Ok, Ive just spent the last couple of days in meetings in London. One of the things I noticed was the amount of people wearing poppies this year. I cannot say for certain (mostly because I cannot swear I am always in the UK capital that regularly at this time of year), but it seems to me there has been a radical increase in numbers this year over previous years. The reason is clear enough: Afghanistan.
The killing of five troops by a policeman they had both trained and had trusted probably put an extra twist into those who customarily wear it. And it causing a fair amount of people to question why the troops are there in the first place.
Towards the end of last week, I spoke with an old friend whose son is with the British army in Afghanistan. The story he relayed from his son will hardly bolster the confidence of those optimists who still think Bush/Blair democracy-building project there is worth persisting with.
The young man in question noted two things.
One, that every time the British take on a new batch of troops for the Afghan Army (ie the guys who will old the line for democracy when the British withdraw) they make recommendations as to who should be given commissions as officers.
Invariably, he says, once submitted to senior Afghani officials, the lists come back with the names scored out and the names of sons and other relatives of said officials put in. Invariably, the worst of the bunch, he says.
And two, the most outstanding recruits often turn out to be rebels milking the system for the training and intelligence. Thats a theme familiar with many of the IRAs Northern Irish campaigns over the centuries.
As Alex Evans notes from Matthew Hohs resignation letter of 10th September:
“Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons. However, again, to follow the logic of our stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan. More so, the September 11th attacks, as well as the Madrid and London bombings, were primarily planned and organized in Western Europe; a point that highlights the threat is not one tied to traditional geographic or political boundaries.
And, Hamid Karzai, the questionably elected President of the country is known amongst the British troops out there as the Mayor of Kabul…