The deaths yesterday at the hands of a so-called ally in Afghanistan should mark a turning point.
We went into the country looking for one man; some sort of criminal mastermind. No one seems to have foreseen that it was like finding a non-existent needle in a million haystacks. Only the land of the avenging cowboy posse could ever have thought it would succeed. No one gave heed to his associates and how we might deal with them and what the locals might think about what seemed like an invasion from a foreign power. Foreign in every way possible. Religion, life style and values, resources - everything.
When the arch-criminal was not found, the cowboy in the white hat decided that more was necessary and the fiction that we were fighting to save the world was invented. Never again a terrorist attack on American soil. Fight them in Afghanistan and not in London. How short-sighted was that? We have now spread the infection to Pakistan, Somalia and the Yemen for sure and, potentially, any country where religion can be used as a basis for gaining a following.
So, when it proved we could not inflict a military defeat on what was not human but a belief, we decided that we needed to change the country. Show them a better way. Democracy. Mom's apple pie and cream. We ignored the facts of history that so clearly showed that change would be resisted and forestalled.
The fact that the murders involved a Gurkha unit showed just how little perception we have. The story-tale writers of PR land told us that there was a special rapport between these two Nations of hillsmen. Well, Private Abdul of the 1st Sangin Irregulars certainly blew that apart with his cowardly actions yesterday. The long history of inter-tribal, even compound vs compound, disputes was not learned. There can be no trusting of the Afghan. Not his fault really any more than one could blame a lion killing you if you climb into it's cage.
We have tried to find a way out that preserves some national dignity. Why? I do not know. Our allies will sympathise with us anyway and our enemies will think what they choose to think. We have done too much harm already to think of reconciliation. The talk is of military solutions. That again is a nonsense. It matters almost nothing at all what General we put in charge. The US President is in charge and the General does as he is told - or 'resigns'.
The delaying tactic advanced is that we will go when we have trained enough locals to defend themselves and control the country. What tosh! The claim is that there are 120,000 military and a significant number of police. Problem is that the vetting is rubbish, the raw product is likely to be corrupt, drug-using and illiterate likely to run away as soon as the sores on his feet from wearing boots have healed. With him will go his rifle and ammunition.
He will inspire others of his ilk to come down out of the hills and cash in as he did. The writers of Alice in Afghanland claim that these new model Army soldiers and Policemen will be very effective but those who actually know the place talk of inter-tribal rivalries and war lord militia. I hesitate to begin to work out how an illiterate policeman operates anyway. Surely we have at least conned a few of the 120,000 to stay - why cannot training of reinforcements be assigned to them? That lets us off the hook of training a constantly shrinking mob of corrupt and illiterate junkies.
It is not as if it is going to work anyway. The same principles were applied in Iraq and the Yanks say they can go. Things are far from right there. We have a long colonial history of waiting for a seeming truce and then dashing off to the docks and home. Those we leave in 'power' are soon overthrown or reach new heights of corruption and oppression. Blair claimed we had peace in Northern Ireland - wonder if he was watching the TV reports last night?
Even if we were to believe the 'fight them there and not here' bull, it would make little change. Our government is stupid when it suits them but even they would see that we cannot risk altering our anti-terrorist stance here in UK. Making weapons of destruction is simple and there are plenty of willing martyrs on the streets of Birminghamstan.
No - it is not just a question of us having a tiger by the tail. We are holding onto this tiger in a cage full of equally dangerous tigers and there are more tails than there are willing hands.
I realise it is easy to criticise without offering an alternative. So - we come out of Afghanistan. Make much of the fact that it is a proud nation and capable of determining its own destiny. Blah Blah Blah. Recognise that we cannot really determine what goes on there and in fellow Nations/co-religionists. Make a proper appreciation of what is needed for internal defence of our own country and set that up.
If someone can really prove that ID cards, 42 day detention, rules that let us determine what sort of ragtail bobtail foreigners we allow in and any other rule - however seemingly undemocratic and human-rights limiting this may all seem - will make this a safe place then put them into force. The message should be that we will leave you alone unless you seek to do us harm but, should you change your attitude, we will come down like a ton of bricks on your bases. Your communities in UK and in your homeland. Little point in being a nuclear power and not using the full weight of what that means.