We can describe failure in Afghanistan, but can we describe success? What does our idea of winning look like? Success in Afghanistan will be achieved when we have a stable enough Afghanistan, able to manage its own internal and external security to a degree that stops interference from outside powers and allowing the country to resist the establishment of terror bases and the training camps that were there before.
We are not trying to apply, or we should not be trying to apply, a Jeffersonian democracy to a broken 15th century state. There are noble ideals for development, human rights and democracy. They are complementary to the military mission but they are not the same.
I believe the goal of security is achievable. The current war in Afghanistanin that context is winnable. This is the message we must get across to the British electorate-many of whom think any military action in Afghanistanis doomed from the outset. From many quarters we are constantly told that the war in Afghanistanis "unwinnable", "impossible", or a "losing battle". To support this claim we are told that Afghanistanis a "graveyard of empires" as if any military, regardless of its intentions, objectives, or capability has some sort of predisposition to strategic and tactical failure once they cross the border into Afghanistan.
The argument that British Forces have never been, or can never be, successful in Afghanistanis historically false. As the Afghan Defence Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak,recently said:
"I reject the myth advanced in the media that Afghanistanis a "graveyard of empires" and that the U.S.and NATO effort is destined to fail. Afghans have never seen you as occupiers, even though this has been the major focus of the enemy's propaganda campaign. Unlike the Russians, who imposed a government with an alien ideology, you enabled us to write a democratic constitution and choose our own government. Unlike the Russians, who destroyed our country, you come to rebuild."
While our situation today is completely different from the 19th century or the 1980's, we should at least get our history right.
Taken from a speech by the Shadow Defence Secretary given yesterday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies; www.iiss.org