I got this email this evening
CHRIS DAVIES'S LIB DEM NOTES ON AFGHANISTAN
The fraudulent elections held in Afghanistan, and the further death andmaiming of British soldiers serving in the country, have forced me to think hard about the situation. I have written to Nick Clegg to give him my views and I want also to share them with readers of these occasional LIB DEM NOTES.
I believe that our troops should be pulled off the front line inAfghanistan. The justifications for their continuing presence seem tovary with the day of the week and the desperation of the advocate. I am not convinced by any of them, and I don't know how we would evenrecognise a 'victory' if it were to be claimed.Our people are part of a NATO contingent involving troops from manynations (though our numbers are second only to the Americans) that hasthe support of the United Nations. But we are easily portrayed as anoccupying force in a foreign land, fighting for one side in a civilwar as crusading imperialists seeking to impose our cultural andreligious beliefs on others. Radical Muslim men rally to the cause of our opponents in consequence.As we seek to avoid casualties we fall back on the use of technologythat allows us to attack and bomb from afar; all too often killing innocent Afghans. Support we may briefly have enjoyed from local people turns to hatred. None of this helps to make Britain a safer place.I bow to no-one in my detestation of the Taliban and the perversion ofIslam they use to justify their suppression of women's rights. I would love to see the country transformed into a benevolent liberal democracy,free from corruption and a champion of liberty. But the recentelections demonstrated how removed that vision is from reality. If weare fighting for Karzai's government are we sure it is a cause worth the effort?
We cannot use the treatment of Afghan women by Afghan men as anexcuse for military intervention any more than we would use it tojustify an attack on a country where genital mutilation is still performed on female children.In any case, genuine defeat of the Taliban may prove impossible whateverresources and lives are thrown against them. Its various localcommanders can withdraw in the face of overwhelming odds, only to returnwhen troop numbers have been reduced. Individual fighters can cut theirbeards, bury their weapons, and pose as hard working farmers – whichindeed is what they may be. The weapons can be dug up again at any time.We can continue to train Afghan soldiers, but the Taliban have a role toplay in the country's future and we should talk with them. Can that be so much worse than dealing with our current allies, the cruel andcorrupt warlords who care not a jot for human rights? Our money atleast buys us some influence with the warlords; perhaps its provisionfor development purposes can also be used to persuade the Taliban tokeep Al Qaida at a distance and curb the worst excesses of theirtreatment of women.To make Britain a safer place we have to win hearts and minds in theMuslim world. We have to address the causes of grievance used by ouropponents to bring people to their side. Our attack on Iraq did usgreat damage. Our involvement in Afghanistan risks doing the same.
The failure of Europe as a whole to address the injustice experienced byPalestinians is a source of anger amongst Muslims that we consistentlyunderestimate. We should learn our lessons.Yes, we must be prepared to use force to defend our values whennecessary, but military action can only be taken when the objective isclear. That is very far from the case in Afghanistan. We shouldnot allow more soldiers to be killed and maimed because politicians hereare too unwilling to lose face, too embarrassed to admit that lives havebeen lost in vain, or too weak to challenge orthodoxy within NATO.Afghanistan has defeated Britain in the past. It has defeated theRussians. The present campaign is not going to result in a triumph forAmerica or its British and other allies. If our troops are to remainthere it should be only to provide support and training for Afghans.They should not be on the frontline.
I would welcome your views.CHRIS DAVIES MEP
11 November 2011