The withdrawal of our troops is not because we have won or lost in any conventional sense
The Observer, Sunday 2 January 2011
This year will see the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and, according to current plans, the beginning of British troop withdrawal. A decade into the military campaign, there is no longer even discussion of winning. The initial objective to release the country from the despotic grip of the Taliban and prevent its use as a safe haven for al-Qaida was achieved within months. Since then, it has only ever become harder to discern what victory might look like.
There is some clarity on what would count as defeat. If Nato withdrawal leads to the total collapse of Hamid Karzai’s government and a return to Taliban rule, there would be no disguising the humiliation to western powers, nor the increased security threat from jihadi terrorism. Not that President Karzai is an attractive ruler. His administration is corrupt and repressive.