…why I was perhaps wrong about the purpose of Afghanistan but stand by the elections story as one to watch …(pt2)

Niall Paterson linked to a blog post in his comment on my last post – take a look at both.

It highlights an inaccuracy in my last post – the Prime Minister has said he does not view Afghanistan as a humanitarian effort but as a way of preventing terrorism in this country. Thus, my question “why are we there?” has ostensibly been answered.

But why hold elections if democracy is not the aim? Why did we expend the effort and increase troop numbers for the elections? As Niall notes, the PM wants to train up 135,000 troops by 2010. If the Afghanistan government cannot run an election, how will it be able to effectively command those troops?

So surely both the UK and the USA clearly feel that Afghanistan should have democratic government, even if the USA are saying it publicly and the UK are not (some parallels with Libya perhaps? Niall took issue at the Prime Minister saying one thing in private but not telling the British public…)? Without democratic government, both the UK and the USA know that Afghanistan will lapse into a “Taliban-style safe haven for terrorists.” If democracy is not the aim, how will it be clear that Afghanistan isn’t that haven, nor indeed run by the Taliban?

This is why even though the Prime Minister is giving a narrow objective of preventing terrorism, on Monday the USA broadened their objectives and want to bring about good governance. So either the UK and the USA disagree on this issue, the UK mission has changed in line with that of the USA, or, the Prime Minister is telling the British public something different to the United States government.

I still think “undecided elections in a faraway country” will be the dominant issue over the next few weeks. I should note, Niall has not necessarily said that it will not re-emerge.

So now, all that remains is for me to say what coverage I think Lockerbie warrants, especially in light of the PM’s statement…

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One Response to “…why I was perhaps wrong about the purpose of Afghanistan but stand by the elections story as one to watch …(pt2)”

  1. niall Says:

    Nice piece. I have a suspicion you’ll be in Westminster before long! But…

    You wrote “The Prime Minister has said he does not view Afghanistan as a humanitarian effort but as a way of preventing terrorism in this country”.

    I’m not sure GB has ever “SAID he does not view Afghanistan as a humanitarian effort”. But it is true that he has NOT SAID (recently, at least) that he views A as a humanitarian effort.

    Subtle difference, but clearly an important one. Putting words in the pm’s mouth can land you in trouble.

    I do understand your “why hold elections” point – but a stab at democratic elections is better than nothing, isn’t it? 6000 polling stations less than a decade after taliban control sounds like a step forward to me, if nothing else.

    And I agree – the Afghanistan election IS a story to watch. But that’s not the same as saying it’s the “biggest” political story! As to whether or not it’ll be the dominant story of the next few weeks… let’s wait and see.

    After all, the party conferences are just around the corner. I cannot wait!


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