Vanity, machismo and greed have blinded us to the folly of Afghanistan

The decade-long retribution exacted on this nation has cost the west dearly – and our old foes laugh at our expense

Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, Oct. 7, 2011

Crosses of remembrance for soldiers in Afghanistan

The first remembrance field dedicated solely to British military personnel who have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Ten years of western occupation of Afghanistan led the UN this week to plead that half the country’s drought-ridden provinces face winter starvation. The World Food Programme calls for £92m to be urgently dispatched. This is incredible. Afghanistan is the world’s greatest recipient of aid, some $20bn in the past decade, plus a hundred times more in military spending. So much cash pours through its doors that $3m a day is said to leave Kabul airport corruptly to buy property in Dubai.

Everything about Afghanistan beggars belief. This week its leader, Hamid Karzai, brazenly signed a military agreement with India, knowing it would enrage his neighbour, Pakistan, and knowing it would increase the assault on his capital by the Haqqani network, reported clients of Islamabad’s ISI intelligence agency. Meanwhile, in Washington, the Pentagon is exulting over its new strategy of drone killing, claiming this aerial “counter-terrorism” can replace the “hearts and minds” counter-insurgency. Down in Helmand, visiting British journalists gather to recite the defence ministry’s tired catechism: “We are making real progress on the ground.”

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