02 Dec 2009, Khrystalar wrote:

    #I don't know where the Americans get this idea from that they have the legitimate right to demand other countries hand over their citizens - or even foreign nationals such as OBL in Afghanistan - without having to give some sort of proof that they've actually committed a crime.

    And I thought OBL was a Saudi Arabian and had no legitimmate right to be in Afghanistan, I do think that if necessary they could have shown ample proof of his obscene activities, In retrespect had they of handed him over ,thousands of lives from many nations would not have been lost.

  • Comment number 18.

    #16 it all about type and availiability in the threatre about the helo's

    we have around 40 chinnocks of various capabilities.

    8-10 were the Mk3 that could not be used for sound reasons.

    The others were not fit for operations , which is why there was the NEP UOR to bring around 10 upto a spec that would be suitable.

    There was a massive 4 year hiatus before the formalisation was put in place and then to be taken forward (reasons of monies from the then chancellor).

    The 8-10 MK 3 are to be retor fitted to a mk2/2a NEP+ specification.

    thus having around 20 fit for purposes the others not being fit for operations.

    On a prorator basis the USA has about 10 times helo to men for the same type of operation.

    Brown is guilty of letting down the forces over equipement supplies and procurrement over the last 10 years, QED

  • Comment number 19.

    1. At 11:01am on 02 Dec 2009, delminister wrote

    #here we go following the american lead yet again.


    And I thought that Brown announced a increase in troops a day or so before the Americans, so I guess the Yanks are saying

    "here we go following the British lead yet again."

  • Comment number 20.

    If we are in Afghanistan to protect the streets of the UK from terrorists, and our troops are on the front line. Why then is there a situation where other countries troops are not on the front line. Is this because those countries do not have a terrorist threat, and if not why not?
    Nick, why do you not ask Brown this question?

  • Comment number 21.

    #6 newshounduk
    '... We need instead to mount a "shock and awe" high level bombing campaign...'
    '... This could end (...) with a lot of unnecessary deaths.'

    Can you have one without the other?

  • Comment number 22.

    It is an aspect of any White House administration that every U.S. president needs a war. The main reason for this is that many americans feel as though they need an enemy. Also any american administration needs to justify the vast expense of maintaining the military.
    In the old days this was served by the Soviet Union. Now after the Berlin Wall has come down and the Soviet Union disbanded the americans have been desperately seeking someone else to fight against. For George W. Bush this was Iraq. For President Obama it is Afghanistan.
    The great mistake made by the governments of the U.K. is that they have been seduced into following the american desire to have an enemy. Perhaps this is also because Whitehall and Downing Street also need to justify the expense of maintaining a military presence around the world. Without a war to focus public attention, what else do you do with our Navy, Army and Air Force?
    So in my opionion none of these conflicts have anything to do with protecting either the U.S.A. or the U.K. It is all to do with finding our military personel something to do with all the equipment that successive governments have invested in and to jsutify their existence.

  • Comment number 23.

    The issue of the 'long term' seems to be slightly misconstrued. Troops are often sent abroad for the long term.
    Why don't we bring the 'long term' troops back from Germany (20, 000 or so)?
    Or maybe send some to Afghanistan...?
    We are all in it (life) for the long term

  • Comment number 24.

    "Last weekend, Gordon Brown was rewarded with a politically valuable - albeit totally misleading - headline proclaiming "Our boys home for (next) Christmas" which led David Cameron to warn that "we should never look like we won't see it through". "

    Clearly Brown is playing politics with our troops having watched PMQs today and I hope you pick him up on this. He clearly allowed the media to believe this to be fact - which Cameron said in PMQs - and then vaguely waived his arms like Cameron was the chump. This is cynical in the extreme and if I was the family of a serviceman or a serviceman I would be very angry at the misconception to be allowed to continue that they may be back for next Christmas.

    Shameful

  • Comment number 25.

    There is a simple fact about war, that fact is that people will die.

    From a political perspective, they're not involved in fighting at the front lines so they have an extremely limited perspective on things. Basically, if we're going to let people decide on when we should be at war, we should at least have decisions made by people who have been there on the front lines because our politicians seem to think that all they need to do is declare war and expect that the fact that they don't think about consequences will not hinder the ability of the troops to easily achieve success.

