New Age Islam
Sun Jan 17 2021, 07:41 PM


Islam and the West ( 17 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Cameron Is Wrong To Declare 'Mission Accomplished' In Afghanistan


By Simon Tisdall

16 December 2013












 David Cameron speaks to British soldiers at Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Photograph: Pool/Reuters

Ill-advisedly echoing George W Bush's fatuous Iraq cry of "mission accomplished", David Cameron appears determined that Britain will leave Afghanistan the same way it arrived in 2001: ignoring the complex internal realities of a desperately poor, highly ungovernable country and blithely oblivious to the dangerous strategic implications of British and allied actions.


The internal realities include a government, led by President Hamid Karzai, whose writ barely runs beyond Kabul, and is seriously challenged even there. Once a favourite of Washington and London, the unpredictable, outspoken Karzai has become a symbol of the perceived unreliability of Nato's Afghan "partners".

Karzai has accepted untold billions of dollars in western aid, bothmilitary and non-military, but has proven a persistent and virulent critic of the western-led military operations that have sustained him in power – while failing to stamp out rampant corruption and the heroin trade.

Understandably, Karzai's particular bugbear is the many civilian deaths caused in the past decade by US forces and by drone attacks. Casualties have been rising this year.

But his desire to identify with popular anger at such "collateral damage" never led him quite so far as to tell the Americans to get out.

Only now, with national elections due in April and Karzai standing down, does the Afghan leader ostentatiously balk at signing a new status of forces agreement with the US. This sudden display of political independence presages a security vacuum, but one which he, as ex-president, will not have to face.

Cameron's self-congratulatory tone notwithstanding, Afghanistan's democratic institutions remain fragile and highly vulnerable. If the election process falters or fails, Afghanistan and NATO will face a major crisis.


Despite repeated assertions by British and US commanders, it remains entirely unclear whether the Afghan army and police are equal to the task of continually securing so vast and unruly a country, once direct Nato ground and air support are withdrawn. The recent spate of "green on blue" killings of western troops by their Afghan "comrades" has highlighted such doubts.

NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance, failed to subjugate Afghanistan. So why the confidence that Afghan security forces – for the most part ill-educated, variably equipped and trained, and divided among themselves on geographical, ethnic, tribal and linguistic lines – can do so? The elections will present a major test of the emerging security set-up.

Women's Rights and Human Rights

British troops do have reason to be proud, as Cameron says. But good causes for which western soldiers bravely fought and died, such as creating and safeguarding the space for extending women's rights, human rights in general, universal education and child healthcare, are all prospectively under threat in Afghanistan's uncertain post-Nato future.

"The Afghan government's failure to respond effectively to violence against women undermines the already-perilous state of women's rights," Human Rights Watch said in its 2013 report.

"President Hamid Karzai's endorsement in March of a statement by a national religious council calling women 'secondary', prohibiting violence against women only for 'un-Islamic' reasons, and calling for segregating women and girls in education, employment, and in public, raises questions about the government's commitment to protecting women …

"A series of high-profile attacks on women highlighted the heightened danger that the future holds.

Creating a law- and rights-based society was all part of the nation-building project into which the intervention mission morphed once the al-Qaida camps were dispersed in autumn 2001. Nation-building was in fact the main justification for continuing to occupy the country for so long. This job is hardly begun, and may now unravel.

Terror Threat

Cameron suggested during Monday's visit to Camp Bastion in Helmand province that the "most important part of the mission" – ensuring that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists, as it was before 9/11 – has been accomplished. "Our troops can be very proud of what they have done," he said.

But where's the evidence the terrorists are vanquished? The Taliban, who hosted Osama bin Laden, are undefeated and unrepentant. Various attempts to pursue a peace dialogue with them have gone nowhere. Mullah Omar remains at large, and ideologically unreformed.

Neighbour Pakistan has been seriously destabilised and radicalised in the past decade. To the west, Iran remains an implacable foe to pro-western democratic governance.

Once Talib-led Pashtun Sunni Muslims, Afghanistan's largest homogenous ethnic grouping, have regained control of the south and east of the country in the civil war many believe will follow NATO's exit, there is good reason to believe they will revive or extend alliances with like-minded groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and other extremist Sunni groups. Al-Qaida could be back within a year.

Cameron, like Barack Obama, cannot admit this, of course, as they jointly pull the plug. Yet by claiming the intervention was mostly about rooting out terrorists, Cameron also ignores or misunderstands, and certainly diminishes, the few, possibly temporary nation-building achievements Britain can point to during its latest, sorry misadventure in Afghanistan.