Afghanistan involvement coming to a close

Conservative dissent firms up

Increasing numbers of distinguished commentators, especially in America and Britain, appear to be changing their views on the West’s involvement in Afghanistan. Already, in Australia, past editor of the opinion pages of The Australian and now editor for The Spectator Tom Switzer, outlined his opposition to our involvement in Iraq back in 2003. The disastrous and deteriorating state of Pakistan, the naïve idea that importing democracy is a real possibility — notwithstanding some progress in Iraq — the persistent idea that a losing situation always needs “just a little more time”, the extraordinary costs involved, and the fact that nothing seems to be getting better in Afghanistan, conspire, amongst other factors, to sharpen the analysis. In a recent piece on The Drum, Switzer laid out impressively coherent arguments for disengagement with Afghanistan:

The British statesman Lord Salisbury once warned: “The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.” Today, after nearly nine years of fighting and no end in sight, we are witnessing a striking and dangerous example of this error in Afghanistan. Indeed, the war to destroy the Taliban is “unwinnable”, as US Republican chairman Michael Steele recognises, and Australia should set a firm timetable for an early withdrawal from this world-class fiasco.

Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of The Australian appears to be changing his mind. After spending two months in the US, and carefully digesting the new Bob Woodward book, Obama’s Wars, he is moderating his views. He explains:

Perhaps among all the scribbling newspaper columnists in the world, none has supported the US commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan more consistently than I have. Yet two months in the US, from which I have just returned, has convinced me that the era of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is coming rapidly to a close. And it is time that it did.

A couple of weeks ago on television, I saw a documentary where it was suggested to one correspondent in Kahbul that a sudden withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan would create chaos. He replied that a withdrawal in ten years or later would still create chaos. Both Switzer and Sheridan give us coherent reasons for why we should change our polices on these overseas adventures.


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