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Making the case for Afghanistan - Guardian Comment is Free

In today's Guardian:

All night long a fierce struggle had raged from house to house and in the alleys of this mud labyrinth. The assailants knew every inch of the ground perfectly. They were fighting in their own kitchens and parlours. The defenders simply hung on where they could, in almost total darkness, without the slightest knowledge of ground or buildings.

So wrote Winston Churchill about his experiences with the Malakand Field Force in 1897. The fighting taking place today is often at close quarters with small arms and engaging an enemy that knows the terrain very well. Not much has changed since, we might conclude, after a sad week with many lives lost in our forces in Afghanistan.

To continue reading, please go to the Guardian Website.
Stephen Beer, 14/07/2009
John Welch (Guest) 21/09/2009 15:36
Is there really such a distinction to be made between us in Afghanistan then and now? With the Americans we have been responsible for the deaths of a great many Afghan civilians for very little result. General Dannatt's assertion in a recent radio interview that we were clearly being successful because people were out doing their shopping is frankly rather sad. The Taliban haven't banned shopping. Goods still circulate - it's just that bribes have to be paid at every stage, much of it going to the Taliban (see Patrick Cockburn's article in a recent issue of the LRB.) Back in 1905 Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, pulled back the army from the border areas and stopped their incursions, dismantled the forts in the Khyber Pass and established a force of Pashtuns / Afghans in those border areas. That worked very well. Perhaps we should do the same and concentrate on giving support to the Pakistanis. Al Qaida don't need Afghanistan. Acts of terrorism originate in people's heads - if there's any country where they originate it's Saudi Arabia.

The debate about Afghanistan is actually beginning to settle down a bit in the sense that what we are really talking about is becoming clearer.