Tuesday, 22 June 2010

300 dead. For what?

The deaths of three hundred British soldiers in Afghanistan is a sad landmark to a failed policy. Contrary to claims made by supporters of the war that escalating it would bring greater stability, the opposite is the case. The entire situation is a complete mess. The UN report that Afghanistan has become much more dangerous in the last twelve months as violence has soared. Indeed, the country is so unstable that David Cameron was forced to cut short his recent visit for fear of attack. The Afghan President is said to have 'lost faith in the ability of the US to defeat the Taliban'. British commanders are blaming corrupt local police as the main reason for Afghans joining the insurgency but their own operations have been ill-conceived and by their own admission have fuelled the insurgency in Helmand. The British envoy to Afghanistan, 'known for his scepticism about the western war effort and his support for peace talks with the Taliban', has quit. Instead of US aid rebuilding civil society it is instead building empires for warlords. And on it goes...

David Cameron may claim that this is not a war of occupation and that we have to be in Afghanistan to prevent it being turned into a terror base from which attacks can be launched. But this is nonsense. There are estimated to be only around 100 Al-Qaida in the whole of the country. For the Afghan's supporting the insurgency it is the presence of foreign troops on their land that is driving the war. The Taliban have been consistent in saying they will not stop fighting until foreign troops are withdrawn though in the past they have raised the issue of peace keeping forces from Muslim countries while a peace is negotiated. We need an urgent change in policy. David Cameron should start withdrawing the troops and start the peace process.

And while we reflect on the human cost of war, it is also fitting on Budget Day to ponder the financial cost. The cost of war to the British economy since 2001 is at least £20bn.  It would cost £2bn to scrap tuition fees. Ken Livingstone is spot on when he says 'We could have had ten years of free education for the next generation for the same cost as following George W Bush into war.'