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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 10:35 GMT
Afghanistan: What role for UK troops?
The UK is to lead a multinational security force in Afghanistan while the interim government takes power.
UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said the multinational peacekeeping force - which will be based in the capital, Kabul - would number between 3,000 and 5,000 and would stay for at least three months.
An estimated 1,500 British troops will lead the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - whose formation is expected to be formally approved at the United Nations on Thursday.
A contingent of 100 British Marines will be sent to Kabul by Saturday, when Afghanistan's interim government is to be sworn in.
Do you support the deployment of foreign troops? Should they take on peacekeeping or just humanitarian duties? What role should they have as the future administration takes shape?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
This whole thing is ridiculous. This whole war is based on pride and ego - on both sides. Stop killing people. That's all.
Britain possesses the best army in the world and is adept at such missions. Better to send our troops and see the job done properly than let the Americans go in and aggravate the situation. As a member of the armed forces I would have no problem in going.
Apparently, it's next to impossible to defend your country without doing damage to another. America has the right to defend itself, but America's and the UK's actions should be extensively analysed to keep them from making another ill impression on the people of that region. Let's just look at both sides of the game before proceeding.
To put any western country in Afghanistan as a peacekeeper is probably a mistake. Other Mid-East/Asian countries should be a more visible peacekeeping force. Remember why Osama bin Laden was so upset to begin with - the peacekeeping force of the US in Kuwait.
Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA
What arrogance does it take for us to presume that a relatively small number of troops can influence opinions, customs, practices and beliefs that have formed over many centuries?
CindyLu Webber, USA
I find it interesting that it's the UK that is supplying the bulk of the forces in Afghanistan. Why isn't the USA doing the same if not more? Or does it simply prefer to take the much safer option of launching cruise missiles and bombing runs from afar, while it is our soldiers who are taking up the most dangerous aspect of this campaign? I for one am left feeling that the UK has once again been used.
UK troops should indeed go in and lead the peacekeeping force since Britain (at least Tony Blair and the intelligent portion of the British population) seems to be the only European country with any leadership qualities. Gerhard Schroeder is also trying to lead but is unfortunately crippled by ambivalence in the German parliament. The UN-approved plan has been well thought-out by the major world leaders and everyone should have faith in what will happen in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is not a nation. It is just a collection of warring tribes. The US and UK are hopelessly naive to think they can turn it into a stable, democratic society. Perhaps they have it confused with Switzerland. The best solution is to divide up Afghanistan along ethnic lines and distribute the territory to the surrounding nations.
It is shocking that after all this, Tony has to go in and clear up the mess that America has caused. We should have rebuilt the structure of Afghanistan when the Russians finally left over 10 years ago.
More troops means more troubles, even if they are UK troops.
Why should we deploy our limited forces in yet another US orchestrated campaign in the hope for what they call a peaceful and civilised world.
It seems to be that America thinks if it is not Americanised it is not civilised.
Well I say if we deploy, then put Mr Blair on the peace patrols.
The British Army is mine, and it is there for yours and my defence, not for wasting on people who wouldn't recognise a peace mission, but see it as just another man wielding his gun around.
Why is Mr Blair a man in search of his reward from the American people?
To Vince Scott: It's actually yet another time the US has brought peace to a war torn country. It seems you care more about your anti-Americanisms than you do about the people of Afghanistan. The UK should send troops to Afghanistan because it's the right thing to do. The US was brutally attacked and the attackers vowed to continue their campaign. We are only defending ourselves and I will never apologise for doing so. If something like the September 11 attacks happened in Britain, and it could, the American people would support Britain all the way. Think about that.
To Franco, Virginia: I doubt whether the people of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Somalia, Iraq, El Salvador or Nicaragua would agree that the US has brought peace to their countries.
Let's face it. Everybody is quick to jump into wars and then regret them later. What ever happened to common sense and wisdom. But, never forget that it was Mr Bin Laden that struck the first blow.
And, like most cowards he has headed for a safer place while
his troops pay the price for his evil work.
The speed at which the Americans have won their war has led many people to believe that Afghanistan is a small country. That's simply not true, it's almost a big as Texas. 1,500 troops is an awfully small number to cover that much territory, much of which is mountainous and inhospitable.
Seref Tasdemir, Istanbul / Turkey
What role? Colonisers, obviously.
I don't really believe that 5,000 or so international troops will be able to influence the situation in Afghanistan and bring at least some semblance of peace and normalcy to this war-torn country. Peacekeeping in Afghanistan would require tens of thousands of foreign troops stationed in the country, but, in this case, a lot of people in Afghanistan would view peacekeepers as a foreign occupation force.
The realistic way to deal with Afghanistan is to let different Afghan factions sort out their problems by themselves and if they fail let them split the country. What the international community can do for Afghanistan whether it is preserved as a unified state or split into different entities is to help recreate the middle class and the intelligentsia. This is the best way to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe heaven for international terrorism again and would certainly require a whole lot more effort and sophistication than just sending foreign troops to the country.