    History has shown that the Middle Eastern countries are not the types of places you can just attain victory without trouble. They are committed to driving out those they consider to be invaders and will gladly throw down their lives for their cause for as long as they have to. Then, the more you kill, the more determined the enemy becomes and the more people join their cause.

    They have commitment and a true desire to win at all costs on their side and what do we have? Uncertainty, indecisiveness, lack of commitment, lack of resources, etc.

    If you wage a war, you go to war, there is either victory or defeat in war because there's no such thing as middle ground unless diplomacy takes place. Diplomacy isn't taking place so we are left with victory or defeat. Now all the politicians are saying they're committed to the effort and cause that they're fighting for but want to pull people out as quickly as possible. That is contradictory.

    We would need to pour as much manpower, equipment, resources, investment in the armed forces and their equipment but apparently all that concerns our politicians is cuts and money.

    If they want to succeed in the mission, then they should prove it.

    If they want to pull out, then they should pull out.

    All this indecisiveness and playing up to the politicians, the global arena, the people is pointless. There's no point in committing troops and then saying but they'll be brought home under a timetable, that only shows that the military plans in place are preparations for defeat. If that's the case, pull out the troops now because i feel quite confident that an Afghan military force will not be able to stand up to the Taleban.

    If the UK, US and their allies can't make progress against the Taleban, what hope does a newly formed and inexperienced Afghan military have?

    The Taleban have proven themselves in the art of warfare for decades, an Afghan military will not be a problem and they'll probably be easier to bribe and coerce, before you know it the Afghan military will probably end up becoming the newly formed Taleban Army.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24 brown and or always playing political with many peoples lives just to save there own. At least Callaghan did the right things for the country before the 1979 elections where as today its a PM self first motive for all decision making

  • Comment number 27.

    #16

    You say 'no proof' re the shortfalls in equipment. There is plenty of proof: read the coroners' reports, the interviews and comments from members of the Forces and their families, Ministers' own limited admissions of historic shortfalls, etc. Look at what's come out this week about the appalling lack of preparations for Iraq, let alone Afganistan, e.g. 5 live rounds each for some troops going over the border, etc. A disgrace.

    You then accuse me of knowing almost nothing about logistics and frontline combat operations: wrong again. I do have past Army experience.

    You then go into a diatribe of the obvious around the risks inherent in fighting, etc. in an attempt to erect as large a smokescreen as you can to blame the UNNECESSARY casualties we have suffered on the enemy rather that our own lack of proper equipment, e.g. helicopters. Apart from the obvious moral bankruptcy here, we all recognise that war involves casualties. BUT it is equally clear that not enough was spent upfront to minimise the scope for casualties and that is this Government's and Brown in particular's fault, firstly as Chancellor and now as Prime Minister.

    Your obviously work for Labour. Carry on spinning. But I live in the real world, not Labour's would-be dream world. And for the record, before I became so utterly disgusted with Labour's behaviour on this and several other issues, I voted for Blair.

  • Comment number 28.

    "The prime minister has successfully confronted the coalition of disaffected military leaders, the Sun and the Tories who demanded to know "Don't you know there's a bloody war on?". "

    Nick, please could you explain when this happened. From what I have seen, Brown gets beaten up in the commons and in the press on a weekly basis - mainly due to the chronic equipment shortages suffered by our troops, but also because of his total lack of leadership on the issue of Afganistan.

    Frankly I can't remember a time when Brown has "confronted" any issue.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ grandantidote, post #17;

    "And I thought OBL was a Saudi Arabian and had no legitimmate right to be in Afghanistan..."

    Indeed, which is why I put in the part about "...they have the legitimate right to demand other countries hand over their citizens - or even foreign nationals such as OBL in Afghanistan - without having to give some sort of proof that they've actually committed a crime."

    I've bolded the bit you strangely failed to read, last time.


    "I do think that if necessary they could have shown ample proof of his obscene activities,"

    Really? You actually think that?

    So... what's your explanation for why they didn't do so, then?


    "In retrespect had they of handed him over ,thousands of lives from many nations would not have been lost."

    In retrospect, if the US had simply given up and surrendered to the Taliban after the September 11th attacks, thousands of lives from many nations would not have been lost.

