Maurice was a research assistant at Conservative Friends of Israel. He has previously worked for Douglas Carswell MP and interned for Douglas Murray at the Centre for Social Cohesion. His interests are in foreign affairs, Islamism and the US-UK special relationship. You can find more of his writings on the Henry Jackson Society's web-blog “Britain in the World”.
While yesterday morning’s speech made by the Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth MP, must be welcomed for its honesty and the stating of the implications for Britain’s domestic security if we fail to make Afghanistan secure, it is unfortunate that the Government feels it even necessary to remind us as to why we are there in the first place.
As the British presence in Iraq is now formally over, the British public’s attention on our activities in Afghanistan is sharpening, particularly as the number of British troops killed increases.
According to a BBC/ ICM poll, taken in November last year, more than two-thirds of the UK’s adults want Britain to leave Afghanistan.
Even before the financial crisis, most Britons believed that the intervention in Afghanistan was a waste of money. They thought that the liberation of Taliban controlled Afghanistan was not our fight and that our interference in a “Muslim country” made Britain less safe because it made us a target for Islamist terror. But, if people are thinking this, it means that they are ignoring the historical build up to the conflict and misunderstand the threat posed to Britain by Islamist inspired terrorism.
So, why are the British armed forces in Afghanistan? On the 11th September 2001, nearly three thousand people (including sixty seven Britons) were murdered by nineteen Wahhabbi inspired Islamist terrorists from Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda. Ever since 1996, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Bin Laden (who had been expelled from Sudan in the same year) had been a client of the Taliban. Al-Qaeda, with the blessing of the Taliban, were allowed to train and prepare for the 9/11 attacks whilst residing in Afghanistan.
One month later, in response to this declaration of war against the West, (Bin Laden’s casus belli dates back to an earlier fatwa he issued in the 1990s against the coalition of British and American troops based in Saudi Arabia, who were stationed there for the first Gulf War that was started by Saddam Hussein because he had annexed a fellow Arab state, Kuwait) the British and American led coalition took swift and decisive action against the Taliban for harbouring those who were responsible.
Not only is the world a better and safer place without an Afghanistan controlled by a government whose only foreign policy was to sponsor rejectionist terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, but so too is Afghanistan a better and relatively safer place to live in than when the Taliban – who made it a crime (punishable by having acid thrown in their faces) for girls wanting to receive an education – were in control.
Secondly, what is the nature of the threat posed to Britain from Islamist inspired terrorism?
If Islamists, in what Gordon Brown, correctly, referred to as the “crucible of terror”, succeed, then the ideological and propaganda coup would be massive. We forget that Bin Laden believed that, in spite of American support, the Afghan-Russian conflict of the 1980s was won by the Mujahedeen and that America was nothing more than a “paper tiger”. To give the Islamists what they want – a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan – would only confirm Bin Laden’s idiotic analysis of America and would leave us exposed to more atrocities like 9/11 in the future.
Finally, if the government are going to start taking this fight against authoritarian Islamist terrorism seriously they are going to have to start looking at the new sponsors of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, namely, Iran.
Some Conservative MP’s have already asked the Government what they are doing about Iranian state sponsored terrorist activities in Afghanistan (see Desmond Swayne MP’s question to FCO Minister, Bill Rammell, on this page). In September 2008, Newsnight reported how Iran is supplying the far deadlier “Explosively Formed Penetrator” to Iran’s traditional enemies the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, The Times subsequently reported that EFPS’s have killed up to forty British soldiers and counting.
We should all be proud of our involvement in helping to shape Afghanistan into a twenty-first century country that, among other things, protects women’s rights and aspires to preserve the diverse nature of Afghan society. This undeniably benefits us here and it helps the Afghans to shape their own destiny without a Taliban and its allies who seek to impose their obscurantist and sectarian way of life on others who wish to live a free and plural existence.