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Your comments on Into the Afghan Minefield
Your Comments on Into the Afghan Minefield

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Have the Paras in Afghanistan had the food problem sorted out for them, or are they still having dried packet food as seen on Panorama?

All the Paras in Kabul live and work in conditions that many people can't comprehend. For the first time in over two decades the locals have some form of stability. It's a very complex long-term agenda and the coalition must police this region for as long as it takes. These people have been subjected to war and civil war: if the powers that be walk away, God help the people. To all you armed forces, cheers! You are their last line of defence.
Colin Mac

Paras in Afghanistan was meandering and lacked content. Really only enough material for an extended news item.
Chris James

I had a particular interest in the programme on 2 Para as my son is stationed in Kabul with D Company. I am glad the issue of poor food was raised. I have been sending food parcels to my son but have now been told that weight restrictions have been imposed on parcels. Surely it makes sense for the army to supply adequate rations rather than the troops having to rely on loved ones to feed them. I am proud of my son. I only hope Tony Blair takes action to ensure our troops are treated with the respect they deserve.
Kay Caldwell

Does the panel of experts think that 2 Para represents British neo-imperialism or a valuable contribution to international security?

Good to have the insight into what our troops are up to in places like Afghanistan, and how they are coping when faced with the dangers. Appalled to hear special food had to be laid on and particular effort made for the small group of VIPs: surely the ground troops are more deserving of some of these luxuries for putting their lives on the line? Hope they all come home safely.

I watched Panorama last night and was disgusted to see the conditions that 2 Para were living in, as my son is there. The officers have big nosh-ups while the poor lads who do all the work and put their lives at risk get nothing but boil-in-the-bag rubbish. My family and I send food parcels to my son but these are expensive and take at least 10 days to get there - you'd have to send one every other day for them to arrive regularly. The sleeping conditions are also appalling - they will all come home with malnutrition and bad backs.
Christine Davies

UK troops must stay in Afghanistan and help the people recover from the human catastrophe caused by American bombing. The US estimates that at least 6% of the 200 bomblets in any given cluster bomb remain undetonated at impact; others on the ground in Afghanistan say the figure is more like 30%. An undetonated bomblet acts like a landmine and will explode when disturbed. Indeed this is part of their design. Eye witness reports (including one from Kelly Campbell, a relative of a victim of Sept 11th who recently went to meet the victims in Afghanistan) tell stories from many emotionally and physically damaged civilians who have seen their friends and relatives blown up from one of these undetonated bomblets left lying around in their residential neighbourhoods.

The American Military has not made any effort to take responsibility for, or clear up, these cluster bombs and furthermore has not been forthcoming with the technology to help NGOs defuse them. Apparently one French NGO was able to obtain the information from a private arms company in Britain. Will British troops be helping with this urgent need to decommission the deadly bomblets still lying in wait for their innocent victims? Will the British Government also be urging the US to take responsibility for cluster bomblet clean-up?
Joanne MacInnes

What is the exact purpose of our troops in Afghanistan? Is it to shore up America's chosen representative Karzai or is everyone equal before the law? If so, why were two soldiers sent back home instead of waiting for the investigations to be completed? It is important for our long-term national interests for there to be genuine rule of law and not preferential treatment of some. The programme showed one officer saying that the people of Kabul wanted the Paras to stay; he did not mention whether they wanted equality before the law for everyone.
Mohammed A

I believe that all UK troops should be recalled. Peace in such an unstable country won't be found easily. If the troops stay it will get to a point were they can't leave.

The American argument revolves around defeating terrorism. However, if they are not prepared to send substantial numbers of troops on peace-keeping duties they are not helping to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist orientated state. Why do British troops have to shoulder this responsibility? British troops are the majority present!

How long can we stand sorting out other countries' problems when we have so many at home costing us a fortune?
Robert Mckenna

I hope the senior Para officer will be embarrassed by the special meal prepared just for his visit - hardly an example of modern management. Really interesting programme, that made one realise how things could kick off at any time. If things do explode I hope it will not be the British taxpayers who have to foot the resultant bill.

