‘No retreat from the War on Terror’

David Aaronovitch today on why those muttering over the last couple of weeks and questioning our role in Afghanistan are wrong and what the consequences for withdrawal would be.

“In recent days, and unsurprisingly, it has become common to hear the mournless rites being read for liberal interventionism. If anyone has opined publicly about Afghanistan in the last week – and plenty did – it was to regret our presence there and to wish us away. If ever an argument was being won by default this was it, especially since those making the case for quitting were far too exuberant to want to slow up and allow for the possible objections to their reasoning.

“…Here are the likely consequences of such a pattern. The Afghan Government would collapse, to be replaced by an overt civil war fought between the Taleban and local governors in the various provinces. A million or more Afghan refugees would again flee their country, many of them ending up in the West. Deprived of support from the US, as recommended by our commentators, President Musharraf or a successor would effectively withdraw from the border regions, leaving a vast lawless area from central Afghanistan to north central Pakistan. Al-Qaeda and other jihadists would operate from these areas as they did before 9/11. This time these forces – already capable of assassinating a popular democratic politician – would seriously impact upon the stability of Pakistan, which is a nuclear state.

“Jihadists everywhere, from Indonesia to Palestine, would see this as a huge victory…”

The Times also has a report on crisis talks taking place in London today as US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, flies in to discuss spreading the burden of combat in Afghanistan.

The meeting comes ahead of the Nato summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius where members will be pressed to send troops to where it matters in Afghanistan in the South where American, British, Canadian, Australia, Dutch and Danish troops are fighting the Taliban.

The meeting follows the row between the US and Germany over its failure to commit troops and helicopters to the south.

Poland has, however, stepped in. Never one to waste an opportunity to get a dig in at Germany it has offered more support.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said some Nato allies were “free riding” and that Canada had a solid ally in its quest to prod Nato to find an additional 1,000 troops for southern Afghanistan as well as some much needed equipment. Although it didn’t name the “free riding” nation everyone knows who they are talking about.

“I hope it’s a good beginning. I hope that we’re showing that not only are Canada’s contribution and sacrifices appreciated also that Canada’s voice is being heard.

“We will certainly with Canada be arguing very forcefully in the run-up to the Bucharest summit that more needs to be done, burdens need to be shared more fairly and that there’s not room for free riding in this most important operation.”