Afghanistan is the UK government’s “most important” foreign policy and national security issue, according to Prime Minister David Cameron. The current war in Afghanistan has now entered its 10th year, longer than both the First World War and Second World War combined. According to the latest timetable for withdrawal, British combat forces could still remain in the country for a further four years. Over 1,450 US service personnel and 340 British personnel have been killed in Afghanistan to date. The most recent year, 2010, was the bloodiest for foreign troops, with 711 killed compared with 521 during 2009.
Afghanistan has borne the brunt of decades of foreign intervention and conflict, and as a result is now one of the poorest countries in the world. For ordinary Afghans, the situation resulting from the war is terrible. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured since 2001, human rights are deteriorating and millions of Afghans rely on food aid to avoid starvation. The impact of military intervention can be seen in figures from the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which reveal that one in four of all refugees the agency deals with worldwide comes from Afghanistan.
The Afghan government remains mired in corruption and unwilling or unable to satisfy people’s basic needs. Meanwhile, the USA and Britain are turning Afghanistan into one of the most militarised countries in the world, while privatising the economy and outsourcing warfare to private armies and militias. The combined effect of these actions is to undermine any development prospects for the next generation.
The USA has spent over $223 billion on the war since 2001, while Britain has spent over £11 billion. At a time of economic crisis, with massive cuts being planned across the public sector in the UK, more and more people are questioning why NATO member countries are spending such sums fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and what they hope to achieve…