It's over! At long last the futile Afghanistan operation has ended and Camp Bastion, the British HQ in Helmand province has been handed over to Afghan forces. The million questions will continue. Was it worth the lives of our men? Did the Taliban lose control? Could it have been dealt with better?
The reason we went there as I understand it was because of 9/11. Both the intention of dealing with bin Laden and dealing with the Taliban amongst whom he was hiding appeared to contain some merit. The PR Puff informed us that this action would make the UK and the west safer. Did it?
It was understandable that the US would chase bin laden, I have no problem with this. However if we go into Afghanistan a plan of action was required, and not only did we appear to be unsure of this political games led to a failure to deal with the situation properly. An example was the deployment of 16th Airborne Division to Sanguin. 3 Para were sent there not because this was part of the plan but the American General in charge insisted. Why did he do this? The Afghan President wished to support his corrupt Governor of this province and 3 Para were forced to act as his shield. Their thoughts on this are best not known.. That town had it's successes but it also saw lots of needless fighting, which 3 Para won! From the start it was a mistake as was the different approaches to handling the situation chosen by the US and UK troops. British troops are much more 'Hearts & Minds' in their attitude, they learnt this during the Malaya conflict years before, while the US took several years to develop this. So many things were wrong, so much of the strategy was misplaced and political changes, week by week, did not help anyone.
Most Afghans did not want anyone near their land, no matter who. While content to see the Taliban removed they continued under the local warlord, or will do now the troops have left, irrespective of what happened during the past ten years. Their life will carry on for the most part as usual, the cities may well educate girls and develop some sort of democracy, the rural villages will not. While money fills the leaders hands the people will see little of benefit reaching them and few will enjoy a better life, but enjoy this they will. The Taliban will probably never gain control again over the whole nation but they do remain active. The people will support them, unless the crops need attention, and a better organised army might just protect the cities from Taliban incursion. It could just be another Pakistan, oh joy!
The UK is no safer, and possibly in line for a reaction to these years from the extremist groupings. The failure to understand the Afghan mind is repeated in the Middle East where we also saw Iraq blown apart for no good reason. That too has blown up in our faces now. Since the end of the Great War we have failed to consider the mindset of the local population in these parts. Our thoughts were only for our needs, oil, peace, revenge, or whatever we required. At no time did the needs of the locals get consideration.
We wash our hands of Afghanistan, we mourn our needless dead, politicians responsible fade away, families mourn, we move on. What a mess and it has not finished yet, has it?