Tuesday, 28 October 2014

So That's Why We Went to War in Afghanistan

Well, folks, it appears that my blogposts have taken on the persona of the archetypal London bus - you wait ages for one to appear, then two come along in quick succession!
So why one so soon after the previous?

Well, I felt compelled to post this after listening to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning as he justified Britain's 13 year operation in Afghanistan. When asked whether the deaths of 453 servicemen and women was justified, he started his response by stating that nowadays more than half the population of Afghanistan have mobile phones.
Is that really how we are going to measure the success of a multi-billion pound military operation?
Granted, he did go on to mention more important outcomes, like the numbers of children (especially young girls) who now have access to education, but to start his justification with a statement about mobile phones seems to me more than a little disturbing.
Was the aim, all along, to simply open up a whole new market for Apple and Samsung and Angry Birds? Did the powers that be in the West believe it was fundamentally wrong that the 30 million people of Afghanistan were being denied the opportunity to 'like' a Taliban member on Facebook, to tweet about how much opium they were growing, or to take AK-47-toting selfies in front of bombed-out houses with their new iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy Alpha?
And does this widespread access to mobile communication not mean that we've provided the Taliban and its supporters with a whole new means of keeping in touch, of sharing information and planning new atrocities? (Or maybe this is actually a cunning plan by the West to digitise the Taliban's communication networks so that they can be monitored and studied by the intelligence services so we're always one step ahead…like they were before 9/11 and 7/7).

Whatever the potential security benefits of a full-coverage mobile network may (or may not) be, the fact remains that the Right Honorable Mister Fallon would, I believe, have been better served to start his justification for the 13 years of danger and death that our troops endured in Helmand Province by telling us how much safer it has made us here at home, how less of a threat there now is from terrorists who had once been able to regard Afghanistan as a safe haven, and how the sacrifice of 453 brave men and women had been worthwhile in ensuring the security of millions of ordinary people back here in Blighty.

Oh, by the way, the Ministry of Defence will be announcing how many young Afghan children have X-boxes and Playstations some time next week. After all, access to and ownership of mobiles, games consoles and flatscreen TVs is the new measure of how 'civilised' a society has become.