So, Simply What Are We Combating For?

Why have losses mounted so sharply?

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Partly because we and the four,000 US marines just lately sent to Helmand Province are actively seeking out the enemy, in an offensive aimed not only at allowing next month’s elections to take place, but at pushing the Taliban completely out of the densely populated strip along the Helmand river. New rules curbing air strikes, in an effort to reduce loss of help attributable to civilian casualties, might also put ground forces at greater danger. However the vast majority of British deaths and injuries are brought about not by combating however by “improvised explosive devicesplanted below dirt roads, or in partitions and ditches. Final month there have been a file 736 IED “incidents

Is the troopsequipment at fault?

Complaints about private kit, resembling boots and body armour, have largely been dealt with. However many argue that lightly armoured automobiles such as the Snatch Land Rover and the Viking should have been changed way back with heavier models. Some say they nonetheless have a role, and that mobility and ways are also essential in stopping deaths. Final week Lord Guthrie, former chief of the defence staff, blamed Gordon Brown’s parsimony as chancellor for what many senior officers see as a vital scarcity: the lack of heavy-elevate helicopters such as the Chinook, vital for moving troops and gear rapidly.

Is that this offensive succeeding?

Hard to tell. Officers say heavy casualties have been inflicted on the Taliban, but the Ministry of Defence has a historical past of saying the start of boldly named operations, often in the same small space of Helmand, with nothing heard later about outcomes. The most dangerous district, Sangin, which saw 5 more British deaths on Friday, has repeatedly been declared free of insurgents, only for them to seep again later ? a process the troops name “mowing the grass The take a look at of the current operation won’t be how many Taliban fighters have been killed, but whether or not the arrival of US reinforcements in Helmand will allow Nato troops to maintain control of the ground they’ve seized, win the confidence of locals and allow reconstruction and improvement to take place ? the “clear, hold and buildstrategy.

Isn’t this what British forces have been trying to do for 3 and a half years?

Sure, but the initial pressure of three,300 was far too small and completely unprepared for what awaited them, with the then Defence Secretary, John Reid, blithely hoping they may complete their mission “without firing a shot They have fired four million since then, and next to no development has taken place, although which may change if the Kajaki dam ever begins to supply hydro-electricity. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s former ambassador to the UN and Iraq, says the army has been “holding a wall upin Helmand, but “no one has come alongside to construct a buttressof growth, including that “people don’t understandwhat British troops in Helmand need to do with creating stability.

With the Individuals, there are now greater than 12,000 troops in Helmand. Is that sufficient?

That continues to be to be seen. It would take one hundred,000 troops to pacify each area of Afghanistan’s largest province. Someday the Afghan army is perhaps able to provide those numbers, however coaching being stepped up only now. Instead of reaching a complete of 134,000 in 5 years, the deadline has been moved ahead to 2011, and the Pentagon is speaking about an Afghan army twice as large. Both means, there will likely be a shortage of Afghan troops for a number of years, and President Barack Obama is already resisting calls from US commanders for a much larger reinforcement than the ten,000 troops he has already agreed to, which can carry the American force to 68,000 this yr.

But we keep being advised that the “solutionin Afghanistan is not solely, and even mainly, military.

It’s true that away from the south and east development is taking place in many areas ? hundreds of thousands of girls are going to school, for example. But President Hamid Karzai’s government, which seems certain to win one other term on 20 August, is widely seen as ineffectual and corrupt. Its authority has suffered from the Bush administration’s reluctance to have interaction in “nation building and its willingness in 2001 to do offers with vicious warlords, who remain entrenched to this day, to oust al-Qa’ida and the Taliban. Only now’s the US focusing on the event side of the equation, however these efforts are easily disrupted by the Taliban. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington assume-tank, recently printed a paper arguing that as a substitute of specializing in Helmand and neighbouring Kandahar province, Nato ought to take pressing action “to cease and reverse the Taliban’s progress in the north, while reinforcing and safeguarding the Kabul area, or threat shedding control of all the country

We kicked out al-Qa’ida in 2001, and it’s now primarily based in Pakistan, from where it’s undermining other states, akin to Somalia. What has combating the Taliban obtained to do with what Gordon Brown calls “the combat against terrorism

One answer could be that if Afghanistan fell to a resurgent Taliban, al-Qa’ida would return as properly, and nuclear-armed Pakistan can be much more susceptible consequently. If the extremists gained control there, it will grow to be the world’s most dangerous state. Nato forces can’t deal with al-Qa’ida directly across the border in Pakistan, however their presence places strain on Islamabad to do so, though the Pakistanis have nonetheless completed little to disrupt the Taliban leadership operating roughly brazenly from town of Quetta. But it could be incorrect to portray the mission in Afghanistan as being purely to maintain terrorism from our shores. The actual fact is that we owe the Afghans: first we poured in weapons and money to oust the Soviet invaders in the 1980s, then uncared for the country, allowing the Taliban and al-Qa’ida to maneuver in. After 2001 we adopted George Bush to Iraq, with the inevitable consequence that the Taliban came back in Afghanistan.

