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Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan


The catastrophic 2003 war on Iraq was led by America and there was no reason for any other nation to become involved in what was obviously going to be a barbaric shambles. Eventually it became obvious there was no justification whatever for the invasion, but Britain had chosen to tag along, just as it did in the ill-planned and appallingly executed war in Afghanistan.  Just how the entire might of the hi-tech US and the North Atlantic Treaty countries (plus some others who wanted to curry favour with Washington), can lose a war against a few thousand raggy-baggie militants is beyond comprehension.  But they did. And nobody can claim otherwise.

Few remember the words of the perceptive Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, US Army, who wrote about Afghanistan two years ago that:

“The United States, along with over 40 NATO and other allied nations, possesses the most sophisticated, powerful, and technologically advanced military force that has ever hit the field of combat. We have the finest and most well trained soldiers that exist anywhere; we have armored vehicles of every type, to include MIA2 Main Battle Tanks; artillery, mortars, advanced rockets, precision guided missiles, and hand-held rocket launchers; we have a wholly uncontested air force composed of NATO’s most advanced ground attack fighter jets, bombers, AWACS controllers, spy planes, signals-interception aircraft, B 1 bombers, attack helicopters, and massive transport jets to ferry our troops and critical supplies where they are needed; we have thousands of unmanned aerial drones both for intelligence collection and missile-launching; we have a helicopter fleet for personnel transport and attack support; we have an enormous constellation of spy satellites; logistics that are as limitless as the combined weight of the industrial world; we have every technological device known to the profession of arms; we are able to intercept virtually every form of insurgent communication to include cell phones, walkie-talkies, satellite phones, email, and even some ability to eavesdrop on otherwise private conversations; a remarkably capable cohort of intelligence analysts that are as educated, well trained and equipped to a degree that used to exist only in science fiction;  and our various nations have the economic wherewithal to spend tens of billions of dollars each month to fund it all. And for almost 10 years we have pitted this unbelievable and unprecedented capability against:

A bunch of dudes in bed sheets and flip-flops.”

The fact that Davis was (and is) honourable, insightful and highly intelligent was enough to consign his analysis to the bin. Honesty is not welcomed by those who created chaos and then have to defend their demonstrable incompetence. And you’ll never be promoted for telling the truth. I saw this when I served in Vietnam, where the slogan was “Stuff Up and Move Up!”  And by heaven they did.  And there were just as many idiots moved up during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What a legacy.

And another of Washington’s legacies has been final destruction of British independence.

You may have heard of a man called David Cameron. He is prime minister of Britain and arguably even more inept than his immediate predecessors, Messrs Blair and Brown, the bungling duo who drove the UK into the sink of international mediocrity.  It was Blair who followed Bush America so enthusiastically in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and when Britain withdrew from Iraq it was Brown who said in 2009 that “Today Iraq is a success story . . .  Britain can be proud of our legacy that we leave there.”  But the country was a heaving shambles that has become even more of a catastrophe as the years have passed. In 2013 the United Nations recorded the deaths in Iraq of  “at least 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces.”  Hardly a day passes without slaughter. What a legacy. What a fool.

At the time when Brown claimed that the Iraq war was a success David Cameron was in political opposition and called for an inquiry into the conflict because “There are vital lessons to learn and we need to learn them rapidly and the only justification for delay can, I’m afraid, be a political one.”  Quite so.  An inquiry ran from 2009 to 2011 and Mr Cameron became prime minister in 2010 and has not permitted release of documents that would throw light on the lunacy and even criminality of the war.  The findings of the inquiry have still not been made public.  No doubt the justification for delay is a political one. His foreign minister, a little joke person called Hague, had supported the war on Iraq and after withdrawal of foreign troops told the BBC that “We are leaving [Iraq] a better place and it was worth doing what we have done.”

These people live in a fantasy world.  Every week there are hundreds of people killed in Iraq. The place is utterly wrecked as a country. Over a million Iraqis died because of the US-led, British-backed war. Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a paradise compared with what the invaders have left behind them.  The entire affair was a gigantic war crime.

Cameron has followed the example of his pathetic predecessors when pronouncing on Britain’s part in the war in Afghanistan.  British troops are now leaving that devastated country, and Cameron stated that “To me, the absolute driving part of the mission is a basic level of security so it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done.”

But Nato declared its main role “is to assist the Afghan Government in exercising and extending its authority and influence across the country, paving the way for reconstruction and effective governance,” while the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced Britain’s mission was “To develop a self-sustaining, stable and democratic Afghanistan.”

Most British troops were stationed in Helmand province, where, as the BBC reported last week, there are  “questions about what will be the lasting legacy of British forces after eight years in Helmand and 448 British military deaths. It is certainly not peace. As the last containers are loaded onto lorries at Camp Price you can still hear gunfire in the distance.”

Afghanistan is in utter chaos and the “lasting legacy” of Britain in Helmand includes, among other disasters, a vast increase in heroin production.

In answer to a question in parliament the UK’s government had to admit that “The opium-growing area around Britain’s main base in Afghanistan nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2013.”  It was declared that “achieving a permanent reduction in opium cultivation will take decades — it needs a strong Afghan lead supported by effective regional and international action.”  In eight long years in the province there has been no “effective international action” to stem the enormous increase in poppy growth and production of heroin, much of which ends up in Britain. (Washington doesn’t care much about Afghan heroin production because so little of it ends up in America.)

Last June the UN recorded that there were 574,327 Afghans internally displaced by war. The figure is now 630,000.  And a major fact ignored by the West is that there are still 1.6 million Afghan refugees being looked after in Pakistan. If Cameron’s vaunted “basic level of security” had been achieved, then these people would return to their homeland, but they don’t want to risk their lives.  The UN High Commission for Refugees, that saintly agency, records that Pakistan is hosting the largest number of refugees of any country in the world ;  yet Pakistan never receives a word of international thanks, praise or even acknowledgement for bearing with three decades of societal disruption and economic burden caused first by the Soviet occupation, then by the US-British-Nato war.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan states that almost 3,000 civilians were killed and more than 5,600 injured in 2013. It was the worst year for deaths of women and children since 2009.  And the Afghan Local Police did their bit in contributing to despair and chaos when they “carried out serious human rights violations with impunity which were often enabled by provincial or national level power-brokers.”

So, while the US and Nato limp out of Afghanistan, leaving happy drug producers, a thriving corruption industry, unsafe roads, a police force out of control, and an astonishing annual number of civilian deaths, where will the western warmongers want to go next?

What legacy are they going to inflict on the next unfortunate country that they consider deserves their military attention?  When you think of the amount of good that could have been done throughout the world — the improvements to health, education, agriculture, energy production;  the list is endless — with the billions of dollars that have been squandered on causing misery in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it makes you doubt the sanity of western political leaders.  But they’ll soon find some other country to destroy. Fail, fail and fail again.

Brian Cloughley lives in France.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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