The best assortment of soldiers for taking care of the current Afghanistan situation is from Muslim majority UN countries. Afghans would only welcome them in the long run. US, British, French, German troops etc are going to have a very tough time in winning the "trust" of the local people. And to make it brief, it's not safe for them.
I have just been reading your news with interest regarding the al Qaeda troops being publicly paraded and humiliated by Afghan, US and British troops. As I recall this was branded an illegal act, in contravention of the Geneva Convention when Iraq did the same to US airmen. Is the Geneva convention now like the Kyoto treaty in that, America can just pick and choose the parts that suit it because nobody can do anything about it.
Ed Cook, Melbourne, Australia (British)
Why shouldn't the US have a peacekeeping presence? This is almost typical, they're very quick to go in and play major roles in war but when it comes to mopping up they leave it to the rest of the world.
Tony Blair says it's one of his greatest responsibilities. There are a lot of people that say he has even greater responsibilities at home! It's not that I disagree with British troops performing peacekeeping duties but let's be part of a force that's evenly shared with the rest of the world. After all the war against terrorism is not only for the USA's and UK's benefit.
I pity any poor soldier who has to go and serve in Afghanistan. It is true that there are millions of innocents who have suffered for generations, but it is also true that many Afghan men have grown up with a tradition of violence that dates back centuries. These warriors are now armed to the teeth, split as ever into dozens, if not hundreds of rival factions, and willing to switch their allegiance whenever the wind changes. The world may seem small on the TV screen, but a few thousand British soldiers will be able to achieve very little in the vast complexity of Afghanistan. We can try to help the Afghans to help themselves, but we cannot impose peace where it is not wanted (don't forget that being a warlord is a nice little business and being a soldier is a not a bad job if you can't read or write).
The UK is a good choice for peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan. I do believe however, that the peacekeeping force should be a multinational force not purely one nation. This would stop any nonsense about the peacekeeping force being an occupying force. I also believe that the US should be involved if they desire. I think that in this day and age the costs would be astronomical and for the UK to bear the brunt of these costs solely would be unfair to the British public when there are many countries that have pledged to help.
I'm not pro "one world" anything, but I would like to say that we should all see that this isn't just the US protecting it's "interests". We are trying to rid the world of an evil group of folks that not only killed my countrymen, but people from all walks of life. There is evil there and we are cleaning it up. That is a human interest. Don't forget that they could have taken down Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, or anything else from anywhere else. If you let evil stand now, it'll soon find it's way to your door too.
"UK troops are paid for by UK taxes" so huge numbers of our troops for a long period of time, is not an option in my opinion. Terrorism is a world problem, so other countries should also now stand up and be counted. The UK does not have a bottomless money pit, as our workers in the health, police, teaching sector etc, know only too well.
Debby Berkebile, USA
The Prime Minister announces 1500 soldiers. The media does not seem to understand that this is peanuts and such a small number is inadvisable, maybe dangerous. 1500 sounds like an battalion with supporting services or two battalions. It is not even a brigade. Sooner or later these despatches of penny packets of our depleted and run down services will bring a disaster. By comparison,at the end of WWII when there were disturbances in Athens, 10,000 were sent (equals one division) and 80,000 were eventually needed (and sent!)
Given the success of UK peacekeepers in Sierra Leone and Macedonia, and at the forefront of efforts in Kosovo, it seems that the UK army is extremely well qualified to undertake similar operations in Afghanistan, albeit with a higher level of danger. Hamid Karzai and many ordinary Afghans ask for international protection, and a peacekeeping force will benefit the vast majority of Afghans who wish to lead secure and stable lives in a rebuilt country, and it is to these we should listen not the militiamen and warlords, who, quite naturally, want to keep their guns.
As for the USA, well they have spent billions liberating the Afghan's from tyranny, so it is now time for others to take their share of the international community's responsibility towards Afghanistan.
US forces, in any case, have less of a proven track record of peacekeeping than British troops and those of other European countries, while a major Moslem contingent is surely necessary, to ensure the best possible liasions with, and sensitivity toward, the Afghan.
Michael Stubbs, Northern Ireland
There is no question but that some sort of policing force with a robust mandate must be put on the ground in Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai, newly appointed interim leader of the country, has requested it. Whether it is British, American, Turkish or whatever, in order for Afghanistan to become a functioning society, law & order must be maintained & the only way to accomplish that is with a strong international force inside the country.
With no group in total control, it is best that there should be a peace force otherwise we might have to face the same catastrophic results of Soviet withdrawal. Impartial countries should be called upon to provide troops and as UK was in the forefront of rallying the world against taliban and Al-Qaeda, they should be sending their peacekeeping force also.
An international peacekeeping force, led by the United Nations, should immediately be deployed to secure humanitarian aid delivery routes. Furthermore, to prevent political favoritism and construct true peacebuilding initiatives, no surrounding country with vested interests or those directly supporting the US led military campaign should participate. Perhaps an international force staffed by African and Latim American soldiers might be considered more neutral. I doubt that this will occur though, as the US has already made demands that whatever force that is put in place must be subjugated to the American forces already within Afghnanistan.
