The allotments looked very like a scene from the Blitz this morning. The gale that roared had done its worst, and the storage areas looked like one of those Woollies sites in the days after their still lamented closure. As we set to work I noticed that Harry appeared to be in a particularly venomous mood and, in an attempt to pour oil on troubled waters, made a fatuous comment about global warming. But our havoc had nothing to do with his mood, he was fuming about Afghanistan. His grandson is out there on his second tour of duty and the family lives in a constant state of tension. This week has brought several more announcements of fatalities and, not surprisingly, those waiting at home continue to ask themselves what the war is actually about, and why we continue to gamble young lives on what is clearly mission impossible. Harry told me that often, in the dead of night, he asks himself over and over how the mindless slaughter can be brought to an end.
Now he has the answer and he is enraged. Some of today’s papers have told us what the government has failed to reveal. Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is being spent on paying the most violent of the Taliban killers £100 per month to stop fighting. All they have to do is complete a questionnaire explaining their reasons for joining the insurgency. They are then granted amnesty, allowed to keep their weapons, and encouraged to return to their local communities.
Of those already pardoned in exchange for a promise that they will undoubtedly keep only for as long as the pay continues to arrive, are at least 100 of the bomb-layers of Helmand, where nearly 400 Britsh troops have been killed and more than 5000 seriously injured and permanently disabled. Maj Gen David Hook is in charge of the programme of reconciliation. He previously served in southern Afghanistan and admits that he saw many horrendous examples of Taliban brutality which, he said, he would “personally find it difficult to forgive”. He goes on to remark that the programme will be difficult “for many British families to accept”. Some understatement!
The general has gone on to say that even if the insurgents who murdered members of the Grenadier Guards battlegroup at a checkpoint in Nad e’Ali in November 2009 come forward they will not be prosecuted. The idea of forgiveness is important, insists the general, and the UK has given £6.5 million to deliver peace in this way. In his interview the general draws an analogy with Northern Ireland and the policy of forgiveness applied there. It is a strange comparison for in Ireland British troops were protecting British soil, although even there forgiveness looked suspiciously like betrayal of those murdered.
Amongst the ‘great successes’ of the scheme previously hidden from us is the arrival in the Afghan governmnet of Maulawi Noor ul Aziz who proudly estimates that he ordered or took part in hundreds of attacks on Afghan and Nato forces. As a senior Taliban leader in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand many of his targets were likely to have been British troops. Yet he too has been granted amnesty. In an interview he talks as one might of a computer war game. He and his men had sown a field in Nad-e Ali with improvised explosive devices, planning to ambush patrols. In fact a Chinook helicopter landed nearby and he and his band detonated their bombs. He recalls that; “All the bombs went off and some of the foreigners were blown to bits and some were wounded. We were very happy with the result”. He sounds just the sort of man we should be paying wages to whilst he rests from his campaign!
To add insult to the injury that this scheme will cause to many a family’s spirits, we learn from Hanif Atmar, a former interior minsiter, that so far many of those being “forgiven and paid” are not genuine insurgents, and the scheme is “failing to undermine the rebels in their southern heartlands”. So not only are we paying leading murderers, but we are also giving rewards to people who have no influence on Taliban activities.
The truth of the matter is that, like the Russians before us, we are indulging in a lethal fantasy. The idea that the Taliban is a seperate entity opposed by the rest of the population is unreal. In many areas it is the community. Hard though it may be we have to accept we were wrong to become engaged there. Nothing we do will reduce the security threat to our island, indeed it is doing the absolute opposite.
There seem to be no depths to which our politicians will sink in their futile efforts to prove “victory” in Afghanistan. They continue to regard our young men as pawns in a game. But this is no game, almost 6000 families have already been sacificed to a greater or lesser extent. Generations will grow up and live their lives without the fathers they loved.
When the defence of our country is at stake our servicemen know that it is their duty to stand and, if necessary, die. The situation in Afghanistan is not in that category. Our troops should not be there and every month adds more blood to the hands of those that keep them there. And now we are handing over fool’s gold to those who delight in their murder!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Alan Shearer 2. Play it 3. Judy Garland 4. Girls Aloud 5. Bart Simpson 6. Jose Morinho ( about Spurs v Arsenal) 7. Sydney 8. Terry Wogan 9. Lady 10. Radio Channels
SOME MEMORABLE QUOTES!!!!!!!!!!!! “Games are the kast resort of those who do not know how to idle”……Robert Lynd “Serious sport is war minus the shooting”…….George Orwell “The English football team – brilliant on paper, shite on grass”…….Arthur Smith “Well, either side could win, or it could be a draw”……Ron Atkinson “The manager still has a fresh pair of legs up his sleeve”……John Greig “Steve McCahill has limped off with a badly cut forehead”……Tom Ferrie “The sending off? Well, Jason McAteer would annoy anyone”…….Dave Jones “You’d think that if any team could put up a decent wall it would be China”……Terry Venables “Skiing? I don’t participate in any sport that has ambulances at the bottom of the hill”…..Erma Bombeck “I went to a fight the other night and a ice-hockey match broke out”….Rodney Dangerfield “It has been announced that Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Mary”……Peter Allen on Radio 5 Live “We have to reduce our expectations and we have the players to do it”…….Steve McClaren on Radio 5 Live