Colonel Bob Stewart, who came to public attention through his service in Bosnia, had a background in military intelligence. I’ll pass on making the usual joke about that because, even though his post-army career may take him to being a Conservative MP, he is an intelligent man. So it’s usually worth listening to what he has to say, even if you happen to disagree sometimes.
In the course of a rather busy weekend, I caught a tv interview with him where he drew attention to the ‘intelligence’ relating to military operations in Afghanistan. The numbers were:
‘persons of interest’ (what interesting language the intelligence services use) in Afghanistan = 100,
‘persons of interest’ in the UK = 2,000.
If it raised questions for him, it did even more for me.
I also heard Gordon Brown saying that a clear connection between the Afghan/Pakistan border and the streets of Britain was the reason for the Afghan mission. How interesting. If it is true that the border region is a source of incitement to terrorism in the West (and we should stop continuing to conceptualise al quaeda as being like an enemy nation or even like the IRA), what are we doing trying to bring our style of political discipline to a whole national territory that has never achieved it, or even wanted it, for themselves or had it imposed by successive invaders. There are many reasons not to like the Afghan Taliban but to regard them as the same as the Taliban over the border is a dangerous over-simplification.
Logic would suggest that if they want to ‘deal with’ any state, it should be Pakistan – but there is another discourse about that country, particularly around nuclear weapons. Is Afghanistan somewhere where a UK government can be seen to be ‘doing something’ where it won’t cause too many other international problems? Because even by their own logic what we are doing there lacks credibility.
If so, why should young people be sent there to die or suffer horrific physical and mental injuries on behalf of the rest of us. Sometimes attacks on people on our streets are called ‘senseless acts of violence’ – isn’t the Afghanistan mission a state-sponsored senseless act of violence on our own young people as well as on the local victims?