Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

A quick note about Liz Truss

Liz Truss: the queen of cheese may prove even more clueless than Raab.

You may have heard a lot of commentary from broadcasters you trust, claiming that Liz Truss’s promotion from Trade to the Foreign Office shows she is a capable politician, a rising star and a possible Tory leadership contender.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason she was promoted has nothing to do with her abilities. It happened because the tiny readership of Tory blog ConservativeHome have voted her as their favourite Tory Cabinet member in a regular poll.

I mean to say: do you really think she got it for doing a trade deal in which she’ll send cheese to lactose-intolerant Japan?

Or, for that matter, for this:

Still, the comedy value should be terrific because we’ll get to watch the mouse-brained Queen of Cheese kick up a stink across the world. Just try not to take it personally when people from foreign countries point at you and laugh.

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Raab’s move from Foreign Office to Justice is a DEMOTION

And quite right too – although he should have been kicked onto the backbenches to go back to his lazy old ways.

Remember: Dominic Raab came to public attention as a co-author of the book Britannia Unchained, which alleged that British workers were among the laziest in the world. It was then revealed that he was one of the laziest MPs in the House of Commons.

And let’s face it he’s been absolutely rubbish as Foreign Secretary:

We knew he was on his way out after the debacle that was the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. He actually admitted that the intelligence agencies of both the UK and USA were outsmarted by a gang of desert-dwelling Taliban terrorists (but were they? Or was he just too stupid to pay attention to what they were saying, and did he think the Taliban would abide by what he decided to do? That was Joe Biden’s mistake).

He had only just got back from holiday, although he claimed he had been working – there – from the moment he had been told of the emergency. He denied claims that he had been seen sunning himself on the beach by claiming that “The sea was closed.”

His pathetic performance was highlighted by the resurfacing of an image of him posing with a woman wearing a sign saying, “He has no idea what he is doing” (above).

Trouble is, his role as prime minister Boris Johnson’s official stand-in has been confirmed with Raab named Deputy Prime Minister in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle. But his record in this respect is no cause for pride:

Covid-19 safety rules told us not to touch objects when we don’t know where they’ve been, and then lick our fingers. Raab did it while standing in for Johnson at a Covid-19 press conference.

He still has this job. In fact, it has been given a title for the first time.

Perhaps that’s the reason he has said he is delighted with the change.

Because going from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Ministry of Justice is, in no uncertain terms, a demotion. Raab is out of favour, and rightly so. He is a disgrace to UK politics.

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Did Raab really tell us the UK’s intelligence agencies were outsmarted by Arab terrorists?

Rattled: Dominic Raab tries to explain himself during his grilling by the Foreign Affairs committee. Look at the way his hands were twisting as he tried to justify his failures.

This will upset the racists and Islamophobes.

Foreign Secretary (by the skin of his teeth) Dominic Raab was interrogated on the fall of Afghanistan by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee yesterday (September 1) – and said information provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had told him the Taliban were unlikely to take control of Kabul at all in 2021, even after international forces including those from the UK had left.

Well, they got that badly wrong, didn’t they!

The JIC is a civil service body comprising senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and United Kingdom Armed Forces, Home Office, Department for International Development, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

It oversees the work of the Secret Intelligence Service, the Security Service, GCHQ and Defence Intelligence.

Are we to take it from Raab that none of these organisations were intelligent enough to notice that there were real problems with the Afghan government and military that UK forces were leaving behind?

Is he really saying that the UK’s entire intelligence community was outsmarted by a gang of desert-dwelling bandits?

The plan was to leave Afghanistan defended by its own National Army – but we have discovered that this organisation was badly-trained (by organisations including the British Army, it seems) and riddled with corruption. Was Raab telling us that nobody knew?

After the United States broke the Doha Agreement’s May 1 deadline for leaving the country, the Taliban simply walked into Kabul and took over. Yes, This Writer is oversimplifying, but the amount of resistance provided by the Afghan National Army was minimal – and UK intelligence should have known.

Indeed, it is unbelievable that our intelligence agencies did not.

