How much longer can the British and US governments maintain the fiction that the war in Afghanistan is, in the words of former UK defence minister Des Browne, one of the most noble causes of the 21st century?

Stop the War convenor Lindsey GermanThe revelations of 90,000 secret US military records, published on 26 July by Wikileaks, and summarised in The Guardian, paint a picture of suppressed civilian casualties, targeted assassinations and remote control bombing of border areas with Pakistan.

It is also a war which, despite massive increases in troop numbers, the NATO forces are losing. The leaks report growing numbers of roadside bombs used by the Taliban and support for insurgents from Pakistan and Iran.

Nothing has changed since the period covered by the leaked documents. Obama’s supposedly new “surge” strategy has made 2010 the worst year yet for both the deaths of Nato soldiers and Afghan civilians alike.

The policy of Afghanisation – whereby Afghan forces are supposed to take the place of the foreign occupation armies – is confirmed as failing, with stories of fighting between different groups of soldiers and policemen, and widespread bribery and corruption.

The leaks have performed a very important service, adding to our knowledge of the war and demonstrating where and how it is going wrong.

The predictable outcry from the military and much of the media is that this information endangers the security of soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Barack Obama has condemned the leaks as “irresponsible”, the British government says its publication is “lamentable”.

There is very little truth in this argument. Most of the information refers to incidents which happened at least a year ago. But how can telling the world about the number of civilian deaths or the number of roadside bomb attacks be a security risk? This information should always have been in the public domain.

In reality, they are an embarrassment to a government and military which has repeatedly boasted how well the war is progressing.

The leaks also reflect badly on much of the media, which – without any independent investigation – simply churns out the line of the politicians and military waging war.

These leaks and the furore round them are another blow to the defenders of the war and raise very serious questions about how long it can continue.

In the past weeks politicians have begun to talk about dates for withdrawal and negotiating with the Taliban, in a tacit admission that the only choice now is negotiation with the Taliban or humiliating defeat.

Meanwhile a war of ever escalating carnage drags on, with rising civilian and military casualties and growing instability in the region.

The responsibility of the anti-war movement is clear. We have to raise the level of campaigning so that the government, parliament and the media are forced to respond to the overwhelming view of the British public, that the time to bring all the troops home from Afghanistan is now.

From Stop the War

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.

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