Monday, 10 November 2008

Time for troops out of Afghanistan too??

. Liberal Democrat Voice flag's up Nick Clegg's piece in yesterdays Independent. In it Clegg opens with a rather bold assertion that;

"Britain should support a troop surge in Afghanistan, one made possible by the urgent withdrawal of our troops from Iraq."

He then moves onto say;

"Yet Afghanistan cannot be won on the battlefield, as I saw for myself a few months ago."

Obviously, the first question that springs to mind is how does the policy of supporting a 'troop surge' reflect the following assertion?? I would contend it does not and this is a problem. If Afghanistan cannot be won on the battlefield then we are well within our rights to ask what the point of these extra troops is; obviously they are not likely to assist what Nick calls for later on in the article; engagement and negotiation with the Taliban and Iran.

Presumably, Clegg hopes that a 'surge' will actually force negotiations by improving the situation. I find this bitterly ironic coming on a day when the fact that Iraq is far for 'pacified' has been brutally underlined.

He is right to say that the Taliban can and must be split but that seems unlikely to happen to me with extra British troops pouring into the region. If anything such an action will stiffen the resolve of the tribal leaders and conservatives within the Taliban movement to keep their lot cast in with the ideologues. Such a move would virtually guarantee that Clegg's hoped for;

"regional agreement, similar to the Dayton Peace Agreement, involving all countries in the region, especially Iran."

will not happen in the proverbial month of Sundays. Nobody will negotiate down the barrel of a gun. While Clegg is right to say that;

"a regional peace conference should be backed by external guarantors who are prepared, as in Dayton, to underpin the agreement"

it is again almost certain that the only guarantors acceptable to all parties will fly United Nations colours. Clegg's call for a surge is deeply ill-advised (as is Obama's incidentally); it will only inflame tensions (not least with Pakistan) and move peace further away not closer forward. Now is the time to call a halt to the 'war on terror' and recognise that military means have failed; not send in more troops for a 'surge'.

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