Monday, 21 June 2010

Afghanistan: The End Game?

The Army Game used to be a popular weekly comedy on British television. In the early 1960s the British Army wasn't striving to combat foreign insurgencies.

Unlike today. The cost of that effort in Afghanistan has registered 307 on the meter. The cost of dying, as David Cameron has already said, is likely to rise through the summer.

But for how much longer? Less than two years, thinks Professor Paul Rogers from Bradford University's Peace Studies department and a contributor to the Oxford Research Group independent think tank, which specialises in issues of national and international security.

He said: "I think the death of the 300th soldier will remind people of the continuing losses in Afghanistan. Sympathy for the Army across the country does not translate into support for the war. I think there is widespread dismay about why we are still there.

"There is some pretty serious re-thinking going on behind the scenes. The Strategic Defence Review of the whole armed services will look at Afghanistan. They cannot keep 9,000 to 10,000 troops there for another ten years.

"Scaling down is likely to happen all the faster because there is a new Government and, more significantly, because domestic politics in the United States dictates that American tropps have to be withdrawn before the 2012 presidential election. That's the plan; if it works, the British will happily go along with that.

"I meet quite a few soldiers, including squaddies. They will acknowledge that the rate of training of the Afghan Army is very slow and they do not trust the Afghan police - they're too corrupt.

"Although they see themselves as proving themselves to the country, because fighting is what an army is all about, there are mixed feelings about the future. Very sharp intelligence officers I have spoken with know they - the army - cannot win.

"The more troops that go in the more they are seen by locals as occupiers and resistance rockets. In the first four months of 2010 the number of roadside bombs doubled over the same period for 2009. For a larger percentage of Afghans they are occupiers.

"I will be very surprised to see the same number of troops out there in the next two years.

"Had a large peace-keeping force been put in place after the Americans defeated the Taliban in 2001, the situation in Afghanistan might have been different."

Prof., Rogers has consistently argued that the US made an error of judgement after 9/11. Instead of treating Al Qaida as a "trans-national force of criminals" and sending in small specialist forces to bring them back for trial as criminals, it treated Bin Laden's men as members of a terrorist army.

So it looks as though the fate of the British Army in Afghanistan depends upon the election strategy of President Barack Obama. Is that what is known as a 'special relationship'?

Richard North warned in Ministry of Defeat that the British, in a state of denial about Iraq, ran the risk of making the same military and political mistakes made in Afghanistan.

"This is a politicians' war - it has nothing to do with the people. The people did not ask the soldiers to 'invade' Afghanistan, know little about the country and are indifferent to the aims of this Government, even if they are aware of them," he said.

More than 1,800 NATO soliders have now been sent home in boxes, more than 1,000 of them Americans - hence the significance of the US presidential election.

Can anybody without a vested interested seriously doubt that what has happened to Defence Chief Jock Stirrup and now General Stanley McChrystal are but two moves on the chess board of Afghanistan towards the end game?

Monday, 7 June 2010

Cutting the Obvious

The first cut is the deepest, says the hit pop song. Angela Merkel has made the first swipe with her axe, announcing cuts of 80 billion euros in Germany by the year 2014.

Laugh that one off Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The Germans expect the southern member states of the EU to be no less ruthless. They won't, of course. Where's there's a euro there's usually a wangle. Claiming for bogus olive oil production used to be a favourite scam. Probably still is.

Now Europe waits to see how good a head's man David Cameron is. He says everybody in the country is going to be affected.

Until events prove otherwise I shall take the Prime Minister at his word and assume that this means...

. Abolishing universal child benefits and winter fuel payments to pensioners. In future no British Government will pay women to have babies irrespective of social background, marital status, and record as a good citizen - ie not a screeching neighbourhood drunk or junkie. Universal benefits of every description will be means tested.

. Ending free drugs and needles for junkies. All junkies will be obliged to undertake supervised cold turkey until free of addiction. Ditto alcoholics.

. Cutting payments to quangos - about £43 billion - by at least half.

. Saving approximately £21 billion annually by giving Scotland independence and withdrawing its £13 billion subsidy - that will really give the Scots something to moan about. Similarly suspending the UK's annual payment to the EU of about £7 billion until the EU's books are signed off by auditors. Neil Kinnock, sorry, Lord Kinnock, should be able to advise David Cameron about that matter.

. Scrapping all payments for climate change projects immediately. That alone should tot up to something in the region of £18 billion a year.

. Slashing Overseas Aid Payments, which largely maintain the status quo because its not in the interest of government agencies to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

. Stripping out managerial layers from the NHS, education and social welfare.

. Reducing defence spending. The only way to prevent the boys at the Ministry of Defence wasting mega millions on expensive toys unsuitable for the type of warfare going on in Afghanistan.

. Slashing the numbers of councillors and MPs. Bradford Metropolitan District Council has 90 councillors and five MPs. The cost of the councillors alone is £1.8m a year and rising. All of them get a basic salary of £12,700. Others get extra responsibility allowances ranging from £12,500 to £35,000. Those who don't enjoy ERAs merely have to turn up twice a year to guarantee their money. Nice non-work if you can get it. As things stand this country is a satrapy of the Greater European Empire of the EU, therefore we don't need 650 MPs in the House of Commons as well as European Members of Parliament. Playacting at democracy costs us at least £4 billion a year, maybe a lot more. Get rid Mr Axeman. Public service is just that: providing the public with services they need. It is not a job creation scheme for graduates, political activists and women who think they have a right to a career rather than a desire to serve.

Of course, little or none of the above will actually happen. The Ugly Kingdom, the UK, can rest easy in the grease and gravy of its dependency. But I'm not bitter.