May 9, 2021


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John Baron: When our troops leave Afghanistan, they leave behind the dream of “liberal intervention”

John Baron is MP for Basildon and Billericay.

After 20 years, Joe Biden is closing the longest war in the United States. All remaining U.S. troops will leave the country on September 11, 2021, along with 7,000 troops from other nations, including Britain, the presence in Afghanistan without its American allies is unsustainable.

This puts an end to another wrong intervention. We must take into account the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria as we realize that, while always keeping the guard against terrorism, the greatest danger to our security has always been the potentially hostile nation-states.

Biden is the fourth U.S. president to oversee the war in Afghanistan and, as vice president, stood out for his attempts to dissuade Barack Obama from rising troops at the start of his first term. It does not seem to have deviated from his views that a continuing military presence is unlikely to achieve a winning position anytime soon.

My parliamentary career has been marked by my resistance to military deployments abroad, largely motivated by my concerns that in Britain and the West in general we tend to rush into situations without fully understanding the situation. on the ground, what we want. to achieve this or how we intend to do it and therefore we do not use the operations correctly and we do not have a clear exit strategy. These interventions also served as a distraction in the face of greater dangers elsewhere.

Afghanistan is unfortunately a strong example of this. I did not oppose the initial intervention following the terrorist outrages of September 11, 2001; it made a lot of sense to rid the country of the relatively small number of international terrorists who had turned the country into its base. The first initial deployment of special forces, backed by friendly Afghans and 21st century technology, was successful. Those of Al Qaeda who planted and fought were quickly destroyed and many of the survivors quickly crossed borders.

However, once this was achieved, instead of liquidating the mission, the British government and its allies significantly expanded the scope of the deployment to include wholesale reform of Afghanistan and Afghan society in pursuit of goals. such as human rights, Western-style democracy, and the rule of law.

This drift toward nation-building, which I have strongly opposed, required the defeat of the Taliban who, while brutal in their dealings with the Afghan people, had never been our enemy. be al-Qaeda, not the Taliban, who attacked the 11th. September.

The international deployment of troops was never enough to maintain the entire country or seal its porous borders, an essential part of fighting any insurgency.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led international community undermined any diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban with unrealistic and impossible preconditions. Insisting that the Taliban lay down their arms and accept the new Afghan constitution even before agreeing to any talks, as the U.S. did for many years, meant that no substantial progress was possible. It was Donald Trump who finally started the negotiation process that has brought us to this point.

By announcing now that the United States will leave Afghanistan in September, come what may, Biden has provided little incentive for the Taliban to maintain any agreement with the Americans, some strategic patience on its behalf, perhaps confirming the statement that ‘the West may have the clocks, but we have the time’.

While the president and other international allies have pledged to support the Afghan government, it remains to be seen to what extent they will be able to withstand Taliban looting without the presence of foreign troops. In fact, the current deployment of some 10,000 NATO troops, including 2,500 U.S. soldiers and about 750 British, largely in training tasks in support of Afghan government forces, seems to hold the line. with very low international casualties in recent years, even like its Afghan allies. they are losing a significant number of men.

It is clear that British commanders are upset by the announcement of the US withdrawal, which suggests a worrying lack of communication between allies, amid concerns that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan may reflect the hasty withdrawal of northern troops. -Americans in Iraq in 2011, which left Iraqis. The government exposed when Daesh attacked a few years later.

Still, I am pleased that the military deployment in Afghanistan is coming to an end and that the laudable but misguided ideology of “liberal interventionism” has largely fallen into the dark. This has taken a while: as an opposition leader, David Cameron rightly observed once that it was impossible to bring down a fully formed democracy from a plane at 40,000 feet, but that did not stop him as prime minister from attempting interventions. military in Libya, Syria and Iraq, largely without success.

However, Theresa May’s 2017 statement in Philadelphia that “the days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries to try to remake the world in our image are over” suggests that this experience has definitely been addressed, fact underlined by its care and limitation the participation in the international air attacks against the Assad government later that same year.

There will always be a role for British forces to play a role on the international stage, but the idea of ​​wholesale “regime change” for altruistic reasons, as we tried in Afghanistan for too long, has had its day. Now is the time to focus on greater dangers.