    That doesn't actually mean that it would've been the right thing to do, though, huh?

  • Comment number 30.

    bluntjeremy

    re #27

    Not another one!

    Look, we are 12 days into the Chilcott enquiry that is due to last 365!

    You select the bit that suits/fits and off you go... it's all this that or the other.

    Wait and see.

    As for the actauly deployment of Army personnel to Iraq and Afghanistan - - I'm sorry, but try to read it again - - No frontline soldier went into battle with 5 bullets!
    The shortages etc. in Iraq and Afghanistan are exactly as per usual: It is awlays about priorities (and sorry IR35_Survivor, your allegation about the choppers just does not add up -- MOD made strategic choices of what to order, manufacture, supply - - that was not Blair or Brown or Major or even Thatcher).
    When the Welsh Guards sat on the Galahad because the priority according to the Officer Commanding was to get the equipment and munitions off first that was a fatal and dreadfully injurious decision to many - - the Order was not made for that purpose, was it? No, it just so happened a Super Etandard Fighter-bomber came in low and the rest is agony...

    War is not about rights and wrong choices - - it is about doing the best you can with what you have and trusting to thsoe around you, above and below you, in the chain getting their act together.

    Clearly the Government did not get its act together in some respects - - does that make it conspiracy or cock-up and casualties - - well, the UK is in Afghanistan and ehiolst there get used to a whole lot of the latter 2, because that is how war is.

  • Comment number 31.

    Basically, US/NATO troops did their best, but after eight years the Taliban have forced Obama to announce troop withdrawal starting in 2011.

  • Comment number 32.

    No one has seemed to have forced it out of Brown yet as to the identities of the eight countries he was referring to last week who were going to put extra troops in the theatre of war to fight alongside the US and UK.

    Was this not one of Browns conditions that had to be met before he put more of our troops in harms way?

    All I can see is the Taliban being given a greater opportunity to kill and maime even more of our young soldiers. For what purpose? This war is never going to be won. The taliban just melt away to return and fight another day.

    The last time a load of Afghans who are mainly illiterate were trained up as a security force they just fled. The same thing will happen this time round. They will flee with guns, ammunition and anything else they can lay their hands on.

    This whole exercise is a cynical ploy by Brown and Obama. For Brown it is to bolster his political standing as being the man in charge before the next general election. For Obama a planned part retreat pencilled in to take place before he starts campaigning for relection. He seems to me to be a man who does not have his heart in the job in hand; but is being forced to carry on by the hawks in his government. For the time being yet anyway until public opinion reaches a tipping point and he can do a turnabout with losing votes for his actions.

    I still do not know the reasons for staying in Afghanistan. Like many other countries we have been there before, they never scored a win nor will we. The terrain and the mindset of the taliban will see us off - again.



  • Comment number 33.

    Brown did well in Prime Minister's question today. Thought you might had a thread on it. Witty - getting the better of Cameron and Clegg. And what's all this about a referendum on the Alternative Voting system of proportional representation?

  • Comment number 34.

    29. At 2:28pm on 02 Dec 2009, Khrystalar wrote:
    @ grandantidote, post #17;

    "And I thought OBL was a Saudi Arabian and had no legitimmate right to be in Afghanistan..."

    ============================================

    The more interesting question is why the US authorities did not try and have OBL arrested in 1996, when under enormous pressure from the US government the Sudanese government asked OBL to leave. Previously he had been hounded out of Sausi Arabia by the Saudi Intelligence Services.

    It was reported that OBL was furious with the Americans as he had a luxurious lifestyle in Sudan and the move precipitated a dramatic fall in his living standards. The guilt is implied as he has never claimed responsibility for atrocities but has been seen celebrating them. I suspect that he is more of a figurehead to inspire others, the rallying call if you like rather than a doer.

    I do not think that western leaders understand jihad at all. There is no personal glory involved for any given individual like there is in western society. Likewise the length of time it takes to achieve objectives is immaterial, as it is Allahs wish. The notion that the Taliban will give up after 10 years or so is risible. Besides they have already shown once before, that they can retreat, regroup nad come back again.

  • Comment number 35.

    29. At 2:28pm on 02 Dec 2009, Khrystalar wrote:

    I've bolded the bit you strangely failed to read, last time.

