Leading article: Moving on from Afghanistan

Share
Related Topics

The rocket attacks on Kandahar, which forced the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, to change their itineraries in Afghanistan, are another humiliating reminder of the West's failure to bring peace to that country. The Afghan conflict just goes on and on. The President, Hamid Karzai, is holed up in Kabul while the resurgent Taliban roams the terrain beyond. Almost 10 years on from the start of the invasion by Western forces, with 10,000 British troops still in the country, little more is being perpetuated than an endless stalemate.

It is to be hoped that the exposure of Messrs Hague and Fox to the sight and sound of Taliban rocket power reminded both men of the need for fresh thinking on the realistic limits of Britain's military capabilities. In different ways, Afghanistan and Iraq should provide a warning of the folly of engaging in ideologically driven military adventures that are conducted essentially at the behest of another power and in the name of abstract principles that mean little to people on the ground.

What should cause concern is that this is not proving the case. Mr Fox has made clear that he wants to see British troop numbers cut. But he still falls back on the tired mantra that the troops are in Afghanistan to keep the streets of Britain safe; without providing a scintilla of evidence that the Taliban has any connection to the terrorist plots that have been manufactured in Britain.

On the Labour side, one would-be leader, David Miliband, blandly calls for Britain to "move on" from debates about Iraq, drawing the wrong lesson entirely from that blood-stained debacle. Two other contenders, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, hunting for the anti-war vote, now claim they opposed the Iraq war from the start. This looks like a self-serving pose. Like their mentor, Gordon Brown, they hid in the Treasury while Tony Blair was making the big decisions on Iraq. Lying low is not the same as taking a principled stand.

The Bourbon dynasty, it is commonly said, forgot nothing and learnt nothing. Our politicians are in danger of repeating that error over Afghanistan and Iraq if all they can do is tinker with the number of troops that should be deployed in the one or the other, or call for the debate to be shoved under the carpet. The Afghan mission can still be made a worthwhile one, but not if it is left to drift rudderless. The problem is that we never had a proper debate about the goals to start with. Mr Hague and Mr Fox should start one. Then, pace David Miliband, we can, perhaps, move on.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - C#, ASP.Net, MVC, jQuery

£42000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a C# ...

Recruitment Genius: General Driver - Automotive

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The House of Lords in session  

Even if the House of Lords reform is such a good idea, why is the trigger for it Lord Sewel snorting coke with a prostitute?

Jane Merrick
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that once swathes of northern Syria are cleared of Isis fighters, “safe zones will be formed naturally” (AFP)  

Our policy in the Middle East is bad and getting worse

Rachel Shabi
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food