After half a year of commanding the 7,000 British troops in Helmand province, in South Afghanistan, Brigadier Andrew MacKay returned to UK. Brigadier Andrew MacKay commanded also the recapture of Mussa Qala on 12/10/2007 which changed the balance in Helmand province for the better from the NATO-ISAF point of view.  

When the Brigadier returned to UK he declared that there are real signs of progress in Afghanistan, greater level of security and people are returning to their towns. “There’s now a school, with about 800 kids going to that school, and there’s not been a school in Mussa Qala for many, many years” he said.

The remarks reflect the tremendous success of British troops in confronting the Taliban militarily and building trust among the local population socially. But the progress Brigadier Andrew MacKay reported of was made in one single province, indeed a strategic one, during a very limited period of time. Helmand is perhaps the most volatile province in Afghanistan and the prime producer of the country’s growing opium production and trade, which in part funds the conflict.

Although Brigadier Andrew MacKay did not mention the Helmand opium industry, it can be assumed that part of the progress if the disregard of British troops of the large poppy fields all over the country. It is almost certain that any attempt to disrupt the local opium industry, which is the main source of opium to Europe, will ignite, immediately, a large scale insurgency against the presence of foreigners in the region.    

In the broader perspective  there are about 45,000 NATO-ISAF troops in Afghanistan, half of them American and British units,  giving the Afghanistan territory, 625,000 km – much more then Iraq, and the sectarian divided population of about 28 millions, also more then in Iraq, the numbers of NATO troops are ridiculous. In addition, most of them operate under very strict rules of engagement, issued by their governments, which practically prevent them from taking part in aggressive military operations. The real fighting is carried out mainly by UK and USA troops. (See – Nato Summit )

A study of a USA diplomatic and military team, led by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Marine Corps General James Jones was published, on 01/30/2008, and has concluded that Afghanistan risks turning into a ‘failed state’ and becoming a forgotten war. It is obvious that without drastic measures such as a substantial reinforcement of NATO – ISAF the war in Afghanistan is about to be in vain. (See – AFGHANISTAN FAILURE )

Europe, from its point of view, sees Iraq as nightmare, as a swamp which swallows everything where success is short lived. Europe is determent not to turn Afghanistan to Iraq and not to be eroded to an Iraq-like situation. Europe prefers to conduct the war on terror in a more defensive and law profile strategy then sending large number of troops to occupied remote countries.

More than 12,000 people, including some 350 foreign soldiers, have been killed since 2006 in Afghanistan. A UN report said there were 8,000 conflict-related deaths in 2007 – a fifth of which were civilians.  Over 130 suicide attacks were committed in Afghanistan during 2007 (12.31.07). The numbers do not support the claim about progress in Afghanistan.


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