Still, there it is: Raab said the “central assessment” provided to ministers was that Afghan security was likely to suffer “steady deterioration” after US troops pulled out last month, but Kabul was “unlikely” to fall this year.

That assessment was wrong, and now we need to know who made it, what information they used to make it, and what information they ignored. Then we’ll need to see evidence of reforms to the JIC, to make it more intelligent.

If Raab is going to blame other government organisations for the incompetence we have seen over Afghanistan, then we need to see him make improvements – or we’ll face more humiliations, possibly involving large-scale loss of life, in the near future.

As it is, the message has gone out to foreign powers and terrorists: the United Kingdom is vulnerable because it is run by fools who believed fairy tales rather than facts and who went on holiday when they were needed.

Worse, Raab admitted that the UK did not start planning for the end of military operations until April. This is even though he knew the Doha Agreement of February 2020 meant US troops had until May 1 to leave.

He went on to say planning for a possible evacuation did not begin until June – by which time the Taliban were already making deep inroads towards Kabul. He added that this was in line with the UK’s Nato allies but that is neither here nor there; the UK is not responsible for other nations’ actions. Evacuation plans should have been made from February 2020 onwards.

Raab was challenged on his claims by committee chair Tom Tugendhat, a former member of the armed forces who served in Afghanistan. He pointed out that a “key risk report” from late July had warned of a rapid Taliban advance that could lead to them returning to power in Kabul.

Raab seemed to know nothing about it and asked for the source of this information – to which Tugendhat responded, bluntly, “It’s your principle risk report.”

So it seems Boris Johnson isn’t the only imbecile in the Tory government who can’t be bothered with the details.

The failure of intelligence extends to the number of UK nationals who were left behind after the panicked, everyone-for-themselves evacuation. Raab told the committee he thought “hundreds, possibly the mid to low hundreds” were standed after the last plane left.

But this is contradicted by the evidence of the government’s own email account that was created to take applications for help to leave Afghanistan, so that a list of those who genuinely needed to be taken out could be created.

It was ignored. News reports over the last few days have shown that messages – including information from senior Tory government ministers – went unread while Raab and his colleagues were running around like headless chickens.

Some reports have suggested that the number of people left behind is more likely to stand at several thousand.

Raab also made the – fair – point that the precise number of people who deserve to be brought to the UK depends on eligibility, and this is hard to work out because of a lack of documentation. Is that because the relevant documents were left – unshredded, even – on the floor of the UK’s former embassy in Kabul?

Personal details of UK-linked Afghans were found by a Times journalist there, and Raab was reminded of this. He said three families were subsequently evacuated but evaded the question when asked if they were owed an apology. Weren’t they? What about details that were not discovered?

Raab contradicted himself by saying applications for Afghans who helped the UK to apply for resettlement here were sped up from April onwards. But why so late? Remember, the deadline for the US to leave was May 1, and it was unreasonable to believe that the Taliban would not advance from then onwards. And the UK had been aware of the situation since February 2020.

The BBC’s running analysis of the meeting reported: “The lack of specific numbers … will further fuel concerns from backbench MPs that the figures have been vastly underestimated and that there could be as many as 7,000 eligible Afghan applicants left behind – a claim Dominic Raab has previously rejected.”

The impression we get of Raab is of a man who has been very far out of his depth throughout this crisis – and, considering he had fair warning of it from February 2020 onwards, this means he has never been capable of handling his responsibilities as Foreign Secretary.

Important information was ignored in favour of mindless optimism; evacuation plans were delayed until too late and vital information was left behind for the Taliban, creating a danger to the lives of allies.

And Raab refuses to resign. Is this because he wants to find out whether he can cock up future crisis even more badly than this?

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Tories had 18 MONTHS to evacuate Afghanistan, left it to the last minute, and messed it up

Boris Johnson: it’s all just a lark to him.

How did that work out for them, then?

For those who haven’t been following the news too closely, the UK government run by Boris Johnson knew it was on a deadline to move troops out of Afghanistan after then-US President Donald Trump signed the Doha Agreement with the Taliban in February 2020.