How many rounds did the Paras fire during the incident on 17th Feb when a man was shot dead? Given that the effective range of the SA80 rifle is quoted on the British Army website as 500m, how could the soldiers be justified in shooting at a target at a range of 700m in the dark?
Derek Morison

Being South African, I did a year's compulsory National Service in the South African Artillery, six months of which were spent as part of a peace-keeping contingent in Natal during 1990. This was the year of Nelson Mandela's release and tensions were running high in the province. While our job was both important and useful, without us there, chaos reigned. I fear that 2 Para's presence is useless as they will be removed and Afghanistan will be reduced to anarchy once more. I fear too that 2 Para takes its safety in Kabul for granted; I imagine that they are in an incredibly dangerous position and I suggest that they leave the Afghans to their own devices. 2 Para is not sufficient a force to change anything in this ruined country.
Steve Crawford

The job of the British Para is amazing and the programme allowed us to realise how important the role is. However, the ISAF is made up of soldiers from many other nations and not a single word was said about them. Wouldn't it have been worth mentioning this fact at least once in the programme? How do the different forces interact? What are the non-British soldiers doing?

Afghanistan is the eternal quagmire. It was so in the 19th century and it is still today. It has eventually kicked out every foreign military presence that's ever been there. We don't belong there; Central Asia is almost another planet. It's only Western arrogance and our misplaced belief in our unlimited secular power that gives us the illusion that we can have any "long-term" effect there.

We think in terms of 10 - maybe twenty - years, and in changes of Western governments. They think theologically: whatever God/Allah wills and whomever he favours will prevail, however long it takes. One Western government gives hope to them and another withdraws it for reasons of politics, policy and economics. Their suffering and conflict have become a way of life ever since Alexander the Great. They have Islam and opium, warlords supported by the FSU and by Muslim states, peasants living off charity and displaced orphans - many of whom become mujahadeen and suicide/martyr warriors in order to give or retain meaning in their lives. We have oil (pipelines), political arrogance and stupidity, some charity, and our Paras in the middle of it all.

Think about it...
Philip Andrews
Godalming, Surrey

Is this not a fruitless exercise? From what it seems, there is instability and warlord-style / fundamentalist rule in many Arab and African countries, especially in Somalia and Yemen. We are clearly doing nothing to prevent lawlessness - as demonstrated by the fact that Afghanistan is bristling with hundreds of thousands of guns.

If it is this difficult to police just one city in a single country, surely we are trying to achieve the impossible? Also, where is the support from the US? We, after all, supported them from the start - or do they just want to teach Afghanistan a lesson, and then wash their hands of the consequences?
Piers Burgoyne

I wonder if Mr. Anderson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, could speak on the UK's commitment to the United States. PM Blair and Britain were regarded very well in the States when they were the first to publicly support the US during the moments of crisis surrounding September 11th. With the US now spending billions of dollars a day on Afghanistan, does the UK want to risk negatively affecting its trans-Atlantic partnership with the US? Especially with the growing disparities in defence budgets, can the UK risk alienating the US and withdrawing its troops?
Eric Johnswood
Blytheville, Arkansas USA

The programme as a whole was ok. It achieved what it could in 40 minutes in the way of balance and information about our guys out there.

However I was absolutely outraged that, in the 21st century, top-brass, on a fleeting visit, were given better food than the troops. This was shocking. Either they should all have had C-rations or they should all have had decent food. If this is the way the modern army treats its men, no wonder we are losing so many, especially the experienced ones. There is simply no excuse for such attitudes and for treating our guys in this way. They do an excellent job in appalling circumstances - they're British soldiers and they're the best, quite simply. Treat them as such, army, or you'll lose them.
Philip Andrews
Godalming, Surrey

More soldiers from the infantry should be sent to Afghanistan as this issue needs to be resolved quickly and sufficiently. There will not be so much of a threat to soldiers on the ground.
Andrew Hart
Corby, Northants

Why can't we just say well done and congratulations? Again, the reporters put to 2 Para that they had a reputation of brutality in Northern Ireland (rubbish!) and asked if they were the right regiment for the job. It just goes to show how adaptable our forces are and it's something that we should be exceptionally proud of! Great regiments can adapt to all scenarios and they are doing a great job. Let them get on with things - the wimps and the whingers should leave them alone.
Mark Bull

I believe the Taleban was great in governing the country because it brought security (by eliminating a huge proportion of the civil war) and also food, as stated (by an Afghan) on Panorama (24/02/02). Women still wear the full hijab (veil) even though the West claims this is a sign of oppression by an Islamic government. Furthermore, the Taleban was eliminated primarily because it posed a different ideology from capitalism, or rather, it provided man with an alternative to working all his life to make the upper class richer with growing poverty among the disillusioned working class.

