Britain is speeding up withdrawal from the failed Afghanistan war to support new interventions in Syria and Iran argues Robin Beste

Cameron and Karzai

"There's no success like failure," sang Bob Dylan in Love Minus Zero. This was David Cameron's message when he visited the British troops in Afghanistan on 20 December.

Two days earlier, Cameron had announced that 3,800 soldiers would be coming home in 2013, leaving around 5000. "This is drawdown based on success not on failure," he said.

He did not mention that Camp Bastion - where he was making this victory speech - had just a few months previously been subjected to a major Taliban attack that killed two US Marines, destroyed six US jets and caused huge damage to the base that was regarded as the safest place of all in the country for Nato troops.

There's no success like failure when using David Cameron's criteria. The biggest sign of progress he says is in the reduction in the number of terrorist plots "from this part of the world".

In truth, al Qaeda was driven from Afghanistan eleven years ago, and even the CIA admits they have not had more than a handful of fighters in the country since then.

In other words, 433 British troops have died in Afghanistan fighting an enemy that did not exist in a war of occupation that the British govenrnment has taken eleven years to realise - but not to admit - is unwinnable.

As for defeating al Qaeda - which was never more than a convenient brand name for US enemies in the "war on terror" - they and their affiliates are now operating in Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria.

As for the aim of protecting the streets of Britain's cities from terrorist attack, even the former head of Britain's MI5 secret service, Eliza Manningham Buller, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made Britain more of a target for terrorist attacks, not less.

The bombing atrocities in London on 7 July 2005 that killed 52 people were not planned in Afghanistan. The bombers were UK citizens outraged by Britain's collusion in wars on Muslim countries.

An even more brazen redefinition of the facts is in Cameron's other main criteria for measuring success in Afghanistan: the "progress" in training the Afghan army and police to take over all responsibility for security in the country by the end of 2014, when the Nato occupation forces are meant to be withdrawn.

Obviously not included in the yardstick of "progress" and "success" is the huge increase this year in the number of "blue on green" attacks in which these very same Afghan troops and police have been killing their western trainers -- over 50 killed this year, of which 12 were British.

All objective studies not emanating from government ministers or the British army, have reached the same conclusion: there is no prospect of the Afghan army and police taking the role envisaged by their western trainers, which is to act as a proxy occupation force defending the interests of the same powers that have caused such mass slaughter and destruction since the invasion in 2001.

Despite pay rates that dwarf average Afghan earnings, desertion rates are astronomically high and commitment is more than a little wayward. Around 50,000 Afghan soldiers, or about 26 percent, quit the army each year. Additionally, about 8 percent of Afghan police officers quit each year.

As reports, "Most experts predict that either the Afghan government will collapse or the country will descend into civil war following the partial US withdrawal in 2014."

The true reason for David Cameron accelerating troop withdrawals from Afghanistan - soon to be joined by Barack Obama doing the same in the US - is found in the rest of the line from Bob Dylan's song: "Failure's no success at all."

The Afghanistan war has been catastrophic for all involved. Tens of thousands of Afghans and thousands of invading Nato soldiers have been killed. The country is one of the most insecure in the world, with poverty levels almost second to none and corruption the worst anywhere.

The war has spread to Pakistan, making it dangerously unstable, with thousands of people being killed by US drone attacks.

The long forgotten aim of eliminating the poppy trade - Afghanistan is the source for 82 per cent of the world's heroin production - is so "successful" that production is now at the highest levels seen since the invasion.

As for other aims once touted as reasons for the war, "democracy" and women's rights, these were long ago dumped as the priority became bolstering the gangster regime of president Karzai and the local warlords supporting him.

The financial cost of the war has been almost beyond imagination, especially in a country in which the average monthly pay for an Afghan worker is $40.

Britain has already spent £17.4 billion, a figure which will escalate by many billions more in the coming years, added to which will be the future cost of the UK contribution to the £25.3 billion a year to fund the Afghan army and police.

The United States in a war no less lost by them than by Britain, is obscene beyond measure. $1.2 trillion is the current total cost - with the monthly expenditure in 2012 running at $10.5 billion.

The US is spending £20 billion a year just on air-conditioning for its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. By way of comparison, Afghanistan's annual gross national product (GDP) is $30 billion.

David Cameron thinks that he can pull victory out of the jaws of defeat simply by declaring a non-existent "success". But former leader of the Social Democrats, Paddy Ashdown let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago, when he became the first senior politician to say publicly what most of them admit to privately: the war is lost:

"We cannot pretend there is any more to do in Afghanistan. The urgent priority is to get out. It is not worth wasting one more life in Afghanistan. All that we can achieve has now been achieved. All that we might have achieved if we had done things differently, has been lost."

The ex-soldier Joe Glenton, who was court martialled for refusing to return to Afghanistan to fight a war he regarded as unjustified and immoral, sums up the reality of the disastrous war:

"Arguably the greatest collection of military power in history has been ground down by ordinary people with no planes, no armour, no drones and no illusions about why Afghanistan was invaded."

We might hope that the politicians and generals would learn something from more than a decade of the "war on terror" which they said was the path to peace but which turned into its opposite.

With Britain moving its military resources from south Asia to the Middle East - alongside America and Nato as they plan new interventions in Syria and Iran - the only "success" coming out of the failure of the war in Afghanistan would seem to be yet more war.

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