Afghanistan: We must get out

IssueOctober 2009
Feature by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

The British people are tired of the lies and evasions. We are sick of the futile deaths of British soldiers and the shocking airstrikes on defenceless Afghan civilians.

We have had enough of the war in Afghanistan. The anger we felt over the invasion of Iraq has not gone away. Now we are increasingly angry at the mounting waste of life in Afghanistan.

Eight for eight
7 October marks the eighth shameful anniversary of the US-UK invasion of Afghanistan. Coincidentally, there have been eight national opinion polls in the last eight weeks – damning surveys, all of which show that public opinion has turned against this war (see below).

We know from the polls that the public understands the reasons given by the government for this war – preventing al-Qa’eda terrorism, defeating the Taliban, disrupting the heroin trade and so on. The public just doesn’t believe in these “justifications”.

Invading and occupying Afghanistan merely gives the decentralised global al-Qa’eda network another justification for suicide attacks. Shehzad Tanweer, one of the 7/7 London bombers, specifically mentioned withdrawal from Afghanistan as one of his demands in his final video.

The warlords that Britain and the US have placed in power in Afghanistan are even more cruel than the Taliban.

General Rashid Dostum, “arguably the most notorious of Afghanistan’s warlords” in the words of The Times, committed brutal war crimes under the protection of the US and UK in 2001, and is now once again a significant part of president Hamid Karzai’s governing coalition.

As for heroin, under Taliban rule the area of land given over to growing opium poppies fell by 91%, according to the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), and production of fresh opium went down from 3,276 tonnes in 2000 to just 185 tonnes in 2001. In 2008, the UNDCP estimated opium production in Afghanistan at 7,676 tonnes, an increase of over 4,000% from 2001.

A crucial role
Some people think there is a case for international military forces to be present in Afghanistan. What is painfully clear is that as the invading army, British military forces cannot be part of any such effort. Britain must withdraw as rapidly as possible.

As Gabriel Carlyle pointed out in our last issue, British military support is crucial to the US mission in Afghanistan. US public support for the war is disappearing, and even partial British withdrawal would strengthen the US anti-war movement enormously. It is time to stop being tired, and start being angry.

The eight polls
13 July ITN News at Ten: 59% of Britons want troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.
13 July Guardian/BBC Newsnight: 56% want rapid withdrawal (42% immediately; 14% by end of the year).
22 July The Times: 67% believe that British troops should be withdrawn either immediately (34%) or within the next year (33%).
28 July The Independent: 52% want immediate withdrawal.
23 August Mail on Sunday: 69% think Britain should not be fighting in Afghanistan. 49% want a fixed timetable of withdrawal for British troops; 28% think they should be brought home immediately.
3 September The Sun: 50% think the campaign in Afghanistan is not “worthwhile to defeat terrorism both in the region and at home”. 46% think the troops in Afghanistan are not “making our lives safer here in Britain”. (Only 40% hold the opposite view.)
10 September the National Army Museum: 53% think British troops should not have been sent to Afghanistan.
10 September “Transatlantic Trends”: 60% want troops withdrawn (41%) or reduced in number (19%).

Topics: Afghanistan