The government has hailed its recent bloody offensive in the Helmand province of Afghanistan a “success”—despite the high death toll for soldiers and civilians.
Bill Rammell, the armed forces minister, told a meeting of the Royal United Services Institute on Monday that Operation Panther’s Claw destroyed the insurgency’s “command and control” centre.
Yet reports emerging from the province confirm that the majority of insurgents slipped away before the offensive, and will return to target troops as they attempt to set up bases.
Defence secretary Bob Ainsworth has admitted that the government has no plans to reduce the number of British troops in Afghanistan—which currently stands at 9,000.
The government claims that the occupation has reduced the threat of a terrorist attack in Britain.
Yet even the MI5 security service has warned that it is the occupation that has made Britain a target.
Meanwhile David Cameron has confirmed that any future Conservative government would pour in more troops.
Some 75 foreign soldiers died in July, the highest monthly toll since the occupation began.
The ineffective Afghan security forces are losing some 140 men a month.
More and more questions are being raised as to the nature of the “mission”.
When US troops invaded in 2001 it was to “hunt down” Al-Qaeda. Today the organisation is no longer mentioned.
This “mission creep” has meant that the main battle has now become shoring up the unpopular Afghan government.
An all-party parliamentary committee is now questioning if Gordon Brown’s government has any coherent strategy for the war in Afghanistan.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that, “the security situation in Afghanistan, particularly in the south where the majority of British troops are based, will remain precarious for some time to come.”
So far this war has claimed the lives of 191 British soldiers. Hundreds have been wounded.
Those who return face inadequate health care and support.
But it is the Afghan civilians who continue to pay the highest price for the occupation.
According to a mid-year report released by the United Nations last week, the number of civilians who have been killed has risen by 24 percent on the same period last year.
The report notes that the conflict is spreading into areas once considered tranquil.
According to the current strategy for the occupation, known as “Af-Pak”, US secretary of state Robert Gates wants to tempt sections of the insurgency into negotiations.
In order for this strategy to work occupation forces must gain a strategic advantage over the insurgency.
But every offensive has driven more Afghans into the arms of the resistance and dragged the occupation deeper into a bloody quagmire.
Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative have called a national demonstration on Saturday 24 October to mark the eighth anniversary of the invasion. Go to » www.stopwar.org.uk
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