There is no point in troops staying in Afghanistan
Getting British troops out of Afghanistan is not ‘cutting and running’ - it’s commonsense
The justification for the presence of British troops in Afghanistan since 2001 has been to prevent the country becoming once again a haven for al-Qaeda a place where they can train and plot attacks against the West.
The terrorist threat originated from 'over there' so best deal with it 'over there' before it reached the streets of London and Bradford.
There is just one problem with this comforting analysis that jihadism in the UK is an external problem it's not. The facts on the ground do not support this view.
In the UK it's mainly an internal problem. British jihadists are more likely to be graduates of British universities and adventure training courses in Wales than they are of ramshackle al-Qaeda boot camps high in the Hindu Kush.
Far from improving the UK's security, our military presence in Afghanistan makes it worse. We pretend to address the problem of terrorism but actually avoid it. Military activity in Afghanistan is an expensive displacement activity for more useful defensive action elsewhere.
At home our borders remain ridiculously porous both ways. Even when the authorities discover a foreign jihadist-with-all-the-trimmings in our midst it is impossible to have him removed.
Worse, our public discourse is so crippled by an extravagant and appeasing political correctness that Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, appears more worried by Afro-Caribbean Christian attitudes to homosexuality than British Muslim attitudes to blowing people up on the London Tube.
And abroad we discover after nearly 10 years of fighting that Osama bin Laden isn't after all directing al-Qaeda from a remote and mountainous cave in Afghanistan but living in what looks like a Pakistani intelligence safe house just outside the back gate of their Sandhurst. Whoops! We have been in the wrong country.
If you think the problem of Pakistan is being overstated, answer this trivial pursuit question. After the US special forces bumped off Bin Laden, Pakistani counter-intelligence officers arrested:
• The guys who had helped Bin Laden?
• The guys who had helped the Americans?
As reported here last week, the answer is the latter.
Controlling a near rogue state like Pakistan is not going to be easy. We should contribute special forces and intelligence to the American plan (revealed last month) to take control, in extremis, of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. But it is hard to see how the presence of a British brigade in Afghanistan for two more years is going to help.
Those that think we should stay longer in Afghanistan include the Army's top brass and the distinguished war reporter Robert Fox. They use loaded language like 'cutting and running' (a naval term in any case) with its sense of panic and running away instead of the perfectly serviceable 'withdrawal'.
It must be tough selling the idea that an eleventh and twelfth Afghan campaign season will achieve what the first ten failed to do. But questioning the nerve and judgment of the sceptics - including prime minister David Cameron, the much-maligned former ambassador Sherard Cowper Coles and a large chunk of the British public - is not a good way to conduct an argument.
Whatever happens, the British Army will be out of Afghanistan by 2014. Why not use the upcoming American withdrawal as an excuse to leave now?
If we hang on for 'two more fighting seasons' we are going to have to start answering the question the young Vietnam veteran John Kerry posed to a Senate committee in 1971: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" ·
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