What has the war in Afghanistan really achieved?
At least 60 people died in a suicide bombing just 25 miles from Kabul yesterday. In a few days’ time, a report on Afghanistan from the International Crisis Group will say that violence and the billions of dollars in international aid have brought wealthy officials and insurgents together. As a result, “the economy is increasingly dominated by a criminal oligarchy of politically connected businessmen”.
The negatives column in the Afghan war’s balance sheet does not get any shorter. So far, the conflict has lasted nine years, eight months and 17 days, cost the lives of 2,547 coalition troops, and between 14,000 and 34,000 civilians, created millions of refugees, and opened up a black hole in Western economies that has sucked in more $500bn dollars. Afghanistan costs the US around $10bn (£6.3bn) a month; and Britain will pay £4.5bn this year.
Such is the change in mood that the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has openly admitted the prospect of parleying with the Taliban, the very people we went to war to remove. Sources have told The Independent on Sunday these are, at present, talks about talks, but have involved middle-ranking officials from the State Department and CIA on the US side (initially brokered by the German ambassador), and Tayeb Agha, former chef-de-cabinet of Mullah Omar, on the Taliban side.
So, as these preliminaries are gone through, and President Obama announces a speeding up of troop withdrawal, we ask: what has been achieved by the war?
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