That was 18 months ago, but Johnson did nothing at all until July this year. We have only his word that any preparation was carried out at all – and we all know what Johnson’s word is worth: nothing.

According to the Doha Agreement, US troops had until May 1, 2021 to pull out of Afghanistan entirely. Incoming US President Joe Biden unilaterally pushed back the deadline to August 31 – presumably in the arrogant belief that the Taliban would let the World’s strongest country do whatever it wanted.

Well, that didn’t happen!

The Taliban started a widescale offensive on the day of the deadline and was faced with very little resistance indeed from a poorly-trained and corrupt Afghan National Army. They practically walked into Kabul on August 15.

That was more than two weeks ago. News reports have shown that the UK’s own withdrawal of troops has been unplanned, unprofessional and chaotic, despite the fact that Boris Johnson had been given a year and a half’s notice to leave.

Now, with the evacuation over, more than a thousand people (possibly many thousands of people) have been left behind, at the mercy of the Taliban; confidential documents including information identifying Afghan citizens who were employed by the UK government were left in the former UK Embassy for the Taliban to find and use; and Johnson’s government has been found to have issued a tissue of lies about what it has been doing.

Why did he make such a mess of it?

Here’s the apparently-prevailing view:

The government has tried to put a veneer of respectability on its potentially fatal incompetence, but we’re having none of it – as this exchange shows:

Johnson himself seems to have used Afghanistan as a prop with which to avoid facing his domestic failures:

Oh, and did you spot the reference to Pen Farthing, the former Marine who founded an animal rescue charity?

It turns out that the dispute between him and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace wasn’t resolved by Wallace putting him and nearly 200 dogs on a plane out of Afghanistan; it was not a military plane at all. So it seems the government took credit for something it didn’t do…

… or, if you prefer, falsely blamed Farthing for its own failure to get everyone out:

The facts of the Afghanistan evacuation grow worse, the more we know.

And I’m willing to bet we’ve only learned about a fraction of the cock-ups that Johnson has caused – because Johnson can’t be bothered with details and couldn’t care less about Afghanistan anyway.

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Kabul was Boris Johnson’s Dunkirk. If Churchill had failed as badly, he’d probably have shot himself

The lucky ones: a packed plane leaves Kabul – no thanks to Boris Johnson and his gang of UK government ditherers.

What a mess. This was not a retreat; it was a rout.

It seems clear that Boris Johnson’s withdrawal of the UK presence from Afghanistan was unplanned, unco-ordinated, and left behind much information of interest to the Taliban who have taken over.

The decision to move the military and leave civilians behind means more than 1,000 of our people are still in Kabul – and Johnson’s promise to do something about it rings as hollow as all his other promises.

Isn’t that what he said about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who remains imprisoned in Iran, years after he involved himself in her case as the UK’s Foreign Secretary?

That’ll be a “yes”, then. As for his vow…

The UK evacuation is over and many have been left behind

As I said above, Kabul is Boris Johnson’s Dunkirk.

But whereas Dunkirk was carried out in comparative efficiency, with everybody working to help everybody else get out of France before the Germans arrive, it seems Kabul represented Boris Johnson’s “everyone for themselves” philosophy.

So:

Indeed. Also:

There is no “Phase Two”.

This refers to former marine and animal charity founder Pen Farthing, who has escaped Kabul with around 200 rescued dogs – but whose staff were not allowed to leave.

The fact that dogs were allowed to leave may seem like a huge victory for animal-loving Brits – but the fact that the UK allowed human beings to be left behind will almost certainly make a mockery of us in Taliban propaganda.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had claimed he would prioritise people over pets but it seems the huge amount of publicity Farthing had received via media and social media had forced him to change his mind. We’ll find out in the future if that was a wise decision.

Meanwhile, it seems communications sent to the government email address that was supposed to be used to work out which Afghan nationals needed to be taken out of Kabul have gone unread – including cases flagged up by ministers:

According to the article,

An official email address used to collate potential Afghan cases from MPs and others regularly contained 5,000 unread emails throughout the week.

