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The Futility of a War That Talks Could Have Ended: Reflections On The Afghan Conflict

     A British General said that talks with the Taliban, that are due to take place in Qatar, could have been started ten years ago. So this interminable and unwinnable war could have ended, with negotiations, years ago, if this more positive option hadn't been vetoed by politicians like George W. Bush and others. As so often in the past, futile wars are conducted and pursued, so that politicians can save face, with the lives of their own soldiers as a secondary matter. This sudden U-turn, of opening talks with the Taliban rather than trying to destroy them through military operations, makes all the previous statements that politicians made on Afghanistan, sound like so much guff and baloney. (Indeed if politicians are said to 'eat their words', at times, then this has been a five course banquet). Though of course a political class that could give us the brazen lie about WMDs in Iraq, to justify that catastrophic war, is capable of anything. It was sheer madness to think that we could win a military campaign in Afghanistan anyway; a country which has been a graveyard of conquerors since the days of Alexander the Great.

If these talks with, hopefully, more amenable elements of the Taliban, are successful, people will start to ask why all those soldiers were killed and injured, why all those innocent civilians were also killed and injured in cross fire or miss-targeted drone attacks, and all that money and material was invested in the campaign, when talks and negotiations could have ended it years ago. This is just another graphic instance of what a skewed, cockeyed and destructive policy the US and the West has had to the Muslim world. It was only a few weeks ago that in an interview Mr. Cameron proclaimed that we were fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent terrorist attacks on our own streets. Now, in a dramatic volte face, he is announcing that we are negotiating with the very people he previously branded as a deadly enemy that we had to fight and vanquish. So much for his judgement and consistency. And this is the same man who says that we can't deal with the Assad government, in order to try to negotiate an end to the appalling conflict in Syria; and that we should, instead, arm the rebels, in that deadly civil war, which would just pour more petrol on the flames and make the options of negotiations and a peace agreement even more tenuous and remote.

So according to Mr Cameron's logic, it's quite okay to talk to a reactionary and medievalist organisation like the Taliban, but not with a secular, Western educated leader like Assad. Though Mr Assad, for all his faults, and unlike the obscurantist Taliban, believes in such things as education for women, and tolerance for other religions like Christianity. It should be noted that it is some of the rebel forces in Syria that have been burning and desecrating Christian churches (as well as committing other atrocities), just as the Taliban blew up ancient Buddhist statues that had been carved into hillsides in Afghanistan. And yet it is the rebel forces that Mr. Hague, and Mr. Obama, and Mr. Hollande, are keen to see installed in power.

Of course Mr. Cameron has changed his mind, from fighting the Taliban to talking to them, because the Americans changed their minds first. As seemingly always in British politics, whichever party is in power, it is a matter of follow my leader. If someone pulls a lever in Washington then it is all change in Whitehall as well. Indeed one is prompted to speculate that if Washington, alarmed that some fanatical Al Qaeda inspired movement was in the ascendant in Syria, suddenly changed its tune, (as it has dramatically done so on its Afghan strategy) was more amenable to the Assad regime, and insisted that negotiations should take place -- that we could well have a similar response from the British government. And that we could see Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hague suddenly pressing for negotiations and dialogue between the belligerent parties -- talking up the dangers of the fundamentalist and jihadist agenda of some of the main rebel forces -- and dropping the option of arming the rebels like a hot brick. It wouldn't be too outlandish to imagine such a prospect. After all it has just occurred over Afghanistan.

Copyright (c) 2013 Michael Noonan

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I have written short stories, essays and plays for some years now, and have my own blogs at http:// where I have posted opinion pieces and short stories. I have also sold artwork - drawings, watercolours and acrylic paintings and reproductions - on Ebay.

Posted on 2013-07-05, By: *

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