...[B]ut the key question is this: what are our servicemen dying for? There are glib answers to that: bringing democracy and development to Afghanistan, supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai in its attempt to establish order in the country, fighting the Taliban and preventing the further spread of radical Islam into Pakistan
...[A]fghanistan was not militarily winnable by the British Empire at the height of its supremacy. It was not winnable by Darius or Alexander, by Shah, Tsar or Great Moghul. It could not be subdued by 240,000 Soviet troops. But what, precisely, are we trying to win?
...[O]ur economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and 'value-added' operations.
It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.
How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.
...[O]pium is produced all over Afghanistan, but especially in the north and north-east – Dostum's territory. Again, our Government's spin doctors have tried hard to obscure this fact and make out that the bulk of the heroin is produced in the tiny areas of the south under Taliban control. But these are the most desolate, infertile rocky areas. It is a physical impossibility to produce the bulk of the vast opium harvest there.
That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. Dostum is known for tying opponents to tank tracks and running them over. He crammed prisoners into metal containers in the searing sun, causing scores to die of heat and thirst.
Since we brought 'democracy' to Afghanistan, Dostum ordered an MP who annoyed him to be pinned down while he attacked him. The sad thing is that Dostum is probably not the worst of those comprising the Karzai government, or the biggest drug smuggler among them.
...[T]he truth is that there are seldom any good guys among those vying for power in a country such as Afghanistan.
....[O]ur presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is the greatest recruiting sergeant for Islamic militants. As the great diplomat, soldier and adventurer Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Burnes pointed out before his death in the First Afghan war in 1841, there is no point in a military campaign in Afghanistan as every time you beat them, you just swell their numbers.