Thursday, June 10, 2010
New British leader reluctantly endorses Afghanistan war
Maybe David Cameron's endorsement of the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan would have been more convincing had the British prime minister not been forced to re-route his helicopter because of threats from insurgent forces. Or maybe, just maybe, it would have been more convincing had it been an actual endorsement and not a bad facsimile of one. Cameron's remarks, delivered at a Kabul news conference with Afghani President Hamid Karzai, were apparently intended to reassure the war-ravaged country's leaders that the British were not planning to withdraw its 10,000 troops from the U.S.-NATO force fighting the Taliban. “This is the year when we have to make progress — progress for the sake of the Afghan people, but progress also on behalf of people back at home who want this to work,” Cameron said, according to the New York Times. "What we want — and in our national security interest — is to hand power over to an Afghanistan that is able to take control of its own security." Well, sure, but that's hardly the same thing as saying that Britain, like the United States, is committed to supporting NATO forces battling the Taliban until the government in Kabul is strong enough, and trustworthy enough, to stand on its own. The fact that Cameron left that part out is what's noteworthy. He didn't say it because Britain apparently doesn't think about Afghanistan in those terms. The British are fulfilling the commitment former British Prime Minister Tony Blair must have made to former U.S. President George Bush, but that's it. England is pulling out of the international force next year, success or failure notwithstanding. That probably doesn't come as news to current U.S. President Barack Obama, who recently increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and who probably talks honestly with whomever lives at 10 Downing St., but may be a source of consternation for the soldiers who are doing the actual fighting and risking their actual lives. Then again, Cameron's trip to a military base in Afghanistan's Helmand Province had to be called off because of intelligence reports of threats against his helicopter. Maybe Western leaders, U.S. officials included, will eventually have the good sense to be embarrassed about having to sneak in and out of countries being occupied at a cost of billions of dollars and thousands of lives -- for the benefit, of course, of the people who already lived there long before Western soldiers arrived.