Britons to Govt: Finish Afghan hell, now!
The Antiwar Mass Assembly which started in the Trafalgar Square at noon has been called to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of “The War on Terror,” proclaimed by the USA and UK after the 9/11 attack in New York and Washington.
Julian Assange made a surprise appearance in Trafalgar Square too. He addressed the crowd ahead of his extradition appeal trial later this month in London, saying that the principal point about the recent wars Britain had got itself involved in is that they all had begun with lies.
“There are only two superpowers in the world worth speaking about, and those are the United States and Europe – not normally a superpower you can speak about – but Europe has half the military expenditure of the United States,” he told RT. “That should all be a lesson to us. Every time that a small mandate is given, military and intelligence powers will push that. It is a slippery slope that leads to the takeover of countries. We must all understand that.”
According to the Stop the War spokesman, more than 100,000 NATO troops remain in Afghanistan after 10 years of war and tens of thousands have died. “Government claims that the war is contributing to Britain's stability look increasingly hollow,” he told the Press Association. The Stop the War coalition, along with Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and British Muslim Initiative, is the one to have organized the protest in London.
“Opinion polls suggest the majority of Britons want a speedy withdrawal of British troops, a view recently endorsed by the trade unions,” adds the spokesman.
This view was echoed by Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour MP, who told RT that the UK’s war in Afghanistan is unwinnable as the Western coalition cannot fight high technology wars against guerilla forces on the ground.
“Many feel that they did the wrong thing 10 years ago,” said Corbyn. “The West has accepted they cannot control Afghanistan. They have accepted they cannot win this war. It is just a matter of time before they are all withdrawn. There has to be a development of political process in Afghanistan, which has actually been suppressed by the Western coalition.”
Lindsey German, the National Convener for the Stop the War Coalition, agrees that the situation in Afghanistan has only deteriorated, and it is time to leave.
“It’s a more unstable world, terrorism is much, much worse than it was, the situation of the Afghans has not improved, it’s the worst place for women to live anywhere in the world,” she told RT. “Let’s be honest about this and say ‘This is not some failure as a war, it was never right in the first place, but we cannot win, and we have to get out.’”
John Hilary, executive director at War on Want, says a foreign aid crisis is unfolding now in Afghanistan, and NATO is to blame.
“Partly the problem is with the NATO forces themselves, because they’ve said that they want to see aid as another part of their military arsenal,” he explained. “They are using aid in order to win the hearts and minds of people who they are fighting against, and that’s a complete travesty of what aid is meant to be. It shouldn’t be a weapon against the Afghan people. It should be aiming for their development.”
Tony Benn, President of the Stop the War coalition says that taxpayers feel that they are partly responsible for the Afghan war and that is why they want it to end more than ever.
“This is an unwinnable war, thousands of people have died. We are all responsible for the war, because we pay for it,” he declared. “Britain overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq war, and although the war took place, looking back on it now, those responsible for the Iraq war are thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I think the same will happen with the Afghan war.”
Lauren Booth, journalist and anti-war campaigner says that UK has committed ten years of troops and political narrative to oppression of some of the poorest people on the planet.
she said.“This government cannot go down an avenue and then take us out by saying ‘Actually, we were wrong.” We’ve had 380 soldiers die, and tens of thousands of Afghanis die by the troops led by America. It is impossible for the government to extract itself from this unfortunately.”
The rally, uniting peace activists, celebrities and politicians, was expected to gather some 50,000 people, though this will be far from 2003’s record 1.5 million-strong anti-war protest. However, according to the Stop the War Coalition only 5,000 people – a fraction of the expected number – gathered on Saturday in Trafalgar Square.
The War on Terror, which led to UK troops getting stuck in Afghanistan for a decade, has cost Britain dearly. Arriving among the first in the Asian country in autumn 2001 with the view to topple the Taliban regime, the UK has lost at least 336 soldiers and Ministry of Defense civilians in battle. The total British death toll in Afghanistan is 382 people, while the record of combat field hospital admissions exceeds 5,000 entries.
In his latest address, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared the Afghan mission “a success,” arousing a wave of skepticism in the UK media preparing their round-ups for the anniversary.
“The occupation of Afghanistan has been a catalogue of unrelieved folly,” bitterly writes The Guardian newspaper, calling the whole operation “vanity, machismo and greed.”
Now the UK troops are intended to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But to what extent?
“This is not about abandoning Afghanistan, although British troops will be taken out of a combat role,” the UK's current senior officer in the country, Lieutenant-General James Bucknall told The Mirror newspaper in a recent interview.
“Our security posture will change to training and advisory, and we will reduce numbers, but we will not go away,” he added.
This view was dubbed by Britain's ambassador in Kabul, William Patey, who said that Afghanistan will need financial and military support for many years after a 2014 deadline and may not be able to balance its budget until 2025.