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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 12:43 GMT
Afghanistan: What role should the UK have?
The UK will continue to support efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, but it will not commit extra troops to the region.
Those are the conclusions of a meeting between Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The international troops now patrolling Kabul are British-led and British troops are still the largest component of the force, but Mr Karzai had hoped to extend the mandate of the force beyond the present six months.
Britain says it intends to pass on the leadership of the force to another country within about three months.
But the United States has made it clear that it is not interested in committing peacekeeping troops to the region.
Should the international community contribute more to the security force in Afghanistan? What role should the UK and US take?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The UK forces could be of huge assistance in helping the Afghan refugees in the UK to return to their now peaceful country to rebuild it.
If we are to help Afghanistan with more troops, then defence spending will have to rise to get more troops and equipment, even measure such as recruiting young offenders or more Gurkas to the army as they are short of around 6,500 troops.
The USA started the war on terrorism, and the UK backed it. Both countries eventually built up the coalition. The UK has now committed themselves to the very end. You can't turn your back on Afghanistan, or the war now.
It is clear to see that if the region is not stabilised and helped, the events of the past months may repeat themselves in the years to come. Sending in a "multi-national" peace-keeping force is necessary in my opinion in order to support the country until viable constitution and law are being put in place. One must remember, however, that the culture and way of life in Afghanistan is greatly different to anything any Westerner could imagine and therefore some methods good in the West will not be good methods in the Central Asia mountains.
I think we should honour our debt to the Afghans. Our Prime Minister in his speech after September 11th 2001, reiterated that we will not leave the Afghan alone even after terrorist are routed out from Afghanistan. We must ensure that proper Government is in place, running their own affairs and that there is enough military backup. If not, I'm afraid another Taleban and al-Qaeda may come back.
Britain's role should be to set up peacekeeping structures and create the initial agreements between local warlords and the peacekeeping forces. But then Britain ought to disengage and leave the long-term peacekeeping to other countries. There are plenty of countries out there with armed forces that can't set up peacekeeping structures, but can follow a peacekeeping model that Britain sets up.
The task of rebuilding Afghanistan and security go hand in hand and for this reason it is absolutely essential that the arm of the peacekeeping forces led by the UK extends beyond Kabul and the proposed timeframe of six months.
Opponents of this proposition under the pretext of destructive alien intervention will entertain the idea of warlords wreaking havoc across Afghanistan and destroying the only just incipient hope and optimism among the Afghan people.
I think the British Army is probably the most capable force for this purpose at the moment, but a UN force should be assembled as fast as the UN is capable of moving.
It's critical that penny-pinching doesn't allow the whole thing to fall apart. On the other hand I don't think that it's our responsibility to pay the whole cost of the operation.
It's high time the US paid the UN it's dues so the UN can handle these operations.
Whatever role is assigned by the United States shall be the British role. In light of the past, we can say that Mr Blair has no options but to follow the leader.
Britain should take the lead as a counterbalance to the USA because, put simply, the US will mess up again.
One thing I never understood is that whenever our friends, the British were under attack we supported them and fought for them. And whenever we have our fights to settle, a lot of English just make a hue and cry about it.
Hamid Karzai is trying hard to gain peace for his people. By now he must be exhausted and stressed, so we should make every effort to help him as the elected representative of this poor country and move forward. It's not long ago (during our civil war) since Britain was in the same position. We too had warlords and dictators and oppression.
Khaaled Hamza, Nengarhar, Afghanistan
The British should have learnt from their history that playing empire-building always ends in tears.
Although terrorism is being portrayed as being a threat to the whole world, surely the 11 September events showed that the US would be the world's biggest loser as a result of any trouble in Afghanistan?
John Mangold, Georgia, US
How can the world take the US seriously? The failure to provide peacekeeping forces strengthens the view that the US is only interested in wielding the big stick but lacks the vision to safeguard the government it helped to put in power. Wake up America! You need to create the safer, friendlier world by supporting it, not by bombing it.
Let their neighbours help them out. Britain and the United States have done more than enough already.
