Anybody gasping at the sight of the Taliban surging to power in Afghanistan probably hasn’t read any world history books for sometime, if ever. The country remains the epitome of resistance in the face of foreign incursions. Britain, Russia, and now the US and friends. Rocking up there is on a par with invading Russia in the winter.
With the Taliban, the one factor in their favour is, of course, the fact that they have a cause. The invaders just follow government orders, so they up and go when told to. The Afghan forces, brilliantly trained by the Allies (note my deliberate but possibly sarcastic use of good-guy terminology) when not gratuitously opening fire on each other, didn’t fancy it.
It being a proper tear-up from endless hordes of warlords who will fight to the death to secure your limp balls and what they believe to be their birthright.
That was incidentally exactly our approach to Hitler and his gang during the days when resistance to invasion was righteous.
In this case, they might as well have just propped up some Afghan coats.
So yes, it was all rather a waste of time and human life, but all those sacrificed soldiers’ families and the surviving ones don’t really have a leg to stand on, and that’s not because of some sneakily placed IED.
Military personnel volunteer for battle and obey orders. That’s what the Queen’s shilling is all about. Whether subsequent wars are justified or achieve nothing, that’s another story. Yes, politicians should be criticised for poor decisions, including taking the country to war without good reason, and that’s a political, or later a legacy, matter. That’s why Phoney Tony was never pursued. The punishment for poor politics is the boot and a tarnished image.
None of this is for parents and families to critique, because the soldiers themselves signed away their freedom of choice when they applied their John Hancocks to the bottom line.
It’s how military hierarchies work. You can’t have your granny waddling onto the battlefield with a PowerPoint that explains why the General is risking your life by advancing.
Of course, it may be that for some the Army is just seen as a way to avoid filling shelves at the supermarket.
And that makes the bad choice not that of the politicians who sexed up dossiers and arsed about with senseless and doomed foreign japes but that of people who signed their lives away for a jolly.
Naval personel fell into that trap in the late 1970s and early 1980s and ended up bobbing about on fire in the South Atlantic. Most of those has never heard of the Falklands until they were part of the Task Force en route.
The Afghan interpreters who got left behind or who lost their grip on the undercarriage of that plane 1,000 feet in the air took a similar gamble. Years of copious military rations and debased currency in exchange for translating during interrogation sessions. No wonder they didn’t want to stick around.
It could have been worse, though. They might have taken Ryanair with whom falling to your death costs extra.