International

All the greatest missions creep

As the naysayers and arm chair generals help to stir up alarm about the British mission in Afghanistan, David Aaronovitch with a reminder today of why we are there and the good that is being done.

It’s been alarming over the past couple of weeks with people coming out of the wood work sowing doubt and questioning the nature of the mission following what has been the bloodiest week for the British in Helmand.

Lib Dem Malcolm Bruce asked whether Parliament had been “misled by the scale of the risks of the mission and today the Daily Mail ran a full page piece headlined: “Doomed”.

All this with moving front pages this morning following the death of two more soldiers, including Pakistan born Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi.

His death is no more tragic than those of any others killed, but his story of a modern British Muslim serving in the British Army is a positive one.

Clearly the Taleban have not gone away and are flexing their muscles by doing what they do best: murdering school teachers, children and anyone else they can intimidate.

More troops might well be needed as is a strategy five years on to deal with the opium crop, but as with Iraq there will be no overnight pull out and as Aaronovitch writes all the greatest missions in human history have creep.

“To write that the mission is a good one and is worth the risk to others’ lives that it entails, always means being accused of armchair soldiering. That’s both right and a challenge that should be accepted. And to try to be concrete about it, lets just examine one way in which our presence (and thus the risk) is worthwhile. We all know that the Taleban, in their weird mixture of fundamentalist Islam and tribalism, conceived that education for half the population — the female half — was a sin, to be prevented by physical force and punishment.

“Nearly five years after they were ousted by the coalition in late 2001 half of all eligible children attend school, and a third of girls (even in the Taleban-ridden south 15 per cent of girls go to school). This means something like 1.8 million Afghan girls are receiving an education that was previously denied to them.”

“Now those schools have become a primary target of Taleban “militants” (as school-burners and women-beaters are known here in the West). In the past few months hundreds of schools have been burnt down. Just before Christmas in Helmand a teacher of girls was taken to the school gate and shot. Two days later, in the same province, a teenage student and a watchman were murdered. Earlier this year it was estimated that 66 of Helmand’s 224 schools had been closed down as a result of intimidation or arson.”

UPDATE: Mike has posted this link to a Telegraph story in his comment, I thought I would add it here for anyone who wanted to read more on Jabron Hashmi’s story.

Gene adds: Jabron Hashmi joins Ayman Taha among the devout British and American Muslims who have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Notwithstanding Inayat Bunglawala’s suggestion, they both believed in what they were fighting for.

As a friend of Ayman Taha wrote in the comments to my post about him:

I also knew Ayman, and I can say that he is possibly the best person that I ever knew. I’m angry that it was him instead of me. I’m angry that his daughter will never know him. And I’m angry at the thought that someone would pass judgement on a Muslim man that decided this was the best way he could serve Allah.

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