Join the club: Lib Dems duck Afghan war issue
The Mole: Why are none of the three main parties confronting the unpopular Afghan campaign?
The Liberal Democrats' leader Nick Clegg has ducked the chance to break the conspiracy of silence between the three main parties in the General Election over the continuing war in Afghanistan.
Corporal Clegg has been under pressure from his own party's anti-war brigade to be bold and break with the Tories and Labour by pledging to bring British troops back within the lifetime of the next Parliament.
Such a commitment would seem modest given the public pain the deaths of British troops is causing at home and the growing perception that the presence of Western soldiers is exacerbating the situation in Afghanistan. Right on cue, American troops this week riddled a busload of civilians with machine-gun fire, killing four and injuring many more, leading to anti-American and anti-Karzai protests in the streets.
But Clegg's manifesto being launched this morning at Bloomberg's hi-tech modernistic offices in the City – used as the backdrop by New Labour for their own launches in the past – offers little hope that the Lib Dems' leader will put the withdrawal of British troops high on list of demands if there is a hung Parliament.
There are rumours around the press pack covering the election that this is because of the restraining hand of former Lib Dem leader and ex-soldier Lord Paddy Ashdown who was pushed by Washington to be the UN's special envoy in Afghanistan until it was vetoed by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.
Capt Ashdown actually narrowed his eyes on the Andrew Marr Show and said that he was the only member of Parliament who was trained to kill. He is not going to allow young Clegg to go wobbly on Afghanistan.
Despite pretending to be miles apart on everything else, Gordon Brown and David Cameron are united on the issue of Afghanistan. Neither received a single question on the issue at the launch of their manifestos, and Clegg is about to join their cosy club.
The real danger in Afghanistan is 'mission creep': that the objective for which so much blood has been spilled - namely, stopping Afghanistan being used as the launch pad for another 9/11 - is being replaced by nation-building while more Afghan civilians and British soldiers' lives are lost.
That leaves voters facing the ludicrous situation where the only party campaigning in this election to 'Bring our Boys Back Home' is Nick Griffin's BNP.
The Stop the War Coalition – formed over Iraq and now campaigning to stop the war in Afghanistan – is pressing Labour candidates to sign up for the cause, but it is hardly setting the Thames alight.
It leaves the Mole wondering what the three main leaders are playing at: don't they know there's a war on? ·
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