Stop the return of British troops to Helmand province!


THE Taleban armed forces are now retaking Sangin town in Helmand Province, which was taken over as a British responsibility after the retreat from Basra in Iraq in 2007, and held by the UK forces at the cost of 456 lives, with 247 soldiers having limbs amputated and 2,600 wounded.

The British troops that entered Afghanistan were already defeated. They had been forced out of Basra by the Mahdi Army, and finally quit Basra in 2007 after an agreement was made with the Mahdi Army that their retreat would not be fired on.

The troops arrived in Afghanistan with the 2006 words of the then Labour defence secretary John Reid ringing in their ears – that the Helmand mission would be achieved without a bullet being fired. In fact, several million shots were fired and the operation was a complete fiasco.

The cost of the Afghan military operation was £40bn. When the main body of UK troops left Afghanistan in 2014 they were told by PM Cameron, who ‘did a Reid’, that their mission was accomplished.

Now the Taleban are back in control of Helmand Province and Sangin town, and hundreds of British troops are also back along with 30 SAS troopers. The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that a small number of personnel had been sent to Camp Shorabak – better known as Camp Bastion – in an ‘advisory role’. History is repeating itself, the first time as a tragedy now as a farce!

Major Richard Streatfield, who spent seven months in Sangin in 2009 and 2010 with the Rifles, voiced the feelings of many soldiers when he told the BBC it was ‘hugely disappointing’ to see the town under threat again.

He also asked the obvious question: ‘I won’t deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder – was it worth it? Because if the people we were trying to free Afghanistan from are now able to just take it back within two years, that shows that something went badly wrong at the operational and strategic level.’

The truth is that the imperialist powers are not as powerful as they once were. The Taleban will not be stopped by a few hundred UK troops, many, many more will be required. But the UK imperialists have lots of other fish to fry. They also need troops for the projected Syrian ground war, and then more for the war to free Libya from the Islamists that they put into power after they murdered Colonel Gadaffi.

Col Richard Kemp, former British commander in Afghanistan, told BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday it was time for the UK and other Western countries to redeploy ‘some significant ground forces’ to suppress the Taleban.

‘The reality is that we left Afghanistan too soon and withdrew too many troops too quickly before the Afghan forces were able to exert control over the insurgency themselves,’ he said. But another senior figure, Lord Dannatt – former head of the British Army – said he believed Afghanistan was a lower priority than Syria and Libya, and any upsurge in British military effort should be focused there instead.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that at least three American Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha units, known as A-Teams, have been deployed in the area. General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, former Chief of the Defence Staff and top NATO commander in Afghanistan, told The Times that Britain and its allies should be prepared to increase the number of support troops in the country if needed.

‘We have got to do more right across the board . . . My own view is that I think Afghanistan now is of a lower priority than thinking about Libya and possibly thinking about Syria.’ The truth is that the new wars being prepared will be paid for by the destruction of the NHS and the Welfare State at home.

Workers and their trade unions must say ‘No’ to new imperialist wars. They must proclaim that the ‘enemy is at home’. They must stop the new wars by calling a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government and socialism to put an end to British imperialism.