On Thursday morning at 07.10am I received a phone call from BBC Radio London asking me to comment on Barack Obama’s announcement on the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan. (Alas I wasn’t available at the allotted time frame.)
I was, however, also on the spot. What did I think? I didn’t even know. I waft in and out of knowledge and awareness about the conflict in Afghanistan. I find the whole situation frustrating and annoying. It’s been part of my life for so long now that it’s like an irritating relative, who is part of your blood line and we are stuck with each other.
Somebody told me an apocryphal tale about a conversation between a British Foreign Secretary and a senior member of the Afghanistan Government. The Foreign Secretary asked something along the lines of, “how long after the complete withdrawal of ISAF forces would Karzai’s Government retain power in Helmand.”
His reply, “24 hours, Foreign Secretary. 24 hours.”
Ding Dong, Osama’s dead! Ding Dong!Osama’s dead. Which Osama? The Wicked Osama!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Osama is dead.
Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Osama is dead. He’s gone where the goblins go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Osama is dead!
Barack Obama is a politician, whose power depends on the will of the people who vote for him. He put in 33,000 troops when he came into power because it reflected the will of enough of the US people. Osama Bin Laden was assassinated and the US work was done. The American people don’t care about the stabilisation of Afghanistan, most of them probably don’t even know where it is. They wanted to bounty hunt Osama Bin Laden because of the attrocities of September 11th.
On some level, Afghanistan was the gateway to that outcome. But now the wicked Osama is dead, the appetite for Afghanistan will wain. The US people will go about their business as usual. Move along, nothing to see here.
We can’t make Afghanistan it something it isn’t. It’s a complex place that requires a bespoke, long-term integrated solution and the sad reality is the ISAF nations don’t have the time, inclination or resource to deliver.
More life will be lost. The military who are all about the mission will have the rug pulled from beneath them. They will be irritated and frustrated; but eventually the West will brush Afghanistan under the carpet. There it may stay, or it may rear it’s head again and depending on the economic impact, or the threat to our way of life, will decide the response.
Hagar is back there soon. It will be his seventh time. I will half look. Half hide. Take a big deep breath. Suck it up. Accept that this is part of my life. Part of his life. He is ready to go. He wants to go. To do his job. To serve his country. Play his part. Use his skill. Be the best that he can be. He is good at what he does. He has a certain flair for it. He wears his aircraft well. We were talking about this on the train the other day. He said to me, “when you fly the same aircraft for a set period of time it becomes part of you.” He always greets the cab when he arrives and says goodbye when he departs. I understand on some level what he is talking about. I have sailed for many years. Sometimes every day for months on end and there is a transition when your skills move from learned to instinctive. When you can read your environment; anticipate, predict and react. Hagar’s whiskers are twitching. He is ready to get back in the saddle.
So I don’t know what I think about Obama’s withdrawal. I wish Hagar to be vigilant at all times. I wish the Government’s decisions were made on integrity and valour. I wish they would complete the task they set out to do and give the people of the Afghanistan the democratic freedom to decide for themselves who they want to be.