Eyewitness
Inside Afghanistan
17 June 2008

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Shadow secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell MP, visited British troops and aid workers in Helmand province and Kabul just a few weeks ago. Here are his thoughts, written for Sky News online readers:

Real progress has been made since the removal of the Taliban in 2001.

The vast majority of Afghan people live in areas which are relatively stable.

Health and education indicators today are much stronger than under the Taliban.

But many Afghans I spoke to are disappointed and disillusioned: the security situation is precarious; corruption and crime are rife; the global food crisis has hit people hard.

The Government of Afghanistan and the international community must make a concerted effort to put things right.

We should start by improving the effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan.

The twin challenges here are donor coordination and Government capacity.

There is a marked lack of effective coordination between donors.

The Paris Conference last week generated substantial extra cash - the challenge is to ensure that it is spent effectively.

Building the capacity of the Afghan state is absolutely vital.

I found that some elements of the central government, such as the army and the rural affairs ministry, are making progress. But others such as the police and the Ministry of the Interior are beset by problems. In many parts of the country the Government of Afghanistan is unable to exert influence, and at a local level its institutions are often weak.

We need concerted effort to bolster and reform Government structures.

I was deeply impressed by the courage and skill of the servicemen and women I met in Camp Bastion and Lashkar Gar in Helmand.

I applaud both their bravery in combat and their insightful and sensitive approach to winning the battle for hearts and minds.

In Helmand we now have a unique window of opportunity.

British forces have got the Taliban on the back foot. Larger areas of the province are now under the control of the Government of Afghanistan.

And on the political front, the newly appointed Governor of Helmand, Mr Mangal, is dynamic and impressive.

We must now press home this advantage by letting development flourish and working for a sustainable peace.

Afghanistan is the ground where multiple and complex regional and international interests are being played out.

We must ensure that full diplomatic energy is put into addressing the role of Afghanistan's neighbours in the conflict, and into driving forward the long-term process of stabilisation and statebuilding.

:: Andrew Mitchell MP is one of the guests on a special Sky News programme, 'For Queen And Country: The Longest War?', at 8pm on Thursday June 19.

Written by Eyewitness, 17 June 2008

Comments

I think Andrew must be one of the most gullible people in politics. He saw what they wanted him to see and heard what they wanted him to hear. His summation of the situation is in stark contrast to that of, shall we say, more seasoned observers(I was going to say more intelligent). The Taliban do actually control large swathes of Afghanistan. They cannot of course hold them but then neither can NATO. So we are faced with the inevitability of war without end in Afghanistan; that is of course until a majority of NATO countries see the crass stupidity of such a conflict and until casualties reach a level which is unsustainable. Unlike Andrew, I am old enough to remember the Vietnam War. Up until quite near the end we were treated to similar nonsense such as Andrew is now expounding. The end came dramatically and of course we then realised we had been lied to.In fact we realised that anyway. We had a far clearer knowledge of what propaganda was about in those days than the rather naive current generation. You really don't need to visit Afghanistan Andrew to get the picture. Just apply some common sense from your armchair at home. What imperialist war has succeeded in recent decades. What invasion of Afghanistan has been successful The answer Andrew is NONE. Really everyone before they enter politics, should firstly read history and then be aged over 50. In that way we could combine a little of the wisdom of the past with the wisdom of the present.


Can someone please tell me, what we`re in Afghanistan for? Is it this rubbish of-"we`re fighting them there-to stop them from coming here," twaddle? Or are we still looking for Osama Bin Laden? I really doubt, that we want to end up like the Russians. Our great soldiers, shouldn`t be dying, for another American war.


my son is out there into his 3rd month. with the argylls just like to say its hard back here after hearing all the news but we are following you best we can. keep your heads low take care to all the boys all thinking of you back here.doing a good job just come home safely.you are all very very brave soilders.


Sir
Whilst only half the battle has been won thus far as to assure future re-generation, as you put it, the most dynamic thing will be for all to take stock of the fact, that having endured years upon years of un-natural shells, and having further witnessed the draconian progress, Afghanistan is no where near the civilised state it once was.
Troops have indeed provided many a proud moment, whilst underlying elements further the stress levels beyond belief.
As politicians politicise and ordinary folk gather their wits, perhaps that's why [Simple Minds] said [Let There Be Love] and repair what has been destroyed for decades and cut short the longest war.


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