This mission remains far from accomplished

This mission remains far from accomplished


The West has a duty to complete what it began in Afghanistan

Friday, 22 August 2008

It was a neat parallel to draw, but not one that bore close examination. On an unexpected stopover in Afghanistan yesterday, the Prime Minister told British troops at Camp Bastion in Helmand province that they were showing exactly the same courage, professionalism and dedication as the country’s winning athletes in Beijing, and that everyone would remember them for it.


There can be no doubt about the courage, professionalism and dedication of the troops serving in Afghanistan. The difference lies in the context, and a pretty big difference it is, too.

For while Great Britain’s athletes will be returning home in a few days, wreathed in medals, their task more than accomplished, the British mission in Afghanistan continues. And not only is no end in sight, but any prospect of a satisfactory conclusion seems to be receding by the week. When Mr Brown cited commanders as saying that substantial progress was being made against the Taliban, he declined to mention what veritable mountains there remained to climb.

Regrettably, the commitment to Afghanistan’s future made by Western leaders and Nato almost seven years ago seems to have produced little in the way of lasting advances. It is hard to escape the impression that the overall situation, in terms of security at least, has been going backwards. And the nature of the international commitment has changed out of all recognition.

What began as a benevolent mission focused on peacekeeping and reconstruction, assisting Afghans to rebuild their ravaged country, has become a major military operation whose central purpose