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November 13, 2008
British public wants out of Afghanistan

Insurgents attacked an American military convoy in a crowded Afghan market on Thursday, killing 19.

The attack caps a bloody week for the war-torn country. On Wednesday, in the southern province of Kandahar,  a suicide bomber drove an oil tanker into a government office building. Two schoolgirls were also blinded when suspected Taliban militants threw acid at them as they walked to class.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London on Thursday. A recent public opinion poll showed that more than two-thirds of the British public wants British troops out of Afghanistan.

Robert Finn, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and a current lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, speaks with Martin Savidge about the prospect for peace talks with the Taliban, a potential surge in American military presence in Afghanistan and the need for broader cooperation with U.S. allies.

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#1

It is difficult to make a judgement on the future direction of British, or indeed any foreign troops, in Afghanistan with the limited information we have available within the public domain. The interview with Robert Finn, however well intentioned, did not provide us with much more. The Afghan people are already locked into a tribal medieval worldview by their history and state religion and this condemns them to a grim future, economic and otherwise. Their conflict with the Soviets was essentially fought, and fought bitterly, to resist secular modernisation and maintain their medieval status. If we want to apply our own principles of democracy, then clearly the people have spoken and Islamic medievalism is precisely what the population wants.
The recent dreadful upsurge in violence with acid attacks on schoolgirls, suicide bombers and ambushes of foreign troops can be seen, in this context, as a form of religious and political expression. This is what the population want to do to resist invaders, that is what their religion tells them to do, what can we or anyone else do to change that?
Unless we in Western democracies have an overwhelming and compelling reason to bring secular modernism to this arid corner of the world, how do we justify the blood of our young men in such an ambiguous adventure. Surely after the two great wars, not to mention the myriad of smaller ones, we need to reflect long and hard before any more of our children are committed to an abstract good for Queen and country.

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