So what is our technique? What, in brief, are our troops fighting for?

Bob Ainsworth, the brand new Defence Secretary (the fourth in three years), says there’s “no end date, solely an finish state in which the Afghans can take full responsibility for his or her security and governance. There’s little clarity on how this goes to be achieved. With out a large effort to build up the Afghan state, which is beset by problems on every side, from the medication commerce to the nearly whole absence of police and administrators in lots of areas, the chance is that Britain and the US might end up in a vicious circle of “no growth without stability, no stability without development with our forces caught in the middle. Some, together with former Brigadier Ed Butler, who commanded the primary British troops to arrive in Helmand, consider that “given the fact of the environmentand the tenacity of the Taliban, we should in all probability be redefining what success seems to be like with lower expectations among the international community as well because the Afghans. Somewhat than the eradication of corruption and universal female education in Afghanistan, said Malcolm Chalmers, a former Overseas Office special adviser now with the Royal United Companies Institute, “most people now define success more when it comes to an Afghan state secure enough to prevent al-Qa’ida re-establishing a base there. But even that entails creating a reasonably strong state./p>

Ought to we simply declare victory and bring our troops residence?

“We could retreat to a coverage of leaving the Afghans to type themselves out,says Professor Chalmers, “and if al-Qa’ida tried to set up bases, we’d bomb them from drones, as we do in Pakistan, It could come to that.But that would not only betray most Afghans, who nonetheless support the international presence, it might let down our most necessary ally, America, where President Obama is finally pursuing the insurance policies most allies have been urging for years. And what would we say to the families and associates of the British troopers killed within the conflict? Kelly Gore, who misplaced her partner, Lance Sergeant Tobie Fasfous, in April, stated last week: “The only factor holding me going is that one thing good will come out of all of this, that Afghanistan will get again on its ft, will drive the Taliban away and the people out there can reside a traditional life eventually. Unless that happens, I do assume these lads have died in vain./p>

Strategic aims: how Britain is faring in Afghanistan

Stop terrorist plans for attacks on the UK

* MoD’s important stated goals embrace: “Deny al-Qa’ida its Afghan base

* Terrorist bunkers bombed out, training camps disrupted.

* Operations didn’t stop assaults on London transport network.

* Worry plotting continues amongst terrorists in Pakistan and fghanistan.

Avoid a bloody conflict

* Former defence secretary John Reid said he hoped British forces would depart without “a single shot being fired

* More than 4 million bullets fired by the British Army in a year, as battle intensified.

* Extra troopers have died there, 184 in all, than in Iraq.

Catch Osama Bin Laden

* Publish 9/11, al-Qa’ida’s most recognisable determine became world’s most wanted man.

* Afghanistan refused to extradite him before he went into hiding.

* His whereabouts unknown, stays an inspiration to insurgents.

End Taliban rule in Afghanistan

* Taliban rule included legal guidelines towards educating girls and actions equivalent to watching Television. Al-Qa’ida operatives have been provided with shelter.

* Navy intervention ended its control in 2001.

* Taliban nonetheless an insurgent pressure with undeterred remnants proving a harmful enemy.

Carry democracy to Afghanistan

* First elections run solely by the Afghan authorities happen next month.

* Provincial polls occurred after Taliban’s fall.

* Elections generate waves of violent protests.

* Nato warned the brand new authorities “remains limitedand prone to corruption.

Keep the region stable

* Armed forces wish to contain targets to Afghanistan.

* Taliban insurgents crossed borders, resulting in bloody battle with Pakistan army in Swat Valley, with tens of 1000’s fleeing their homes.

Make the streets safe

* Troops accomplished missions to clear unexploded mines.

* Soldiers acquire rising belief of civilians.

* Nato not too long ago warned lately the number of civilian deaths “remains a critical concern

* More than 2,000 Afghan civilians died final 12 months in insurgent attacks.

Enhance life for Afghanis

* British money repaired dams and provided irrigation.

* Large increase in children going to high school, together with large numbers of ladies for the primary time.

* Average life expectancy is 44, whereas disease and poverty are widespread.

* Large swathes of the country are unconnected to protected water provides.

Verdict: Extra work needed

Cease the drug commerce

* Concentrated battle against poppy field drug barons who provide world’s heroin market from Afghanistan.

* US experts fear blowing up poppy crops backfired, driving desperate farmers to sympathise with insurgent forces.

* Farmers struggling with alternative crops in the dry situations.

Verdict: Failure

Preserve oil/fuel entry

* Afghanistan historically an ideal route for exporting oil and fuel to Western international locations.

* US arrange offers with Afghanistan’s neighbours to ensure smoother exports.

* Agreements criticised for being made with nations having poor human rights records.

Verdict: Move

Richard Osley

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