    I did'nt fail to read it thats why I wrote
    And I thought OBL was a Saudi Arabian and had no legitimmate right to be in Afghanistan,

    As a foreign national he was entitled to no rights in that country or any protection and had no legitimmate right to be in
    Afghanistan. Practically any country who was guesting a man accused of such heinous crimes would either of handed him over to the country to which he had conducted these alleged crimes or at the very least of returned him to his own country, do you honestly believe that whatever evidence was put before the Taliban that they would have handed him over?.

    #In retrospect, if the US had simply given up and surrendered to the Taliban after the September 11th attacks, thousands of lives from many nations would not have been lost.

    I'm wasting my time . I give up.

  • Comment number 36.

    33. At 2:43pm on 02 Dec 2009, GeeDeeSea wrote:
    "Brown did well in Prime Minister's question today. Thought you might had a thread on it. Witty - getting the better of Cameron and Clegg."
    No he didn't. He threw in a few obviously rehearsed non-sequiturs, completely unconnected to the questions he was asked. Yet another fumbling, stumbling, bumbling display at the Dispatch Box.

  • Comment number 37.

    Brown had a fairly up beat PMQ session, I thought. Didn't answer too many questions too directly, but he seemed less tired than normal.

    It was unfortunate that his statements about additional UK troops being injected and eventual withdrawal led to press headlines about some pullback during 2010. I didn't notice many Wetsminster spokespeople running around asking papers/media at large to correct that impression.

    At least it's clear that Obama has been thinking about both the international strategy - and his own political environment. I simply can't understand why the UK government has taken so many years to come up with a sensible approach, to feed to BRown, so he could "Lead the world" again.

  • Comment number 38.

    Essential Rabbit

    Totally agree with you, he would not answer any questions - no change there and went off the point quite regularly. (I thought Gordon had put quite a bit of weight on today. Obviously not going jogging anymore). The trouble with Gordon is that he does not really get the idea of PMQs. He is supposed to be answering questions put to him, not asking the other two main parties for their ideas.

    I also thought the behaviour of Balls today to be rather childish - about par for the course for him.

    I don`t think Clegg or Cameron are really too fired up as we are still in the phoney election pre period. Wait till they are back from xmas hols and they have had an opportuntiy to dissect Darling`s spending plans in detail. Then sparks will start flying; but there is not much point Clegg or Cameron getting too exercised pre xmas.

  • Comment number 39.

    24. At 1:27pm on 02 Dec 2009, gthebounceranddavincimaster wrote:

    "Clearly Brown is playing politics with our troops having watched PMQs today and I hope you pick him up on this. He clearly allowed the media to believe this to be fact - which Cameron said in PMQs - and then vaguely waived his arms like Cameron was the chump."

    Remember Blair and the "45 minute" headlines. Nulabour have done absolutely nothing except play politics with everyone's lives for the last twelve years.

  • Comment number 40.

    38. At 3:24pm on 02 Dec 2009, briangare wrote:
    "I also thought the behaviour of Balls today to be rather childish - about par for the course for him."

    This is apparently the reason he was made Secretary of State for children etc. Has much in common with them.

  • Comment number 41.

    39. At 3:28pm on 02 Dec 2009, EssentialRabbit wrote:

    # like Cameron was the chump."

    Cameron was the chump.

  • Comment number 42.

    #5, sircomespect wrote:
    And as soon as we get out, they will get back in again.

    sir,

    I fear you are right. It will take more than 18 months to build, train and properly equip an Afghan army that could be "politically orientated" to defend a Karzai-led government.

    There are deeply tribal divisions within Afghanistan. Melding a force which can bridge the gap - rather than training people to have a civil war after we've gone - will be a long-term prospect. And that has little to do with the religious aspects.

    If the Taliban hunkered down, waited for a year or more, then gathered themselves, they could - and probably will - re-emerge.

    I guess Obama recognises that Pakistan needs a show that the West will try to help while the Pakistanis attempt to stop ultra-radical Islamist forces spreading into that country.

    Odd thing is that the Taliban seem to want a lot of things that are already fairly embedded in Saudi Arabia...

  • Comment number 43.

    The more they try to sell us on this war in Afghanistan the more turned off we become. It is precisely the psychology of having to sell a war that is the big turn-off.