In many cases, emails detailing the cases of Afghans who fear for their families’ lives appear to have been unopened for days. An email from the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, sent on Monday was still unread on Thursday. There also appeared to be unread messages from the offices of Victoria Atkins, the newly appointed minister for Afghan resettlement, the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the Tory chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood.

The revelation calls into question the suggestion from ministers that the number of Afghans left behind would be up to 1,100 in total.

So it seems the 1,100 figure for personnel left behind may be a huge underestimate.

Documents were left behind that could be hugely harmful for unevacuated personnel

British Embassy workers who did a runner from their compound to the relative safety of Kabul’s airport around two weeks ago failed to destroy documents identifying local workers and job applicants, according to reports.

Who knows what other sensitive documents were left lying around? And why did it happen? Normally, one of the key protocols in a sensitive diplomatic withdrawal is the shredding of sensitive and classified information, but this seems not to have happened.

Have I already put my finger on the problem – that Boris Johnson and his dimwit Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dithered so long about taking a decision that Embassy staff ended up having to scramble to save their own skins and weren’t able to do the necessary?

If so, then the Taliban may now have access to any amount of information that they could find extremely useful in the future. Depending on how they use it, we could be in for a lot of trouble – and ultimate blame will rest with our terminal b*ttf**k of a prime minister.

Look at this:

And how about this, in response to a tweet I sent about Johnson’s domestic disasters:

It reached the point where some people have satirised the situation, finding humour in the fact that the Johnson government employs people who are very good at losing documents – but didn’t put them in the right place:

Samuel Miller ought to know – he has been campaigning to raise awareness of the unfair, persecutory mistreatment of benefit claimants, particularly those who are sick and/or disabled – for longer than I have.

Hypocrite Priti Patel has been greeting refugees on arrival in the UK and talking down other countries who she says should do more

Even here in the UK, government ministers are doing everything they can to humiliate us as a nation.

So Priti Patel, the home secretary who has locked refugees in squalid concentration camps to catch Covid-19, and who wants to make it illegal to save refugees from drowning if they are trying to cross the Channel into the UK, has been greeting Afghan refugees at Heathrow Airport.

Why?

Apparently the woman who has been trying to seal up all legal routes for refugees to come here has now claimed that refugees must only travel to the UK through legal routes.

Do you think she is wondering why she received responses like this?

Possibly the worst news available for these refugees is the fact that, by throwing their lot in with the UK, they have now ended up in a poverty trap:

And Patel has apparently told other countries that they must do more to help refugees – because she has absolutely no sense of shame:

In a sane country, every government body involved in this monumental fiasco would be out of a job and possibly facing charges in the International Criminal Court – but the United Kingdom is now so riddled with corruption that Johnson and his gang are most likely to shrug it off.

They’ll go looking for the next crisis they can turn into a calamity. After all, their lives aren’t on the line.

If Winston Churchill had presided over such a fatal mess, This Writer feels sure that he would have done the decent thing and swallowed a high-speed bullet.

But Churchill, for all the faults that he did have, was not an indecisive incompetent. He would not have made Johnson’s (and Raab’s, and Patel’s) mistakes.

And, sadly, Johnson does not have Churchill’s quality of character – so we can’t expect him to do what Britain Expects of him. He’s too much of a coward.

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Tory lord says foreign-owned firms perform better. But WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?

Morrisons: the supermarket chain is currently subject of a bidding war between overseas investors. It doesn’t matter who wins; British shoppers will lose.

This Lord Grimstone is apparently a business minister, which explains why the UK’s economy is tanking after Brexit.

He reckons “overseas invested companies are more productive and produce more jobs”.

And he has pointed at the fact that foreign investors have spent more money acquiring UK-listed businesses in the last eight months than in the previous five years.

This Writer has just two points to make.

Firstly, are foreign investors perhaps bidding on UK firms because Brexit and Covid-19 have cut their value to a fraction of what they were?

These people are probably hoping to make a cheap investment that will turn into a massive profit when the economy starts opening up again. This leads me to the next point.

Secondly, if formerly UK-owned firms are bought up by foreign investors, won’t all the profits go abroad, rather than staying in the UK? Put simply, won’t they bleed us dry?

