There is something extraordinarily pointless about the death of six British soldiers today at the fag end of a war which we have lost, the purpose of which is long since vanished. Of course Afghans die daily in this war, which is not meaningless for most of them as it involves ridding their country of an extremely unwelcome and alien occupying force. Each death is a tragedy, but we can be forgiven for being most immediately struck by the deaths of our own.
I will set off for India in a week on the next stage of my research for my biography of Alexander Burnes, including his own terribly wasteful death in the First Afghan War. In 1840 and 41 the British Army fought two pretty reasonable battles in just the area of Helmand where the six new deaths have occurred. Both were similar affairs, with British forces numbering over 2,000, including artillery, cavalry and infantry, defeating much larger forces of Pashtun tribesmen. The artillery was criticial. Both tactical successes had no effect at all on the eventual disastrous result of the British occupation, which achieved nothing but death.
We are in alliance with an Afghan government and army dominated by Northen Alliance warlords, plus the renegade Karzai clan of Pashtuns, fighting on the losing side of a civil war to support a massively corrupt government, which is incompetent only in that we have a total misunderstanding of what it is trying to achieve. The purpose of the Afghan government is to use NATO forces to enforce a temporary monopoly of power by the warlords who control the government. This will enable them as long as it lasts to loot billions in aid money and control the booming heroin trade. Then when NATO leave, so will they with their billions.
Seen in this light, its own light, the Afghan government is extraordinarily efficient. It is only incompetent if you imagine its purpose is to establish western governmental institutions, the rule of law, schools, roads etc. It has no intention of doing any of that, except where a little bit of actual development is required to keep lootable aid funds flowing.
There will be no long – or even medium – term effects of our occupation, except for even greater ingrained hatred of the West in the Afghan population.
I wonder who will be the next soldier to die for that?