The people who wrecked Afghanistan are arguing over who wrecked Afghanistan

Lynx over Afghanistan
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As a veteran of the war, and a journalist who has reported from the country, the endgame in Afghanistan is a bizarre and rather personal spectacle.

To see generals and politicians who were involved in the disaster finger-pointing at each other, even as the UK deploys troops to evacuate the last remaining Britons, demeans the tragic human story of that country.

The news of the rescue mission comes as the Taliban take territory at an alarming rate. The latest major city to fall is Kandahar, the insurgent group’s spiritual home. One report suggests that Kabul could fall within 90 days. Or perhaps even within a month.

Nearer to home, the same sorts of people – and, in some cases, literally the same people – who oversaw the disaster for decades have picked out US president Joe Biden as the culprit.

Biden’s decision to pull out, they claim, risks plunging the country into chaos.

Finger pointing

I am hardly a fan of Biden, who on matters of war is as imperialistic as a Bush, an Obama, a Trump, Blair or Cameron. But those protesting loudest are just as implicated.

To name just a few, the finger-pointers include:

Read on...

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All of them say the decision to pull out (albeit, of a place the west never had any right to occupy) is a terrible one for all concerned.

General Richards also attacked the UK government. As did members of the Murdoch press, which supported the disastrous wars throughout. Among those levelling blame at the UK government is the Times‘ Tom Newton Dunn:

But the truth is, it isn’t quite as simple as any of these figures want to suggest. They talk as if the decision that doomed Afghanistan was made in 2021. But the truth is that it is was made in 2001.

Squandered peace

As political hip-hop artist Lowkey has correctly pointed out, it never had to be this way. Way back in the beginning, the 20-year conflict could have been avoided. And with it hundreds of thousands of deaths. Including those of several people I knew personally.

US journalist Spencer Ackerman, whose new book on the wars has just been released, makes a similar point:

Remember that the Taliban offered terms in December 2001. Donald Rumsfeld rejected them. Everything that followed made the Taliban stronger.

Elsewhere, NATO, which officially oversaw the US-led occupation for most of the 20-year period, announced that leaders would meet Friday to discuss the crisis. And in London, a Cabinet Office Briefing Room (better known as ‘Cobra’) meeting of senior ministers and military figures was announced for 13 August

Unfolding disaster

Amid the chaos, it seems likely the rescue party of troops will be from the Parachute Regiment. That’s ironic given that the unit’s deployment in 2006 led to years of fighting in Helmand province – the location where most of the UK’s 456 deaths occurred. I remember it well. I deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade that spring.

What’s missing among the finger pointing is a little honesty about the events of that period. That deployment was neither necessary nor wise. Before 2006, the Taliban were a spent force. Their leadership had mostly fled to Pakistan – an ally of the UK and US whose intelligence services consistently support the Taliban to this day.

I have no doubts that that deployment – codenamed Operation Herrick – led us to this point. Our presence there became a lighting rod for an insurgency which previously had not existed. And it set the pattern for the following years, energising locals against our unwanted presence.

And I am aware today that the reasoning behind the 2006 deployment was deeply hubristic: the British had failed in Iraq in American eyes. This left the British desperate for another theatre in which to prove their usefulness to the US. Helmand, with horrific results, was that opportunity.

And, as fate would have it, the army brigade which lobbied successfully for a new deployment was my own. Within months what was framed as a peacekeeping-style operation had turned into a brutal counter-insurgency war.


This background, just one of the important details missing from the analysis of people like Richards, Tugendhat and Stewart, is key to understanding how we got here.

Their arguments for pulling out being a bad idea forget to mention that we never had any right to be there in the first place.

Their disingenuous appeal to humanitarian ideals ignores the fact that the UK isn’t in the business of morality when it comes to international affairs.

And their placing blame on particular governments or leaders skips over the fact that they themselves were happy to be key players in the disaster which is unfolding today.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Sgt Steve Blake RLC.

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  • Show Comments
      1. Thatcher’s Neolabour Party Tories are Protected it would seem! How much worse can Keith get before Action is taken, I reckon the Tri/Bi/Unilateral Commissions have decided Keith is PM at the next GE! 😉

    1. Hey Canary! Why is my message censored!?
      Can you please tell me what is the Problem with this message so that I can fix it!?

      “Funny that the USA and NATO went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and bring Peace and Stability, yet after years they leave Afghans in War and Utter Chaos and The Taliban So Powerful that they are able to take several Capitals in DAYS! One would think with that sort of Power, The Taliban would have given US/Nato a much harder time of it OR INDEED on the flip side, been far too weak for such current accomplishment! Could this be a sort of a Black Flag by the USA on the Afghans!? Taliban Provided with Ammunition, Intel and Armoury by the usual suspects to make the Afghans and UN beg the USA to Return! Well I hope they get flummoxed by Afghan Neighbors Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Russia who will lend a hand and sort out Afghanistan out once and for all, before the USA can get in there again to cause misery!”

    2. The way to avoid being treated as a foreign hostile Military Occupying force, is not to BE a foreign hostile Militarily Occupying force.

      That would call for a very different approach, and one that the UK PTB, steeped in centuries of Colonial mythology and racism (And also Classism), are simply incapable of.

      We would have been far better off if we’d kept the troops at home, and sent a fraction of the money we intended to blow, as aid funnelled through genuine micro-regeneration efforts.

      But it was never ABOUT “helping Afghans”. It was about helping the US dominate central Asia, and sell the CIA’s poppy harvests.

      Afghans are not stupid, they worked this out within weeks, if even that long.

      And then the upper class UK muppets were “sent in” with fantasies about “Keeping control through counter-insurgency”.

      These people can’t even run an advanced welfare state country without throwing 3,000,000 onto private charity food banks.

      To absolutely no-one’s surprise, they failed.

      But its not the politicians dying, is it? Nor, more importantly, billionaire offshored media oligarchs.

      The politicians are scared of the oligarchs (The scum ones, unlike Corbyn), the oligarchs sell more media and enjoy the power they wield while the “wars” are on. The oligarchs want the wars to continue (They don’t pay tax, or die on battlefields, so what do they care?), and the politicians have to wait for the Public to deeply oppose the war – in the teeth of the corporate liars, and State bodies that target anti-war campaigners.

      What a shame the UN wasn’t given the authority to charge war-criminals like the WW2 German leaders, and a shame that the ICC only investigates the weak.

      There is no ICC case towards Bush and Bliar.

      Perhaps, in a better world, there would be.

      And perhaps they be tried by the Taliban directly.

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