If it's even questioned whether or not foreign troops should be deployed or not than I think someone has missed the moral to this terrible atrocity. It's by passive response and uncaring people that hatred breeds. America has concerns in the whole world because we are the true world's melting pot where people are truly free. It is everybodys humane responsiblity to push for peace and quench hatred and terror. It seems we are the only ones brave enough to take on almost impossible missions, while the rest of the world criticizes and direspects our human loyalty. Remember we are probably the only country in the world who does not need anybody's help, especially when it comes to military concerns. But to our English family we thank you for always standing by us. I wish the rest of the world would too!
Ahmed Qadri, Chicago, USA
Oh Martin, et al, how quickly you forget - Americans leave messes for others? Surely, the Good Friday accords haven't slipped your mind. Certainly, no country is perfect- not one. But the notion that we leave things for others to fix died in 1941, didn't it? Surely everyone knows that terrorism- no matter the belief system or nationality- endangers us all, be you Spanish (the ETA), French (Algerian fundamentalists)- or English. This is no war on Islam; no "American" war; it's a war so we ALL might breathe freed from terror. Americans weren't the only ones who died 11 September- many nationalities were unfortunately represented - or have some forgotten this already? I would argue that those who have, share the same biases - one way or another - as the gentleman who declared American actions an attack on Islam. Regardless, if you forget all else, remember this: We WILL finish this.
I notice America was not mentioned on the list of countries supplying peacekeeping forces which shows that they are not interested in true peace. Typical - America creates the mess, and expects the rest of the world to clean it up afterwards.
To Martin in England: Why must you sit there and bash the US? To say the US doesn't want peace is ridiculous. And the reason the US is not on the list is because we already have troops there! No one in the US government has mentioned taking them out anytime soon. Also, if the US doesn't go after al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups who will? There will never be any peace as long as those groups are out there. They will not negotiate, they don't care what we want or what we think. It is easy for you to sit there and complain about the US not being involved in peacekeeping, but it is the US who has brought the chance of peace to Afghanistan. The Taleban is no longer in power. Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is running scared. At least now there is a chance for the country to have some sort of semblance of peace. And who would have brought this about without the US? Would Britain or the EU have undertaken the task to oust the Taleban or destroy al-Qaeda? I doubt it very seriously.
Reading the comments of Martin from England I find myself stunned. Obviously the events of September 11 passed you by Martin. America should be commended for having the courage to pursue terrorist into their own backyards and put the lives of American servicemen and women at risk to make the world a safer place. Your comments are disrespectful and ill thought-out.
I too am very surprised at Martin's comments. The US has made it crystal clear from the outset what its objectives were and remain fully supported by almost all countries around the world. It has done more than its fair share of helping Afganistan move on from being a failed state. Now it is time for all those countries that promised to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US to do their part. Randall (USA) is absolutely right, only the US could undertake the necessary search and destroy part of this mission but all nations can help in the rebuilding. Step up Germany, step up France, step up Turkey, Italy, Canada, Jordan, Bangladesh. September 11th showed that we can no longer be the isolationist West, we must seek out and intervene wherever we can do good.
Martin in England is right. He is referring to the US just turning their back on Afghanistan after the Soviet troops withdrew and the cold war was over. The CIA had funded as much as three billion to the Pakistani ISI and the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets.
The US just forgot about Afghanistan after the cold war and they did leave a mess behind. Afghan warlords fought each other
and killed millions of civilians and then the Taleban emerged.
The question is whether the "UK" should send troops. Randall in the USA and Neal in Canada should bear this in mind when criticising Martin's standpoint. UK troops are paid for by UK taxes and the UK does not have to follow blindly behind US foreign policy. Whether they like it or not, Martin is right, this is a US (and not UN) war. Painting various nations as good or bad just isn't the way for any of us to move ahead.
Ali Raza, England
Didn't you notice Bosnia, Iraq, Chechnya, Sudan, and what happened to the "democratic" elections in Algeria not so long ago? Might help if you read "Rogue State" (The world's only superpower) by Willaim Blum, or even "Hidden Agendas" by John Pilger just for starters to get a handle on what the US government is really up to.
Ali Raza: Why do you think the US is at war with Islam? Unlike Muslim countries, the US offers freedom of religion. Muslims in the US enjoy the same freedom as all Americans. If you bothered to learn modern history, you would see that the US has helped Muslims many times. I respect that your faith is important to you, but I have to believe that your views are medieval. Not everything in the world needs to have religious connotations. Can't you see that the US is only protecting itself against a fanatic group bent on destroying us?
Can armed forces bring a stable consciousness to people in need? Let the soldiers have their fight and be good soldiers; don't make them ambassadors, they don't qualify.
Foreign troops should go in, but not in huge numbers. We can't go and try to rule like the Russians. We should go to help and then we can prove we're doing the best for the world community, not just US interests. We need now to give them more hope, and they will better be able to help themselves.
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