Over at Defence of the Realm they have gone into the current situation in Afghanistan in great detail, citing and reviewing a number of opinions by learned columnists. I don’t particularly want to comment on their conclusions (they seem as reasonable as any) rather what’s important is that the debate, as described by the blog, is happening at at all. For too long the action in Afghanistan has been taking place in a vacuum, taking place under the unquestioning gaze of a mystified public which seems to be collectively shrugging its shoulders and turning back to more mundane local matters.
As a country we need to get ourselves better informed about what our armed forces are doing, because without pressure from us our army will never get the resources it needs or indeed develop the tactics required to ‘win’. I am reminded of the situation at the beginning of 1918 where Lloyd George withheld reinforcements from the western front, thus leaving it weakened at a key moment to face the German spring offensive. The government of the day had given the army a task but simply did not understand the requirements, the sacrifice, necessary to carry out its will.
In respect of Afghanistan, the situation seems to have become more doom laden since some more optimistic reports a month or two back. The Taliban seem to have resigned themselves to ‘pinprick’ hit and run tactics which can hardly effect a victory for them, rather the hope would seem to be to simply wear down the civilian morale of the soldiers they are fighting. This makes it all the more amazing that the government and senior MoD officials seem incapable of providing our troops with even the most basic protection, a policy which pays right into the hands of our enemy.
Once again a comparison with WW1 seems appropriate. There is no doubt that early in the piece that war suffered from a failure in generalship, it was a war like no other, mistakes were made on all sides. But importantly lessons were learned and weapons tactics and generalship evolved to win in the end. Right now there seems little evidence that lessons are being learned, no evidence that tactics are evolving, no evidence that we – the public who are the real targets of the latest Taliban attacks, are being prepared for the sacrifices that our army might be called upon to make if this sorry mess is to be resolved.