A good example of this is our privatised rail service, which is now largely owned by foreign government-owned rail firms, meaning the enormous prices we pay for our train tickets helps to subsidise cheap rail travel across continental Europe.

And millions believed the Tories when they said Brexit meant taking back control!

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One person has been consistently right about UK involvement in Afghanistan. Guess who?

Jeremy Corbyn: this MP has been right about the war in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, but you won’t hear anybody in the UK’s mass news media admitting it.

It was Jeremy Corbyn, obviously.

He opposed the idea of the UK going to war in Afghanistan from the moment it was first suggested in 2001, after the 9/11 atrocity – for all the right reasons.

But you won’t hear mainstream media types – or anybody in the current Labour leadership – saying it because it casts them in a poor light.

They’ve spent more than half a decade dragging Corbyn’s name through the mud, so it would be hugely embarrassing for them to admit he has been right about the major issues of our times, all along.

The facts are obvious, though.

Way back in 2001, after Tony Blair decided that the UK would follow George W Bush’s Project for a New American Century US government into war with Afghanistan, to remove the Taliban government that had little or nothing to do with 9/11, Mr Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition, which was dedicated to opposing the decision.

“There is disquiet… about issues of foreign policy, varying between people like myself, who are strongly opposed to the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, and the threat of bombing Iraq, so there is a lot of disturbance, yes,” he said in March 2002.

Eight years later he made a landmark speech predicting how the warfar in Afghanistan would end – and he was right.

“The issue of Afghanistan goes on. The deaths continue, the soldiers continue to die, the war is clearly unwinnable,” Corbyn said.

“The expense in moral terms, financial terms and loss of life of Afghan people gets worse and worse.”

You can see the speech embedded in this Independent article.

Seven years later – and now as Labour Party leader, Mr Corbyn urged then-prime minister Theresa May not to support then-US president Donald Trump as he plotted to send more troops to Afghanistan:

He said: “The war in Afghanistan has failed. After 16 years of bloodshed and destruction, the Taliban are undefeated and terrorism is no less of a threat at home. In fact it has spread.

“The British Government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure, not obediently applaud his latest policy U-turn.”

When Boris Johnson announced that UK troops were pulling out of Afghanistan in July this year, Mr Corbyn called for an inquiry into this country’s reason for going to war there in the first place.

He said: “This has to be a day of reflection. We have spent billions of pounds in the war in Afghanistan, 450 British troops have lost their lives, thousands of Americans and other troops have lost their lives, many, many thousands of Afghan people have lost their lives and many more have been forced to be refugees in exile all around the region as well as in western Europe.

“While Britain is withdrawing, surely we need to recognise that when we make hasty foreign policy decisions to go to war, the consequences go on for a very long time. In this case, it is now the 20th anniversary of such a decision.”

(Incidentally, Boris Johnson’s speech on that day – July 8 this year – is, in retrospect, bitterly hilarious. His prediction for the future of Afghanistan after the UK pulled out its troops has proved so far off the mark that one has to wonder whether he was taking his intelligence from Christmas crackers.)

And now, with the refugee crisis that has followed the Taliban’s resurgent takeover of Afghanistan, Mr Corbyn has proved himself right yet again:

For those who can’t read text from image files, he said: “We must learn the lessons of a two-decade war which cost nearly a quarter of a million lives and failed to achieve security for the Afghan people or prevent the spread of terrorism.

“The War on Terror and its architects’ reckless use of force to deal with complex political issues has had profound, uncountable, and unacceptable human costs – whether to British and allied servicement and women or to the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.

“Invasions and occupations are not only wrong and violate the right to sovereignty, they also do not deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. We cannot allow ourselves to be led down such a disastrous road again.”

And, heading off a certain stripe of critic, he added: “Too often rejecting military intervention is conflated with taking no action at all. As well as resettling refugees, I will be making the case in Parliament this week for the UK to play its part in a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability.

“This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising extreme poverty, respect for human and civil rights expecially those of women and girls, and real self-determination for Afghanistan.”

Contrast Mr Corbyn’s attitude with that of current Labour leader Keir Starmer, as depicted in the two representative tweets below:

Mr Corbyn highlighted the humanitarian emergency, saying the UK has an obligation to Afghan refugees.