2 Para is one of the best units in the world. Putting units like 2 Para into situations where they have to rethink every basic instinct of an elite solider to become a policeman is not a good solution. The long hours, constant tension, and operating outside of their training lead to morale problems. Soldiers like those in 2 Para want to get their teeth into a situation and thrive on adversity. If Afghanistan requires a paramilitary police force then the best solution would be to send the Ulster Constabulary with 2 Para providing fighting support. Both the UK and the world need to rethink the wisdom of putting front-line soldiers into police scenarios. Paramilitary police should be recruited from the UK's police force for missions like this. Paras should accompany those paramilitary units in case there is a need for more support.
Patrick Carter

"If it is as plain as the nose on your face, then it is as plain as the nose on your face": it seems plain to me that the United Nations troops are in a "heads you lose, tails you don't win" situation here. It is only a matter of time before our troops suffer big-time casualties. We should pull them out, stop all aid, and let them get on with their lives.
Mr Aal Yon

I appreciate Britain's new-found role as international peacekeepers. However, in light of Mr Hoon's admittance of British forces being overstretched, perhaps they should be withdrawn. Afghanistan has a history of civil strife, internal factions constantly battling for supremacy: what therefore makes the west think that their efforts at instilling democracy will now be successful? Despite the removal of the Taleban, the obstacles that remain in Afghanistan will continue to undermine and plague the peacekeeping force and, I believe, render their role futile.
James Kanudobi
Champaign, USA

I am proud that my tax money can go to a worthy cause. I am proud of our forces for the job they do. Keep going boys.
Binyamin Jones

It is good to see that British forces are helping to promote peace in an unstable part of the world.
Michael Courtenay

Although I live in the USA and have a lot of empathy for them after September 11th, I feel we should not get too entrenched in Afghanistan. We should help them to enforce their culture their way.
Neil R. Martin
Chandler, Arizona

Is policing work an appropriate use of the Paras?
John Harris

Why are mobile showers and fresh food not available yet? I understand that our soldiers are down to begging from US troops. Panorama should investigate on behalf of soldiers who cannot speak for themselves. I understand proper back-up was refused on grounds of cost. The Royal Engineers still have no plant or equipment yet. Once again the spin does not match the facts on the ground.

I don't believe any more life is worth risking in Afghanistan. UK troops should remain in the area for peace-keeping purposes. Rebuilding Afghanistan should be at the bottom of the UK's concerns (there are many internal affairs to deal with right now, I'm sure) and the UK should not spend more than two years in the area.
California, USA

Historically, UK troops have - on occasions - turned into the aggressors, when their mandate has been to keep the peace. Just look at Bloody Sunday. Doesn't the recent shooting in Afghanistan involving a pregnant woman reinforce the fact that troops are not trained to deal with civilian matters?
Philadelphia, USA

Where does it all end? The troops have done enough. It is only through a strong education base that things will get better in any nation. Therefore, instead of Sandhurst, send a mixed batch to European schools. Let each school take on 10 students paid for through the EU/World Bank. This will be practical and make economic sense.

Well done, the boys of 2 Para. But I was disgusted by the snob division on food between the Tommies and the "brass". Feed them all the same. But a good programme and let's not forget our guys.
Allan Ledwith
Sutton, Surrey

Toppling the existing government and then abandoning the country would leave a vacuum, ideal for yet another unproductive, possibly dangerous, situation to develop. There is a responsibility for the UN and America to administer some sort of infrastructure that the country can really build upon. I think that British troops should be used, but in conjunction with UN and US troops (or US equipment and administration). They need to be set up as a stabilising force working closely with the interim government, helping to recruit and train a local force. However Britain, like all other countries, has problems of its own at home, which need to be remembered. We need to co-ordinate efforts with other forces and ensure that we are there no longer than is absolutely necessary.

Afghanistan is a high-risk area. Understanding and trust are huge obstacles that cannot be overcome without a solid plan, agreed between the UN, the US and - most importantly - the Afghan Government. Use British troops but give them sufficient funding and equipment, a structured plan that has been agreed and accepted, and ensure that they don't overstay their welcome.

As a British citizen, I believe that the current approach taken by the ministry is for the good. Afghanistan's long history has given many people the lust for power through force. That, I believe, will be the hardest thing to change.

The transport infrastructure must be improved and defended. But I see the British Paras' role as a training one for locals, rather than the basis of force. Once there is safe transport, humanitarian aid will have the best chance of getting through.

Whatever the way, it will take a long time. The only solutions the Afghans will accept are the ones they create and nurture.
Sean Roberts

A country like Britain, which has a major role in the world, should do more to bring peace to Afghanistan. It should keep its dominant position.

