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En Liang Khong is openDemocracy’s assistant editor.
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For an informed and sceptical take on the Afghanistan war, see Paul Rogers' many columns on the subject in his weekly openDemocracy commentary
Yet another British casualty in the war in Afghanistan has just been announced. Only the British dead rate a mention, not those who are injured or maimed for life, nor the dead and injured of the country itself. It is a long way from Tony Blair's confident statement in the House of Commons in October 2001 that British troops were joining a 'strong' coalition with 'robust plans' and 'humanitarian plans ... falling into place'. There was debate, but no vote, on Blair's commitment of troops.
In January 2006, John Reid announced in Parliament 'a seamless package of democratic, political, developmental and [oh yes!] military assistance in Helmand'. No vote. In March Reid added this comment: 'If we came for three years here to accomplish our mission and had not fired one shot at the end of it, we would be very happy indeed'. A large contingent of troops was deployed in Helmand in May of that year, the British presence rose by some 3,300 troops by the following summer. Fatalities immediately began to rise every year, from 39 in 2006 to nearly 70 so far this year. Now over 120 British troops have died there, the coalition is weak and growing weaker, and humanitarian plans have fallen into a corrupt limbo.
This eight year long war, tragic not only for the UK but more so for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has never once been put to the vote in the House of Commons. There has been no need. The government was able to enter into the war, and then to escalate the British commitment, through Royal Prerogative powers that do not even oblige ministers to inform Parliament on actions that they take under these powers. As Andrew Blick said, in his magisterial dissection of the Ministry of Justice report reneging on the aborted government pledge to reform the Royal Prerogative, Parliament's ability to debate and vote on the deployment of troops in action will not be statutory (but is limited to a parliamentary resolution), and leaves the government enough discretion to drive a battalion or two through.
42 people killed and dozens injured in a suicide bombing in Iran's southeast. Civilians flee as Pakistan launches South Waziristan offensive. South Sudan village raided, seven die. Gun battles and bombings in southern Russia. UN passes resolution in support of Gaza report. All in today's security briefing.
The United States is preparing both to escalate its commitment and retool its strategy in Afghanistan. But the realities of war - and, crucially, the calculations of Pakistan's elite - mean that this will only postpone the moment of real decision.
The UN Human Rights chief backs the Goldstone report. More bomb attacks strike Pakistan. The head of Mi5 defends Britain’s foreign intelligence co-operation. All this and much more in today’s security update.
China and India exchange words over disputed Himalayan territory. Grenade attack injures forty in Moldova. Hezbollah plays down Israel's claims of missile stockpiling. North Korea accuses South of naval transgression. Deadly attacks hit police in Pakistan. All this and more in today's update.
The openDemocracy authors Juan Gabriel Tokatlian and Vicken Cheterian are critical of the Armenia-Turkey rapprochment. But there is a positive case for the protocols, responds Kerem Oktem.