Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Troops Enter the Snakepit

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Troops Enter the Snakepit

Article excerpt

ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. Washington's decision to depose the Taliban Government of Afghanistan made America and Britain - its only ally militarily involved - responsible for the country. The Taliban's eclipse has created a vacuum, which could become bloody. All sides wanted Muslim peacekeepers committed, but none are available.

Somebody will have to go. American and British troops seem the only candidates. It is a disturbing prospect, because Taliban resistance is by no means crushed. Guerrilla war seems likely to continue, if not full-scale conflict. The Afghans have a historic tradition of making life unpleasant for uninvited foreigners. The American army has a lamentable record as a peacekeeping force, a role which ill accords with its "warrior ethic". We should be hoping first, that the United Nations moves quickly to assume responsibility for creating a new Afghan administration; and second, that Muslim troops can be found for a peacekeeping role, leaving the Americans and British simply to secure bases for their own operations, above all finding Osama bin Laden.

The situation is not all doom and gloom - we should never lose sight of the fact that recent events make it possible that the allies can complete their major military action in Afghanistan before winter.

This would be a huge relief. The sooner the Americans and British can do their job, deal with al Qaeda and quit the country, the better for relations with the Muslim world, and the long-term struggle against terrorism. But the current predicament of Afghanistan is messy even by that country's standards.

We are likely to have many weeks of unease once British troops have been committed. It will be remarkable if there are not casualties. But we are in this thing now. We cannot quit Afghanistan without something the West can call "victory". It is up to Washington to make clear, swift decisions and act on them. The dispatch of American and British ground troops is only a first step. …

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