The Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, and the Permanent Secretary, Sir Bill Jeffrey, have announced that the long term future and reputation is at stake over Afghanistan. They want a rolling three year commitment to Afghanistan, which would be renewed every year. Mr Brown said yesterday that the fundamental thing was to keep the alliance together and focused, “We will succeed or fail together.”
There are two main schools of thought.
The first, that we should not waste another single pound or life on this escapade and pull out. They point to the sheer size and terrain of the country as well as the corruption still endemic in their politics.
The second that we are where we are and that we have a commitment now to stick it out and should burst every muscle and strain every sinew to see it out.
I am not sure what Sir Jock and Sir Bill would recommend if the US decided to pull out within 6 months. We cannot make this commitment without the same from the US. I doubt we could function for two and a half weeks, let alone two and half years without the US support.
Also, the reputation of the UK in many eyes was greatly tarnished when we followed the US in. But no-one (apart from a very few idiots) has ever had anything but praise for our armed forces.
My school of thought is that we need a fundamental re-assessment of our (the UK’s) requirements and act accordingly. The reputation of the armed forces would not be damaged if the politicians (as they should) make the decision. After all, why should troops be asked to die just for a reputation?
What may be more worrying for them both is the future of the armed forces. Without a commitment to a ‘war-zone’ defence cuts come easily to ministers. Also, without a victory the whole structure, shape and size of our forces comes into question. Do they envisage a huge reduction into a local defence force in the UK due to cost pressures? With future commitments being channeled through an ever larger more powerful EU foreign service and army?