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Britain Must Not Falter in this War of Critical Importance

In Foreign Affairs on September 6, 2009 at 12:13 am

The recent surge in casualties amongst British Forces operating in Afghanistan has seen the issues surrounding the current conflict there rise to the forefront of media coverage and the public conscience. Whilst both the government and the opposition have expressed broad support for the continued prosecution of war against the Taleban, there has risen a considerable body of support for a withdrawal of British troops from the area. In writing an opinion piece which argues that ‘we’ve wasted enough lives in this war’ in today’s Independent, Labour MP Paul Flynn has placed himself at the forefront of the call to end British involvement in Afghanistan. In his article he argues that the government’s claim that the efforts of British troops in Afghanistan is of direct benefit to our safety on British streets is a ‘preposterous fiction.’ In attempting to evoke such a direct link between the relative tranquillity of British streets and the dusty nightmare of the Afghan desert, Gordon Brown is guilty of oversimplifying the need for war, but he is not propagating fiction. The case for war in Afghanistan is compelling; the cessation of violence on NATO’s part would entail potentially devastating consequences, which opponents of the war seem unprepared to recognise.

The ‘Afghanistan war’ is a misleading title, in that the sphere of conflict extends beyond Afghan borders into Pakistan and the Swat Valley. Pakistan has finally stirred to the menace which has grown within her borders and is attempting defeat the Taleban forces which threaten the country from within. It is a measure of Taleban strength that they have remained able to offer hostility towards both NATO in Afghanistan and Pakistani forces across the border. Any NATO withdrawal would likely see the restoration of Taleban rule in Afghanistan, but there is no guarantee that hostilities between Pakistan and the Jihadists would cease. The Taleban are not inclined to seek peace once war has opened, they have demonstrated this both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, where they have passed many opportunities to maintain peace with the Pakistani army. Invigorated by their ‘triumph’ over NATO and in possession of the resources of the whole state of Afghanistan, the Taleban would therefore pose a renewed threat to Pakistan. In such a situation the loss of sovereign Pakistani territory to Taleban forces would become a disturbingly realistic prospect. Pakistan is a nuclear armed state and the consequences of Jihadists gaining military control of any portion of her armament make for devastating consideration; reason enough for the continued prosecution of war in Afghanistan and something which merits increased emphasis by politicians and in the media.

The case for war in Afghanistan is compelling; the cessation of violence on NATO’s part would entail potentially devastating consequences, which opponents of the war seem unprepared to recognise.

In comparison to such a chilling prospect, the multitude of other arguments for the maintenance of war in Afghanistan may seem underwhelming. Nonetheless they deserve attention; the aid which the Taleban afforded al-Qaeda prior to September 11th cannot be overstated in its significance. A secure base for terrorist training was provided and exploited to the full by potential Islamist terrorists. As long as war is maintained in the region, the Taleban cannot offer such security to terrorist groups, who suffer limitations in their capability as a result. This is the argument Brown presented to the British public and it is a valid reason for the continuation of war in itself.

In addition to providing a secure base for terrorism during their time in power, the Taleban also mounted a relentless campaign against women’s rights. President Karzai’s recent proposal to legislate for the starving of wives by Shia men in Afghanistan is abhorrent, but it should not be allowed to detract from the real progress that has been made in regards to women in Afghan society since the war began. Education and the prospect of some degree of freedom of body and mind are now available to women, in contrast to their previously hopeless situation. Western forces are attempting to deliver to Afghan women the universal rights which every human deserves, rights which the Taleban would so stringently deny. Any restoration of the Taleban regime would destroy the hopes of millions of women, who would be condemned to a servile existence, a prospect which should repel any liberal observer. It should be remembered, that whilst the circumstances of this war can often appear far from humane, the alternatives entail great detriment to the human condition.

Owing to her legacy as a dominant world power, Britain often finds herself assuming a disproportionate role in the foreign policy of the western powers. Our country is a prominent member of NATO and the extent of our military involvement reflects this. After America, British troops make the foremost contribution to NATO activity in Afghanistan; their withdrawal would seriously hamper both the military operations and morale of our fellow NATO members. British withdrawal would seriously jeopardise the stability of the coalition which has endeavoured to defeat the Taleban, at a time when unity is of the utmost importance in the face of a resurgent enemy. The war is undoubtedly one which must be fought and its opponents should not be allowed to persuade us to falter as casualties rise. Those who maintain support for this just war can take pride in the knowledge that they are preventing anti-war sentiment from destabilising a vital effort to prevent the emergence of a number of terrible threats, the worst of which could bring humanity to the verge of its darkest hour.

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  1. We would like to invite you to participate in our Human Rights essay competition. Submission Deadline 31 of September. On our web site http://www.humanrightsdefence.org , you find information on the competition (such as Rules; Regulations; Prizes; Important dates; etc.) Should you have further questions or queries, do not hesitate to contact us.

    Yours sincerely,

    Tomas

    Dr Tomas Eric Nordlander
    http://www.humanrightsdefence.org

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