Richard North, 20/12/2012  

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David Cameron yesterday announced that Britain would withdraw almost half of its 9,000 troops from Afghanistan next year, leaving local security forces to pick up the slack. And, exactly as predicted, Cameron is spinning furiously, telling parliament that this is possible "because of the success of our forces and the Afghan National Security Forces".

Elsewhere though, in Die Zeit, the unwanted truth seeps into the public domain. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is mocked again and again as mayor of Kabul. In the provinces, the writ of the warlords runs, but only where the Taliban leaders do not hold sway.

No one will offer odds on how long the Karzai government will last, once the coalition troops withdraw, but "most experts" believe that it will be history within two years.

Taliban groups have been steadily building up their power bases and influence, and have well-established parallel structures in most areas. Meanwhile, coalition troops are living in their own bubble, largely immune from attack. They are leaving anyway, so the Taliban simply don't bother.

Most of the insurgent activity is directed at Afghan security forces, NGO and local government agencies. This is where the struggle of the future is to be fought, and the Taliban are already ahead of the game.

And so the ghastly charade plays out. The British military will march away, bands playing, flags flying and, as with Iraq, convince itself that it has won a great victory.

But, in a day dominated by the BBC's Savile inquiries, the High Court Judgement on Hillsborough, and the "Plebgate" affiar, we are already on fantasy overload. There is absolutely no room for reality, and nobody cares anyway. The war was written off by the public years ago, even if it has taken this long for the politicians and military to cobble together a face-saving withdrawal plan.

Pity about the people who never made it, but there you go – a small sacrifice for such great glory.


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