    Obama surely took so long to make up his mind because there was not a clear path to the right way to go and all we have is more of the same with more lives at stake.

    We have now seen two long and disastrous wars neither of them conventional and in defence of our own country.

    I still agree with Howells who more or less said defence begins at home rather than entering and maintaining some face saving exercise for the US under NATO which will leave bloody civil wars behind them as soon as they leave.

  • Comment number 44.

    41. At 3:41pm on 02 Dec 2009, grandantidote wrote:

    "39. At 3:28pm on 02 Dec 2009, EssentialRabbit wrote:
    # like Cameron was the chump.
    Cameron was the chump."

    It wasn't me, I was quoting gthebounceranddavincimaster at #24, but I totally agree with his sentiments.

  • Comment number 45.

    khrystalar. . .

    I have written a very long, cojant response to your post #269 on the '"If You Thought it Was All Over..." thread at #277, to which I haven't yet received a response. Don't get me wrong I don't expect one!! I just wanted to let you know that I did not forget about you and your concerns, and wanted to introduce and explain myself and my thought process on said concerns as thoughtfully as possible. So its there if you, or anyone else with your concerns, wants to read it.


    As regards your post #9 on this thread...

    "The Taliban did refuse to turn over OBL, but they had every right to do so. The Americans instructed them to hand him over, the Taliban said they wanted to see some sort of evidence that he was the one responsible for the September 11th attacks, the US Govt. scoffed at the concept that they should have to prove anything and sent in the troops."

    True. And yes we should not have scoffed, as if we think we're somehow better than anyone else in this world, at the audacity of a suspect demanding proof of their having committed a crime. A need to prove criminal intent is, after all, enshrined in the most ancient laws of both our countries.

    But in the interests of fairness, yes we should have provided the proof of 9/11 as requested in the hopes of Osama Bin Laden's extridition, but don't you think that the information gathered by the intelligence services (lazy and stupid as they were in the months and years leading up to the attacks to not smell a rat, do a little investigating, and connect the dots) on the hijackers was "evidence" enough? Or what about that vidio tape Bin Laden made recently after the attacks bosting of how proud he was that they went off as well as they did? In fact, I remember him saying that he wasn't expecting, and indeed didn't want, the twin towers to completely collapse; and that he had just hoped that they would get seriously damaged. But the fact that they collapsed was like a bonus to all his hard work and planning. So again, I'm not defending the Bush administration!! But you can understand, can't you, why perhaps they might have thought it silly to show proof of the attacks as being the fault of the Taliban?

    "I don't know where the Americans get this idea from that they have the legitimate right to demand other countries hand over their citizens - or even foreign nationals such as OBL in Afghanistan - without having to give some sort of proof that they've actually committed a crime."

    Replace the word "Americans" (implying all 300 million of us) with the words "George Bush" (implying one unfortunate soul who happened to cheat his way into the highest office in the land) and I'll wholeheartedly agree with the above sentence!!

    "Now, I can't see that it's likely that I personally am ever going to be accused of being involved in terrorism; nonetheless, if it DID come to that, I would expect my government to demand exactly the same sort of proof that the US wants in order to extradite one of their own people - or else, tell them to get lost, exactly as the Taliban did."

    Well then if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath for this to happen under the Brown government. "Hope" and "change," however, may come with a Cameron government. William Hague did, after all, deliver a brilliant speech back in the summer at the IISS explaining that he wanted a "solid, but not slavish" relationship with the US, and promised that if the Tories were to get into power that one of their top priorities upon taking office would be to set right our extridition treaty. But as one who has been thoroughly
    disappointed in the Obama administration, I wouldn't hold my breath too much on that either.

    "There's been talk, in recent months, of a "cooling" in the relationship between the UK and the US."

    Please don't take offense at this, but in the time that I have taken an interest in this topic (about 8 years) I have found that there has seemingly often been "talk" of a "cooling" in the relationship. I believe that this is what helps to amplify and exaggerate the master and slave relationship that at times exists between us. This is just a thought, but perhaps if the news media didn't get so worried every time a disagreement occured, perhaps if it didn't go over the entire history of our relationship throughout the entire existance of the United States as a separate country with a fine toothed comb, then perhaps we might be able to construct a more equal relationship; one based on mutual respect and dialog, and not what we say gos.

