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  • Published in Stop the war

David Cameron talks to British soldiers at Camp Bastion, outside Lashkar Gah. Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis, AP

Even the Daily Express, hardly a friend of the anti-war movement, says David Cameron's declaration of 'mission accomplished' does not stand up to scrutiny

It was ten years ago that George Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and proclaimed ‘mission accomplished’ in Iraq. Given the subsequent record, you might have imagined David Cameron would have thought twice about repeating the words in reference to Afghanistan.

But no, apparently next year ‘we will have accomplished that mission’.  At least dimly aware of the risks, he tried to limit his comment to the security situation. But even here, he is talking nonsense.  A recent report by the US said that, while 68 per cent of the country was open for reconstruction in 2009, the figure is now 45 per cent and falling fast. Next year the report predicts there will only be “oversight bubbles” left in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.

Since the surge in 2006 Nato's night raids, bombing campaigns, drone attacks have wreaked terror across the country and fuelled the revival of the Taliban who are now in the position of being able to organise attacks on all the major cities.  One of the few concrete achievements the west likes to point to is the creation of a 300,000 strong Afghan security apparatus. Unsurprisingly, this western creation has done nothing to stem the violence. Agencies report that violence is on the increase and that last year there were several thousand civilian deaths as a result of the war.

Human Rights Watch reports that the security system is complicit in rampant corruption and abuse: ‘The powerful, when implicated in serious abuses, are almost never held to account, and the justice system fails ordinary Afghans. Torture is rampant in detention facilities.’

But Cameron is rewriting history anyway. When it began we were told the mission in Afghanistan included development, democracy and human rights, particularly rights for women.

On these criteria, the occupation has been an even more abysmal failure. Afghanistan has recently been declared the most corrupt country in the world and it remains stubbornly at the bottom of development league tables. The minimal economic activity that does take place is almost entirely dependent on foreign aid which accounted for an astounding 97% of GDP in 2010. The rest of the economy, mainly unofficial, depends on the spiralling opium poppy trade, another target of the western intervention conveniently forgotten by our Prime Minister.

During the period of occupation more women have been able to get an education, an achievement hard won by activists on the ground. But any sense of satisfaction from the west on women’s rights is horribly misplaced. Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world for women. The government is planning to reinstate death by stoning for adultery. About half the women in prison in Afghanistan and about 95 percent of girls in juvenile detention — a total of about 600 people — are imprisoned on accusations of “moral crimes,” like sex outside marriage or running away from home. US stooge Hamid Karzai has recently appointed a Human Rights Commissioner who has called for the scrapping of the law for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Cameron and other commentators like to fall back on one other ‘achievement’ of the War on Terror, the elimination of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  But step back for a moment and its plain to see that bitterness against the west is widespread in Afghanistan and that the overall impact of the wars has been to spread Al Qaeda across a quarter of the globe from Pakistan through Yemen and Somalia to West Africa.

Nobel Peace Laureate Obama is now manoeuvring to try and keep Nato troops in Afghanistan for ten more years. But the only rational and humane response to the horrific cocktail of violence, abject poverty and corruption that has resulted from the occupation is to end it now.

It is the response made by even the Daily Express, hardly a friend of the anti-war movement. David Cameron's declaration of "mission accomplished, "says the Express, "does not stand up to scrutiny", adding:

Poppy cultivation is up, girls still cannot go to school in safety, the  country’s government is riddled with  corruption and faction-fighting and  meanwhile the Taliban are waiting us  out before seeking to resume control. It will be very difficult to claim that any British serviceman or woman killed in Afghanistan between now and next year’s withdrawal has made a  worthwhile sacrifice.

So, concludes the Express, "Bring them home at once."

From Stop the War Coalition

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.