The Conservatives thought the Afghan war was a good idea when it started. The World Trade Center had just been bombed and America was in need of its allies. But now they mutter darkly about whether the war is unwinnable and promise more troops and equipment despite commitments to cut defence spending.
After the Afghan war with the Russians ended in 1989, the West abandoned Afghanistan to warlords whose barbarism was of mediaeval proportions. It was the state of fear through which they ruled that led to the population embracing the Taliban, whose cruelty at least conformed to a clearly defined code.
But while our politicians repeat how necessary this war is for our own safety – and the Taliban did allow terrorists a safe haven – they allied our country to the same warlords whose brutality fed support for the Taliban in the first place. This is why the general population is failing to rise up and beat the Taliban off their soil: they don’t believe we will save them from our allies once we have saved them from our enemies.
The threat Britain faced was from Arab terrorists trained in Afghanistan. But by allying ourselves with murderers in Afghanistan, using spurious grounds for the invasion of Iraq and failing to be tough with Israel on the future of Palestine, we made the ‘War on Terror’ look like a war on Muslims.
One of the London bombers was a schoolteacher from Leeds who thought we were conducting a religious war.
He was wrong, but our policies and words need to prove he was wrong. If we leave Afghanistan now, a million people will be slaughtered by a resurgent Taliban. If we fail to suppress our allies’ cruelty and corruption, we will never beat the Taliban. But I’d rather hear a politician say so than cry crocodile tears over soldiers whose names they have already forgotten.