Britons to Govt: Finish Afghan hell, now!
Published: 08 October, 2011, 15:51
London rallies against the war in Afghanistan (AFP Photo / Carl Court)
London is a place of gravity for peace activists who are streaming to Trafalgar Square to protest the war in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Britons are willing to show that a “speedy withdrawal” of the UK troops is what they need from the government.
The Antiwar Mass Assembly which started in the Trafalgar Square at noon has been called to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of “The War on Terror,” proclaimed by the USA and UK after the 9/11 attack in New York and Washington.
“After 10 years of war in Afghanistan, more than 100,000 NATO troops remain and tens of thousands have died. Government claims that the war is contributing to Britain’s stability look increasingly hollow,” a Stop the War spokesman told the Press Association. The Stop the War coalition, along with Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and British Muslim Initiative, is the one to have organized the protest in London.
“Opinion polls suggest the majority of Britons want a speedy withdrawal of British troops, a view recently endorsed by the trade unions,” adds the spokesman.
This view was echoed by Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP, who told RT that the UK’s war in Afghanistan is unwinnable as the Western coalition cannot fight high technology wars against guerilla forces on the ground.
“Many feel that they did the wrong thing 10 years ago,” said Corbyn. “The West has accepted they cannot control Afghanistan. They have accepted they cannot win this war. It is just a matter of time before they are all withdrawn. There has to be a development of political process in Afghanistan, which has actually been suppressed by the Western coalition.”
The rally, uniting peace activists, celebrities and politicians, is expected to gather some 50,000 people, though this will be far from 2003’s record 1.5 million-strong anti-war protest.
The War on Terror, which led to UK troops getting stuck in Afghanistan for a decade, has cost Britain dearly. Arriving among the first in the Asian country in autumn 2001 with the view to topple the Taliban regime, the UK has lost at least 336 soldiers and Ministry of Defense civilians in battle. The total British death toll in Afghanistan is 382 people, while the record of combat field hospital admissions exceeds 5,000 entries.
In his latest address, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared the Afghan mission “a success,” arousing a wave of skepticism in the UK media preparing their round-ups for the anniversary.
“The occupation of Afghanistan has been a catalogue of unrelieved folly,” bitterly writes The Guardian newspaper, calling the whole operation “vanity, machismo and greed.”
Now the UK troops are intended to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But to what extent?
“This is not about abandoning Afghanistan, although British troops will be taken out of a combat role,” the UK’s current senior officer in the country, Lieutenant-General James Bucknall told The Mirror newspaper in a recent interview.
“Our security posture will change to training and advisory, and we will reduce numbers, but we will not go away,” he added.
This view was dubbed by Britain’s ambassador in Kabul, William Patey, who said that Afghanistan will need financial and military support for many years after a 2014 deadline and may not be able to balance its budget until 2025.