Meanwhile Starmer could not care less about the Afghan people who have suffered 20 years of disruption (20? more like 40, if you count the resistance to Soviet occupation that the UK supported). His only concern was to evacuate British personnel and support staff.

The contrast encapsulates the reason Jeremy Corbyn is the best prime minister the UK never had – and the reason Keir Starmer must never be prime minister of the UK.

The arguments have been convincing, all the way down the line – more so in hindsight, because we can recognise that Mr Corbyn has been right. Yet there has been no recognition by the UK’s national news media.

They really don’t. Look at the reaction of James Ball of investigative news organisation The Bureau to comments by people pointing out that Mr Corbyn has been highlighting the mistakes that the Western powers keep making, year after year.

He responded with whataboutery – and falsehood – that Mr Corbyn doesn’t care about people being oppressed, if the oppressors don’t happen to be the United States.

Alex Nunns, below, wisely restricted his response to Mr Corbyn’s comments during 2001 alone:

The moral is clear: if you want the facts, go to Jeremy Corbyn – and avoid the mainstream media distortions.

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How did the West mess up Afghanistan so badly? Here’s a quick primer

Cycle of violence: are we seeing a permutation of this cycle now, in Afghanistan? [Image: Miki Henderson.]

You’ve probably been wondering why Vox Political hasn’t commented on the international clusterf**k that has happened in Afghanistan over the past few weeks.

Simple answer: I was trying to understand what has happened – which meant going into more than 20 years of background material.

Yes, more than 20 years. Western powers have been tinkering with the Middle East for centuries, trying to dominate, and we all know (don’t we?) that Afghanistan has been a particularly tricky nut to crack.

Anyone who has read George MacDonald Fraser’s first Flashman novel will have seen what a mess the British Army made of it in the 1840s under Lord Elphinstone. The army there wasn’t just defeated; it was obliterated.

We have a more recent example of failure to subjugate the natives (and I think this can be observed in such colonial-racist terms) in the Soviet occupation that ran from 1979-89.

That incursion followed a Communist coup by a repressive organisation that vigorously suppressed opposition and executed thousands of political prisoners, and whose leaders were themselves divided. This division, and the possibility that Afghanistan may start supporting the interests of the United States, prompted Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev to invade and install a puppet leader.

The intention was to secure towns and roads, stabilize the government under a new leader, and withdraw within six months or a year. But fierce resistance from insurgent groups (remember the Mujahideen?)  and difficulties with the harsh Afghan terrain pushed the Soviets into a war that lasted more than nine years and has been labelled the “Bear Trap” or the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam”. It ended with the retreat of Soviet forces in February 1989, after which Afghanistan remained in a state of civil war.

Guerilla fighters don’t get anywhere without help; they needed funding and weapons, and found both from a number of sources including – principally – the United States.

One might expect this to mean Afghans would be grateful to their US benefactors, right? Well, there’s a problem, and it is this:

After the Soviet withdrawal, Afghans started blaming the US for miseries caused in that country because it continued to fund rebels against the pro-Soviet administration that had been left in Kabul. Rebel rocket attacks in 1989 and 1990 went nowhere near military targets but killed civilians instead. And the US apparently had no interest in humanitarian aid to clear up the mess caused by a decade of conflict that it had supported.

Crucially to the current situation, many Afghans believed the US to be responsible for the rise of the Taliban. And who had been there all along, providing support to the US and acting in concert with the US government? The United Kingdom under Thatcher and Major – that’s who.

The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, on September 11, 2001, was believed to be “blowback”, or unintended consequences of supporting the Mujahideen, with principal planner of the attack Osama Bin Laden claiming the suffering of the Afghan people after the Soviet withdrawal was a consequence of US involvement.

Interestingly, while the US certainly funded guerilla organisations in Afghanistan, the question of whether it provided cash to Bin Laden’s group, Al Qaeda, is difficult to answer. Some say no; others say he had been their best general against the Russians.

