A largely unread UK broadsheet newspaper has called for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. That doesn’t bother me particularly. Going by current talk in medialand, even if the government was to do a complete volte-face and abandon the war against the Taliban, British soldiers will still be in Helmand after the Independent prints its final edition.
More worrying is the hardening of public opinion against the war in Afghanistan, which Jock Stirrup, head of the British armed forces, has acknowledged. However, in order to win the people around, we will need to do much more than explain the evident successes of the NATO operation. For far too long the British government has been justifying our continued presence in Afghanistan as a matter of UK interest; i.e., its only aim is to secure the security of British citizens at home.
That is of course only part of the story, and to focus exclusively on British security interests is an abdication of moral responsibility. If you encourage people to consider only parochial interests, is it any wonder that they come out with naive statements along the lines of: “It’s not our fight. Let the Afghans sort it out among themselves.”?
I’m glad that British military and civilian forces are in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban – a barbaric enemy of humankind – and helping the Afghan people build their country. I’m proud of our men and women, in uniform or otherwise, and trust their judgement on whether the struggle is worth it.
As for the fallen, we will remember them.