According to reports, we're to send more young men to Afghanistan to kill the Mujahideen (*) who are killing our young men in Helmand province. As The Economist reported in June, before the latest deployment:
[The] British contingent in Helmand province ... consists of only 800 fighting infantrymen in an area 250 miles (400km) by 250 miles, a battalion fewer than many thought the bare minimum. British commanders say they have enough men to make a difference, adding that support troops, artillerymen, even cooks and clerks, can be pressed into the infantry role if need be. But it looks far from ideal.
We have lost six men in the past month but have killed many more Mujahideen. The more we kill, the more we create. The more we create, the more troops we'll need to kill the Mujahideen killing our boys. I'm reminded of the wise words of the Sicilian, Vizzini, in The Princess Bride, just before he dies after swallowing a goblet of red wine laced with iocane powder, a swift-acting poison that he wrongly believed was in the goblet of his interlocutor, the Man in Black (aka Westley, swoon):
You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." But only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."
Okay, he was fatally wrong on that last point, but the first one is a classic blunder.
I heard John Simpson, on FiveLive radio today, talking about the new deployment. I've mentioned before on this blog about the Senlis Council and its proposal to divert the opium produced in Afghanistan away from the heroin trade and towards the world's desperate need for more opiate-derived medicines. Simpson raised the subject, as he's done before, but this time negatively. That is, and this is my impression, not his words: he said that the idea had recently been looked at by the UK's top-level policy-makers but it was a non-starter, for reasons he didn't explain and wasn't asked about. If he had been asked, I think he'd have responded: because of the Americans.
In last week's Indie was a terrifying article about American plans for Afghanistan. [It's now behind the Indie's sub. wall, but a copy survives in the NZ Herald.] Tom Coughlin reported:
In Washington there is increasing pressure for a more radical approach to the drugs problem with the threat of aerial eradication being held up as the ultimate sanction if the softer methods favoured by the British and Afghan governments don't work. Western sources have told the Independent that US counter-narcotics teams are exploring the possibility of using a form of the defoliant Agent Orange.
The United Nations remains completely opposed to the move.
If the Americans are itching to use their stocks of Agent Orange again, it's no wonder that they would oppose such a 'soft method' as that proposed by Senlis. But, unless we can change the policy radically to a much softer approach, more of our troops, and many more Taliban and Mujahideen, will be killed. The trouble is, we choose to take our orders from the Americans, even when they are badly wrong.
(*) I call them Mujahideen, and not Taliban, because apparently they are not now just Afghans but also Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens, etc. It sounds so much like the '80s, when the Mujahideen took on the Soviet troops and won.
PS Pedants may say it's not a "land war in Asia", as we have air power. But massacring Afghanis using attack helicopters or planes doesn't really help our cause.