Whether US relations with Bin Laden were good or bad, they soured when Saudi Arabia refused Bin Laden’s offer to fight the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, that happened in 1990. The Saudis turned to America instead and it is understood that Bin Laden never forgave the slight.

His organisation had been based in Sudan, but had been expelled, and returned to Afghanistan to take refuge with the Taliban.

This may seem contradictory to you. If the US was considered responsible for the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, why was 9/11 carried out by a Taliban ally?

The only answer I can offer at present is this: opportunism. Acting against a widely-perceived enemy offered a propaganda victory that might reasonably be expected to help win power. And hasn’t that turned out to be the case now?

Let’s backtrack a little, to the years immediately preceding 9/11. It seems a US thinktank called the Project for a New American Century had been building influence in the US government. This organisation’s stated aim was “to promote American global leadership”. In other words: world domination.

By the time of 9/11, members of the group had come to dominate the George W Bush administration, including Donald Rumsfeld (Defence Secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Defence Secretary) and others. They were in a position to put their aim into practice – but they needed a pretext. And 9/11 was it.

The hijackers who flew passenger planes into the World Trade Centre and tried to fly one into the Pentagon were all from Saudi Arabia, but they had been trained in Afghanistan – making that country the logical location for a response (or, in the words of then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, a chance to “capitalize on these opportunities”).

But Afghanistan was only the second choice. Rumsfeld wanted to attack Iraq because “there were no decent targets in Afghanistan”.

They were easy targets, though – and attacking Afghanistan would make it possible to topple the fundamentalist Taliban regime there that had been obstructing US plans to build an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.

So the troops rolled in, installed Hamid Karzai (allegedly an employee of Californian oil company Unocal, along with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad), got their oil pipeline and moved on.

The UN Security Council established the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – ostensibly to train the Afghan military to a standard by which they could defend themselves, but mainly to defend the newly-installed government against attempts by the Taliban to retake the country. Principal troop contributors were the United States and the UK.

ISAF combat operations in Afghanistan were formally ended in 2014, with full security responsibilities being transferred to the Afghan government – but on the very same day, the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support was formed, in which thousands of troops remained in the country to train and advise Afghan government forces and continue fighting the Taliban. Again, US and UK troops were prominent among them.

Then in April this year, new US president Joe Biden announced that he would be withdrawing US troops from the country – because he could see no way of defeating the Taliban.

According to the Washington Post,

Biden’s decision comes after an administration review of U.S. ­options in Afghanistan, where U.S.-midwifed peace talks have failed to advance as hoped and the Taliban remains a potent force despite two decades of effort by the United States to defeat the militants and establish stable, democratic governance. The war has cost trillions of dollars in addition to the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. service members. At least 100,000 Afghan civilians have been injured or killed.

“This is the immediate, practical reality that our policy review discovered,” said one person familiar with the closed-door deliberations who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy planning. “If we break the May 1st deadline negotiated by the previous administration with no clear plan to exit, we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest.”

The goal is to move to “zero” troops by September, the senior administration official said. “This is not conditions-based. The president has judged that a conditions-based approach . . . is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever. He has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown and will remove its forces from Afghanistan before September 11th.”

In other words, this was unconditional surrender to the Taliban. No wonder they swept in.

Everything else that has been said about the situation in Afghanistan was just talk, to cover up the fact that both the US and the UK were running away from that country with their tails between their legs.

So, for example, consider this:

My bet is that the UK intelligence on this was that the Taliban would be in control by mid-August, and Johnson was just blustering to stave off the international humiliation that the situation has caused to the UK – which has been America’s principal ally throughout this whole fiasco, dating back to the 1980s.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that Joe Biden’s decision was based less on the chances of military victory and more on projections of the kind of financial gain US commercial interests might enjoy by staying in Afghanistan; with no likelihood of profit, it was time to pull out.

At the end of the day, we see that Afghanistan has again defeated foreign attempts to assert control. As the British were ejected in the 1840s and the Russians in the 1980s, so have the Americans (and, again, the British) now.

It was never going to end any other way.

And now we in the UK are once again facing the consequences of our governments’ – successive administrations stretching back to Thatcher – interference in a place where we should not have been.

