Britain has ended combat operations in Afghanistan. The war did topple the Taleban, but it hasn’t got rid of them. It has improved some things in Afghanistan – better roads, better education, better newspapers – but the country is still corrupt, bankrupt and dangerous.
When Britain and America decided to go into Afghanistan in 2001, The Spectator ran an editorial entitled Why We Must Win.
This is not a war against Islam, but against terrorists who espouse a virulent strain of that religion, a fundamentalism that most moderate Arabs themselves regard as a menace. This is not even a war against Afghanistan, but an attempt to topple a vile regime. The Taleban deserve to be expelled simply by virtue of their inhuman behaviour towards women and dissenters. But that is not why we are bombing Kabul. We are bombing because the Taleban have repeatedly and publicly refused to hand over a man, and his accomplices, responsible for the biggest terrorist massacre since the war. The objectives of the bombing can in fact be articulated quite simply. They are to change the politics of Afghanistan, so that it can no longer provide sanctuary for the al-Qa’eda network. No one has ever suggested that this will be the end of international terror, or bin Ladenism. But it is a start. We may not be able to accomplish everything in this war. We may be sweeping under only one corner of the carpet concealing the creepycrawlies of this planet. That does not mean we should not begin.
Morally and intellectually, there is no difficulty justifying Western action in Afghanistan. There is, however, only one thing finally that justifies a war in the imagination of the public and the media, and that is victory. It is becoming ever more apparent that there is only one way to achieve our ends — kick out the Taleban; rid Afghanistan of al-Qa’eda — and that is to use ground forces.