Socialist Worker

West fights a losing battle on Afghanistan

Issue No. 2112

One year ago British defence secretary Des Browne was asked if the occupation in Afghanistan had “turned the corner”.

“I think the honest answer is, yes, it could be,” he said.

At the time he told the Guardian newspaper that he was “genuinely surprised” at the progress British troops had made in crushing the insurgency.

Government ministers said that development programmes would win over ordinary people while the Afghan government would extend its writ across the country.

Instead the reconstruction projects have ground to a halt as foreign companies siphon off development funds, while the Western-backed government enjoys little support.

This failure led to only one workable strategy – military firepower.


One fact, released to the House of Commons last month, shows the ferocity of this war. Between December 2007 and May this year British troops fired over two million rounds of ammunition – an average of 11,000 rounds a day.

However soldiers are finding it hard to carry on as casualties and shortages of hardware have left them fighting a losing battle.

Over 20,000 soldiers left the army last year, among them young officers exhausted by endless tours.

The troops are stuck in dozens of so called “fire bases” in remote areas of the country, which are a focus of attacks by the resistance.

Now we are being told that British troops could be stationed in the front line for a further 20 years.

Foreign secretary David Miliband said that the resurgent insurgency showed the “hollowness of their power”. Yet the occupation is more precarious than at any point since the country was invaded in 2001.

Last week three more British soldiers were killed in the Helmand province. They are the latest victims of an occupation that has run into the sand.

The longer troops stay, the bloodier the war is becoming. The only chance for peace is for all foreign troops to leave.

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Tue 29 Jul 2008, 18:10 BST
Issue No. 2112
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