US declare 33,000 troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan

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.

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14 thoughts on “US declare 33,000 troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan

  1. Thanks for writing this. I was completely enveloped in every word. There’s been a lot of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and a lot of talk about bringing them home. I am scared they will be left hanging once America withdrawals. But what do I know?

  2. I am looking forward to deploying again, it has been 3 years since I last flew in AFG, although I have been out a couple of times in between, on the ground. It always takes a few days to settle back in, the dynamics have changed in theatre, the battlespace has morphed and is so much busier now. The bases have grown and Pizza Hut has gone……Fat Camp begins in 2 weeks time! Wish me luck losing a big chunk of my hunk!

  3. Sadly I think you’re right. Afghanistan was never about Afghanistan or the people there. Does that mean we should pull out right now or continue to do the job that the public expect us to do? Do the public even know what that is? Things are so grey it’s hard to see the right and wrong of it. I find it easier to argue from a humanitarian point of view. That our boys and girls take care of themselves. That they help to make the situation in Afghanistan better for those who live there. As for the politicians. They can go to hell.

  4. Or as one of them so notably (almost) said recently, they can carry on talking, whilst the real men carry on fighting (and losing limbs, and dieing)…….

  5. Poor people of Afghanistan what an existence…….Obama disgusts me, its never for the good of the world …just for his world.

  6. Whatever the reasons to invade Afghanistan they were not particularly laudable but initiated by Bush. Now Obama is left with a big mess that he didn’t initiate. Now okay it is unfair that he wants to just pull out but at the same time his country is up shit creek without a paddle economically and it impossible to justify staying in Afghanistan indefinitely. Many Americans and Obama of course understand that with Osama’s death nothing has changed re terrorism but the fact is Obama can’t keep the amount of troops necessary to maintain stability in Afghanistan due to a variety of factors mainly due to the fact that even if he wanted to he wouldn’t be able to put something that unpopular through Congress. Basically he would be committing political suicide.

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