Chris Davies MEP has written to Nick Clegg arguing for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.
Many of us had hoped this would be in the Lib Dem manifesto at the recent General Election.
I fully agree with what Chris has written so am pasting on his letter below.
I have written to you before to urge that the Liberal Democrats call for the
withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. It seems sadly inevitable
that within the next few days the 300th soldier from our forces will lose
their life, and I write now to argue that you should use your influence to
press for a change in government policy.
It is very difficult to justify our continued engagement when the reasons
for it so often appear contradictory and open to challenge. I suspect one
reason why 77% of people in this country tell pollsters that they want our
troops out of Afghanistan is because they either do not know what are the
objectives for their presence or do not believe that these can be achieved.
I share these doubts.
The American-led assault against the Taliban government was launched in the
wake of the 2001 aircraft hijackings and attack upon the World Trade Centre.
It had United Nations support because the Taliban provided shelter for the
al-Qa'ida leaders who planned that outrage. But the al-Qa'ida presence has
long since been removed, at least so far as this will ever be possible in
such a land, and the Americans have the technology and weaponry to prevent
it regrouping in an organised fashion
It has been claimed that our presence in Afghanistan is intended to keep
safe the streets of Britain. I do not believe this case can be sustained.
Our soldiers are easily portrayed as foreign invaders who should be resisted
by Afghan patriots, and our presence in the country may not only contribute
to instability there but increase the risk of maverick attacks on people
Nearly a decade on the American-led forces are still very far from
establishing an Afghan national army or police force that can claim to be
representative of all people in the country. It is widely recognised, not
least by President Karzai, that an accommodation must be found with the
Taliban. Our money, or 'soft diplomacy', may help facilitate this, and an
alternative political strategy should be developed with this in mind. In
the meantime British soldiers continue to be killed by people who will one
day be part of the Afghan government.
Undoubtedly the withdrawal of our troops would present risks. It could
allow the Taliban to increase their influence and to take control of a
greater part of the country. It might also allow the Taliban to strengthen
their presence in Pakistan. But then again it might not, or not to any
significant degree. The majority of Taliban fighters are said to be local
farmers who have no great national ambitions. I am not sure that our
allies, the former warlords who are now politicians and regional governors,
have any greater moral right to govern parts of the country than the Taliban
but they have their own private militias and will not easily surrender
I have heard it argued that the principal reason that British troops remain
in Afghanistan is because we do not want to weaken our relationship with the
Americans by following the example of other European states and announcing a
date for withdrawal. I do not regard such a reason as sufficient
justification for the death of our soldiers.
There will be no happy ending to our involvement in Afghanistan. At some
point we will start to withdraw our forces, and in years to come we shall
question why we did not take this step this at an earlier date. Let it
commence now, before still more lives have been lost
Chris Davies MEP