Afghanistan needs to be occupied by Western soldiers for decades in order to rebuild. There was once a time when we were willing to die for freedom. I believe it is still a noble cause even if we face fierce resistance.
It's far better for the UK to expand its peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan than to target other perceived terrorist states. Bush has hinted he is contemplating further action against countries such as Iraq and Iran. Iraqi civilians have suffered untold trauma from ongoing bombing and economic sanctions throughout the last decade. Further attacks on that country will not stop escalating terrorism; it will only turn more and more civilians against the US and its allies. Innocent civilians in Iraq have nothing to do with international terrorism. Mr Blair, don't join the US in such missions in my name, instead, build peace.
We are under-investing in the NHS and the rail service and here we are debating whether more troops should be deployed to Afghanistan. Let's sort out our own country before we can set an example to the rest. All countries involved should collectively send extra troops for peacekeeping if needed. The US didn't fight for a common cause, they just wanted revenge.
I disagree with Maz, we should consider putting the needs of others before our own needs sometimes - there is no point making a half hearted effort on the side to help Afghanistan. 19,000 children die in the world every day from treatable disease - in comparison I think our health service is pretty fantastic.
Chris Gower, London, England
Here is a good chance for Europe to send in a European-led peacekeeping force, with a pan-European command structure. This will be good practice for the European Rapid Reaction force and it will help out a country in need at the same time.
Why? Is any another conflict expected?
No, the force should not be expanded. If stable conditions in Afghanistan require extensive use of military force it's only because the government is the wrong one. Abandon the US handpicked government if the Afghan people say so.
Fraser, Essex, England
Allied forces within Afghanistan ought to be kept to a minimum. Local Afghan resources need to be trained and suitably equipped to keep the peace as rapidly as possible. One of the concerns is long term sustainability of peace. Another concern is local perceptions of being "occupied" by a foreign force. Third, allied resources could become bogged down in Afghanistan, indisposing them to other international concerns that might need their rapid deployment.
Charles Moore, Scotland
Dain, Washington DC, US
It would be nice if the US seemed as interested in peacekeeping as they are in finding new targets. I have to say the US somewhat seem to be leaving the UK to clear up their mess.
In reply to the comment about cleaning up the mess, everyone has strengths, why not use them without going on some ego trip? The US has the muscle to hunt the terrorists down, we have the diplomatic skills to keep the peace and the current Afghan government has the opportunity to prove that Great Britain's peacekeeping presence is not actually needed.
Steve Wade, UK
It's lovely how America bombs Afghanistan from a country of rubble into a country of dust and then declines to assist peacekeeping there. A typical lack of responsibility from America. Then again, bombing an already war-torn country further into the ground and causing the loss of thousands of Afghan civilian lives and homes was a lack of responsibility on the US' and UK's part too.
Stefan P - we hear so much about the thousands of civilian losses due to the bombing. What are your sources for this? Where do people get the figures from?
Try reading this BBC News site Fraser of Essex - this is an extract from an item dated 3 January:
"The number of Afghan civilians killed by US bombs has surpassed the death toll of the 11 September attacks, according to a study by an American academic. Nearly 3,800 Afghans died between 7 October and 7 December, University of New Hampshire Professor Marc Herold said in a research report."
Stefan has got it right.
Secondly, we were bombing the people who had turned Afghanistan into a war-torn country, not civilians. If anything, the world - not just the US and UK - lacked responsibility when the Russians pulled out in 1989. We ignored the risks of civil war and insurgency which led to Afghanistan becoming a haven for terrorists. Yes, I do believe that we should send help in whatever form, but the UK's close stance with the US in many world affairs may put our troops in disproportionate danger while serving as part of the peacekeeping force.
Ed Vista, UK
Stefan P - the US did pledge the support that's already there, which is as large, if not larger than any European nation's contribution. It also pledged to bail out any peacekeeping force if it got into trouble, which is our traditional role. For that matter, where are the Europeans? I love how people complain about the US liberating Afghanistan when it's future is infinitely better today because of the US's involvement - but people can only complain about the US.
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