The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like....like victory!
Someday this war's gonna end...
The UK forces in Afghanistan pulled out today. Didn't smell much like victory. Despite a few commentators and some military PR types telling us it was worthwhile. It didn't much look like it.
The helicopters packed up the troops and everyone flew away. As quietly as possible with some fear of a surprise attack.
If it really had been a victory don't you think there would have been a big parade? The victorious free world leaders holding a handing over of the keys press conference and saying "Here you are..It was a dump when we got here. But we fixed it up for you..and its all yours. Welcome to democracy."
And sadly, this was probably a winnable conflict Also a
necessary one. The United States could not just sit by while 3000 of its
citizens had been murdered. If the Taliban would not/could not hand over Bin Laden, then the US and its Nato allies had to go and get him.
was always going to be tough to make a success of Afghanistan but it
was at least possible. It was the Iraq adventure that doomed
Despite the protestations of Iraq/Afghanistan being nothing like Vietnam, both are very like that conflict. The military invade with overwhelming force. They carry out successful attacks on the enemy and occupy the country. But they have not the forces to do much more than police the occupation zones and soon the country becomes an insurgency. The conflict spills over the borders into neighbouring states.Enemy nations supply arms and equipment to the insurgents. Pacification programs are met by terror attacks. The population does not back the corrupt national government that cannot excercise power beyond the capitol city. Warlords rule regions and have to be placated, bribed or cowed into supporting the invader. Casualties mount in a conflict that seems to have no end. At home the public lose support for the conflict and domestic opinion demands an end.
The mission goals become lost and a never ending war, in which it is neither possible to win, or to leave takes over. Many years later its finally accepted that goal should just be to get out, intact, and without the place toppling over the next day.
In Vietnam in the 1970s, the United States trained up the South Vietnam army. They gave them very considerable military equipment. And left air assets far in excess of anything their opponents had.
But when the North Vietnamese army decided to invade South Vietnam the South's Army ran away. Or was bribed. Or was just crushed by better led and better motivated forces.
Despite a decade long involvement. Hundreds of thousands of troops committed. Billions of $ spent and tens of thousands of US troops killed, the American's and their allies never went back to Vietnam help. Once the boots were off the ground there was little military and zero domestic or political will to restart the conflict.
Once Camp Bastion is finally closed, British regular forces are never going back. Whatever happens to the Afghan army we helped train. Or the political systems we helped put in place. Or the liberal attitudes we helped to foster, we aren't going back.
The new ISIS can't be far away.