A truly dismal end to America’s longest war

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Thursday 15 April 2021 18:34
Biden announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Biden has unilaterally decided to pull US troops out of Afghanistan by 11 September. It is not a pretty picture. Needless to say, a ragbag assortment of Nato troops from some 36 countries as well as Nato-applicant Georgia, will also be leaving. This is a truly dismal end to America’s longest war and Nato’s so-called “resolute support mission”.

Our political class should hang its head in shame. A total of 456 British soldiers and civilians were killed in a poorly defined mission. There was never a debate as to what they were doing in Afghanistan. The only rule seemed to be staying in step with the Americans.

Yugo Kovach

Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

The uncomfortable truth

In a Radio 4 review of Prince Philip’s contribution to nature conservation, Lindsey Chapman reports the consensus that his concerns on population growth were “a little bit old fashioned” and perhaps “out of date”. This reflects the anxiety of affluent liberals to avoid being seen as blaming the poor for our woes.

Recent decades have indeed seen conspicuous consumption surge dramatically. Reining this in would meet with massive resistance, but could in principle be achieved without fatal harm. Imagine, in contrast, the impact if the upward trend in basic consumption (including food) fails to keep up with demand or goes into reverse. An increasing population undermines the prospect for a soft landing from the excesses of mankind.

We may face reduced availability of productive land through sea level rises, desertification and other climate change effects. At the same time there will be increased take-up of land for biofuel production and generation of solar electricity, as well as for the sequestration of carbon through reforestation and restoration of peat bogs. If demand for food is also rising, what room for manoeuvre will that leave us and what place in our priorities will there be for the preservation of other habitats?

The assumption that the numerous children of low-consuming parents will themselves consume only on a modest scale is unwarranted. Those who dismiss and condemn concerns about the larger family sizes still prevailing in some countries are often the same ones who agitate for the extra people to have global freedom of movement and be rapidly emancipated as top-level consumers. Their vacuous optimism on population is at odds with this agenda.

Concern over rising population is not about apportioning blame. It is about empowering women everywhere to decide the number of their children as they themselves choose.

John Riseley


What else don’t we know?

For many years, as a local government employee, I was required to obtain my employer’s permission to take a second job. Such permission would only be given if there was no conflict of interest with the council.

I am astonished to learn that this has not, until now, been the case for the civil service. I wonder in what other areas its standards of probity are below that of local government

David Maynes

London E4

Regarding the “lobbying” issue, aren’t the trade unions just as guilty of instructing the Labour Party on policies? If the Labour Party refuses to conform, unions have threatened, and even proceeded, to withdraw their funding. Same rules for all.

Michael Pate


NHS restructure

Following your article on how failures in other parts of the health service threaten A&E (‘Return to crowded A&Es and long ambulance delays will put patients at risk, warn experts’, 13 April), could it be that we need to consider health separately from illness, separate but within the same integrated structure?

The role of “primary cares” would be health rather than illness, with its key functions including services like vaccinations, regular health checks and monitoring, together with health promotion and supporting any recommended lifestyle changes. Primary care could continue to identify and refer conditions to specialists but sudden or severe illness would be treated differently.

Treatment for illness or injury would be centred on hospitals where testing facilities and other specialists are close at hand to support medical teams. It would mean patients having to travel further than now and an ability to transport those unable, for whatever reason, to transport themselves would be an essential element but it would mean the patient was at a location where specialist and testing is available to speed diagnosis and prompt treatment rather than waiting weeks for a hospital appointment for test then further appointments for results, diagnosis and treatment.

It’s apparent from the same day emergency care unit in Hereford that I recently attended that steps along these lines are being developed by professionals better informed than me and a useful debate could be had to determine if we really have a health service right now or is it more of a sickness service and if we need to rethink it and how should the NHS evolve to meet future demands.

Based on recent observation, it must help hospitals to function efficiently with the more controlled environment in place due to Covid with less coming and going by friends and relatives, more like the past where visiting was limited, in order to free the staff to get on with the job.

John Simpson

Ross on Wye

Olympics may have to accept second place

Do we need to be “faster, higher, stronger”, the Olympic motto, or should we just try to be OK and healthy? The Olympics may yet be cancelled completely after having been delayed a year, says Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan’s Liberal Democratic party, who talked of having to “give up”.

The 2020 Olympics were postponed because of the pandemic and the 2021 version will have few in the stands as overseas spectators have been banned and many of the local citizens aren’t interested or actually want it cancelled. Any spectators that would attend will only be allowed to clap and not cheer, which seems a rather sad, pale version of the event.

The first priority for most countries is to get citizens vaccinated, stop the spread of the virus and then start on an economic recovery rather than watching two weeks of Olympians and paralympians doing the best they can. Considering how many have already died and will still die, it is probably best to commit all resources to the medical world and stay safe at home. I know a number of Olympic competitors will miss their one opportunity but that may be the cost they have to pay for the safety of the majority.

Dennis Fitzgerald


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