Brigadier sets record straight
FOR obvious reasons, serving military personnel do not get involved in party politics. Soldiers, sailors and airmen sign up for the Queen's shillings to do unquestioningly what the elected government of the day demands and, mindful of the risk to life and limb when they enlist, to die or be maimed for their country Afghanistan is such an emotive war that it would be unsurprising if members of the military did not have any doubts.
FOR obvious reasons, serving military personnel do not get involved in party politics. Soldiers, sailors and airmen sign up for the Queen's shillings to do unquestioningly what the elected government of the day demands and, mindful of the risk to life and limb when they enlist, to die or be maimed for their country
Afghanistan is such an emotive war that it would be unsurprising if members of the military did not have any doubts. Why are we dying in a country when the British failed to conquer in the 19th century and which the Russians were unable to tame in the late 20th century?
Gordon Brown is struggling to hold the line over Afghanistan. There is growing public disquiet over the rising death toll which -� rightly or wrongly - is perceived to be a result of the Government fighting the war on the cheap. The Liberal Democrats have grave reservations and will probably go into the election campaign promising to get out within a year - although Lord (Paddy) Ashdown is at odds with Nick Clegg over this.
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Brown, and Blair before him, has been able to militarily engage with the Taliban only because the Tories were on side, as they were with Iraq. Should David Cameron change his mind in the coming months, there will be enormous pressure on Labour not to reveal the endgame in Afghanistan.
The most convincing argument I've heard for the operation in the Afghan province of Helmand and other areas was voiced yesterday on BBC Radio 4 by the new commander of British forces, Brigadier James Cowan, who said the strategy being followed in Helmand was “exactly the right one. In the course of the last year we have gone from only 7,000 British troops across the force to 9,000. We have added in the further 12,000 American soldiers and with 21,000 soldiers - three times what we had before - we are beginning to bring security to this part of Afghanistan.
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“There really are some significant changes which I don't think are well understood back in Britain. This month alone, we have distributed wheat seed to 24,000 farmers. Wheat is the alternative crop to poppy, which is the root cause of much of the corruption and violence here in Afghanistan.
“The Ministry of Finance reports revenues up in Helmand by 60% in the first seven months of the year, compared to last.
“I have been yesterday to Nad Ali district and walked through the centre there, where there is a thriving market. Here in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, we have a thriving city with commerce developing. There is a hell of a change from where we were two years' ago.
“Musa Qala - the most dangerous town in Afghanistan, arguably the most dangerous country in the world - now has a thriving bazaar and you can walk through it without any chance of the Taliban interfering. That's quite an achievement.”
The brigadier was speaking from conviction, not as some sop for a Labour Prime Minister who has never had the strength of character to say what exactly needed saying.
INTERPRETER PLEASE: From a Suffolk county council report on care for the elderly: “Despite excellent efficiencies achieved through the customer journey over the last two years, we are now beginning to see a levelling off of the impact of signposting strategies with customers as demographic pressures continue to grow.”