    "The "Special Relationship" basically seems to boil down to the Americans saying "Jump!" and the British Govt. replying "Certainly... but how high?"

    Really? It did under Clinton? Carter? Roosevelt? Reagan? I'm not saying that past administrations haven't been careless, to put it nicely, with how they have decided to treat our friends. But if the majority of the British people (on these pages at least) are going to continue to think that you will always live under our thumb no matter who resides in the White House or works at the State Department, then perhaps we should just "cut our losses" in this relationship as well. Cut all associations. Diplomatic, military, intelligence, defense, investment, cultural (and that includes entertainment.) It would be arduous, but at least then we wouldn't run the risk of mistreating or offending you anymore. I mean if you think about it, independence aside, no other nation has held you back from pursuing your international dreams and/or embarrissed you by its actions on the world stage than us. So you wouldn't be losing a friend, you'd be losing a potencial master.

  • Comment number 46.

    This will be seen as Obama's and Brown's greatest achievement, training and arming a massive army ready for the conquest of Pakistan and any other country that gets in the way, as soon as the west pulls out and the Taliban return and take over.The idea that the Afghan "army " will actually resist the takeover is wishful thinking to say the least. The probability is that a large part of this army is already allied to the very people they are intended to fight. Pulling out in 18 months time and leaving a stable country is like Brown's dream of Britain being " best placed " to ride out the recession.

  • Comment number 47.

    "And I thought OBL was a Saudi Arabian and had no legitimmate right to be in Afghanistan," could you explain this " legitimate right bit?

    If he had " no right" to be there , who gave the troops the " right " to be there?

    Just because the US administration demands extradition does not mean that a country will neccessarily comply , and neither should it.

    Sadly , the UK seems incapable of denying extradition of an Aspergers sufferer.

  • Comment number 48.

    #12 wrong - the ira/sinn fein came to the negotiating table when the Britsh Government made it clear that the Uk would never remove the troops whilst there was still terrorism in Northern Ireland. The republicans realised that they could talk, and were given a way to talk without losing face.
    The problem with Afganistan and the Taliban, as other bloggers here have mentioned, is that they now know they can sit it out, and wait for the US and UK troops to leave.
    The answer as always is to talk, but in a way that the Taliban know they cannot win militarily, but also so they are not humiliated. Brown's and Obama's strategy has terrible echoes of Vietnam, and unless they are extremely careful, the troops will withdraw, and Afghanistan will once again be overrun by the Taliban.
    History will show Brown to be one of our worst ever PM's. Unfortunately, in the case of Afghanistan, it will be at the cost of many young and brave lives.

  • Comment number 49.

    brain gare

    Re #32

    I know this will come as a totally shocking and novel idea to you, but perhaps the other NATO Nations do not want their plans known until they have a) given their own Nations notice of their intentions and astounding, I'm sure to one as astute as yourself, (b) they may not want the enemy to know their plans!

    Now, you go lie down and when you have come up with a relevant negative point about PM Brown, NuLab (for whom I have no sympathy at all) you let us know.

    Let me guess: You think in the Hollywood Films when the hero hears a shot and looks to where it was fired from that's how it happens in the real world!!!

    Why don't you have a lie down and leave the military strategy to those with a modicum of sense!

  • Comment number 50.


    I don't think you can shrug off the election factor with a glib "cynics will note …" I suggest this is exactly what is happening here.

    An accelerated timetable with a built-in endgame smacks of electioneering and suits both Obama and Brown politically down to the ground.

    Obama's rallying call sounded like a campaign speech with a bit of Bush rhetoric thrown in. It's a disgrace.

    Opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic show a war weary public have had enough.

    But Brown's government has bound itself to Obama's war, fought with all the fervour of Bush neo-cons, right down to the surge.

    Whichever way you look at it, isn't a US/UK pull out, timed to coincide with the general election here and presidential election campaign a despicable way to use the lives of brave troops for petty political ends?

    http://theorangepartyblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/fools-errand-in-afghanistan.html

  • Comment number 51.

    Nick,

    As always, thanks for giving us the information about the
    story...you were presenting in this blog....

    =Dennis Junior=

 

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