Get out as soon as possible.
David Troop
Hamilton, NZ

British troops are getting shot at, while trying to keep the peace. I think they should either pull out, or join the US/Canadian battle groups in Kandahar.

At least this way, they can initiate the fighting action, while capturing terrorist misfits in the process.

Trying to keep the peace in Afghanistan is useless anyway. Once Allied troops pack up, and head home, all of those Taleban fighters who surrendered so conveniently during the US bombing campaign, and were pardoned by the Northern Alliance, will simply rearm themselves from their hidden weapons caches, taking the country back into civil war.
Jared Smith

I believe that UK troops, and all forces involved in ridding the country of the Taleban and Al Qaeda, should remain in Afghanistan. Not only as a force to defend new political and democratic groups, but also as a visible sign to the people that we are committed to rebuilding the country. We cannot simply desert this country but should remain for as long as it takes. This doesn't necessarily involve armed troops in the long run but groups supported by our nation and government have to be present.

From a military point of view I also believe that British troops are the best trained and experienced at handling this sort of task where the enemy isn't obvious. From experience in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone - to name but a few - I feel we are in the "privileged" position to take on this challenge.

British Forces are the best in the world at this type of operation. Units like the Ghurkhas and the Parachute Regiment do us credit wherever they go. The shameful fact, however, is that there simply aren't enough soldiers in the army any more. We should address the dire need for more men and better funding for what is the finest fighting body in the world.
Rich V

Well done BBC. A superb programme. It was lovely to see 2 Para in Afghanistan and get some news about them. We do have an interest in what goes on in Afghanistan as we have a son out there. But we must admit we were dismayed to see the special food for the hierarchy - what a shame that there did not seem enough for the lads, especially as we have been sending food parcels. We also found the comment made about Napoleon eating the same as his men very poignant. The troops are obviously coping extremely well in very precarious situations and the programme revealed just how professional they all are and we hope they all come home safely.
Chris & Janet Mote

"We want fifty, sixty thousand troops" - a quote from one of tonight's victims of war. Need I say more?
Matthew Sutcliffe

Nice one Mike

I watched the programme this evening - well done 2 Para. I would suggest that visiting VIPs eat the same food as the men on the ground. A difficult and dangerous job. Hope they all come home safely.
Mike Stubbs
Larne Co Antrim

A fascinating programme - my admiration for 2 Para knows no bounds. However I was appalled to see that a special chef and delicious fresh food was laid on for a top-ranking Whitehall official. The very least he could do would be to eat whatever 2 Para eats. Why haven't the aid agencies managed to get food to Kabul at least? Presumably there are no transport problems there, and surely adequate food for the refugees would greatly improve the stability and safety for our brave soldiers?
Corinna Haward
St. Leonards on Sea

Given the problems of so little money for the Afghan people, the huge number of weapons in the region and the many fighters in the region with uncertain loyalties and little or nothing legitimate to do, why don't the international community pay them, including back pay, for their services to their country. The soldiers (who only get paid on the understanding that they are no longer fighters and who hand in their weapons) get much needed local currency to take back to their towns and villages and establish these men as farmers, traders etc. I know implementing such an idea is going to be much harder than writing about it, but surely it's worth thinking about.
John Allison

Panorama has tonight highlighted the very difficult and dangerous job 2 Para has to do in Kabul. They are expected to do the impossible in trying to keep all sides happy. Food and the payment of soldiers are major issues. 2 Para deserves the full support of the British nation while carrying out these vital duties. Were they to be pulled out, there would be further bloodshed and heavy loss of life. They are keeping a very uneasy peace.
Steve Fuller
Brighton & Hove

I believe that David Lomax is raising serious issues in tonight's programme that we should be very concerned over. We are sitting ducks and our troops have not been afforded the security and conditions that they deserve. Factions in Afghanistan are highly dangerous - as history has proved - and our troops are very vulnerable. They have an impossible task. We should pull this skeleton force out as soon as possible.

If, as seems more likely, our lads start getting shot at then I suggest we pull out and let the country sort itself out. I do have an interest in what goes on in Afghanistan as I have a son out there and I certainly wouldn't like him to become an Aunt Sally for one of Tony Blair's ego trips. Also - if they do shoot in defence do they all have to come back to the UK to be investigated as to why the shots were fired?
Chris Stanley

I think Britain sets a good example providing help to build an infrastructure in Afghanistan. Many Americans are now coming to a realisation that Bush's foreign ventures are likely to lead to another Vietnam. Many Americans are getting the message Britain sends in not supporting Bush ranging where he will.
Phoenix AZ USA

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