One of those consequences is the threat to lives posed by the Taliban, and the failure of the Boris Johnson administration to take anything like the necessary steps to save those lives.

And so the circle of violence turns. We invade a country, cause lives to be lost; we withdraw, and more lives are lost. Now people from that country are likely to come to ours hoping to kill some of us in return – and won’t that prompt our leaders to demand we go back and deliver reprisals?

We need a better solution.

But all we have are Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.

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Is aid cut a Tory bid to inflict avoidable megadeaths on foreigners?

RIP democracy: Boris Johnson cut aid to foreign countries without offering MPs a chance to vote on it. His claim that the law allows such a move is highly debatable. 

The message This Writer took from MPs’ failure to force a vote on reversing foreign aid cuts is that it means there will be hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in affected countries.

That was said by Tory Andrew Mitchell, who seems to have come a long way since the “BikeGate” controversy.

And the really offensive part was that the decision to cut foreign aid from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of National Income (do they mean Gross Domestic Product?) was taken without allowing Parliament to vote on it.

It was an offence against democracy, because Boris Johnson’s Tory government believes in dictatorship instead.

And (obviously) it believes in finding ways to ensure that as many people as possible die.

Ministers have said it is possible to vary the amount spent without changing the 2015 law that makes the target binding.

But the decision to make the change unilaterally means there is no deadline for restoring that target – meaning the government could leave the cut in place indefinitely.

Isn’t there a more important question to be answered, about what’s being done with this aid money?

Isn’t it important that it should be used to ensure that the nations receiving the money need less and less of it in the future?

Has that been happening? How can we check?

There are many questions to be answered about foreign aid and This Writer hopes the debate on Tuesday (June 8) provides some of the answers.

The joy of it is that the Tory government has shot itself in the foot, whatever happens.

It has already garnered bad publicity over this in the week before the UK hosts the G7 summit.

It will receive more bad publicity with the debate.

And Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said he wants a substantive vote, which means if Boris Johnson refuses to grant it, he’ll have even more bad publicity.

Source: Foreign aid: Rebel Tories blocked in bid to reverse cuts – BBC News

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Johnson hosts Orban visit: they’re all anti-Semites together

Boris Johnson and Victor Orban: they’re all in it together – if “it” is anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Boris Johnson is currently hosting a visit by the rabidly anti-Semite prime minister of Hungary, Victor Orban. Next week he’ll be welcoming Rowdy, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan!

He might as well.

Orban has been accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, based on his behaviour in office. Johnson has been accused of those prejudices, based on his behaviour both in Parliament and away from it (as anyone who’s read his novel 72 Virgins must know.

What’s the message here? That it is okay to be anti-Semitic as long as you’re supplying millions of pounds worth of arms to Israel so it can bomb Muslims?

Even the BBC’s report has mentioned that the visit has been met with widespread condemnation.

Here’s how some of it looks:

This commenter highlighted a decision by The Guardian (amongst others?) to describe Orban as “populist”:

Then there’s this:

Well yes. The Jewish Chronicle spent years campaigning against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, on the grounds that this veteran peace campaigner, who never wished harm upon anybody, was somehow a raving anti-Semite.

In fact, of course…

Now, in fairness, the Jewish Chronicle has published an article in which some Jewish voices have called on Johnson to raise the issue of anti-Semitism with Orban. No more than that.

But it does indicate that Mr Monehan’s sentiment in this tweet is accurate:

The real reason for the meeting is obvious: trade.

Having led the UK out of the excellent trading circumstances it enjoyed as a member of the European Union, Johnson is now reduced to grubbing around among the lowest of the low, desperately searching for someone who will take our products.

Even if he wasn’t an anti-Semite and Islamophobe himself, those considerations would trump his own personal feelings.

If he gets to do a deal, he would happily tell anybody complaining that it is only business.

And his ministers, tasked with ensuring that a good trading relationship is created with this anti-Semitic, Islamophobic government, would give us the classic Nuremberg defence – that they are “only following orders”.

Source: Viktor Orban in talks with Boris Johnson amid condemnation – BBC News

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