Counting the cost of deeply unpopular Afghanistan war

Much media and political fanfare has greeted news that British troops this week finally left their last base in war-torn Afghanistan after the invasion by the West 13 years ago.

Little mention was made that the withdrawal marked the end of the UK’s fourth military intervention in the country since 1839 at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Almost 70 percent of the British public told pollsters the war was not worth it.

While it was promised that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan would defeat the Taliban, claimed after the 9/11 attacks on America to be an extremist Muslim terrorist threat to the West, and bring democracy to Afghanistan, the mountainous Asian country continues to rank extremely low in global rankings of political freedom.

Reliable commentators say warlords continue to hold power with US support and communities are more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.

Women are essentially closed out of political power and high rates of female unemployment and widowhood have further damaged their condition. But, according to Western propaganda, 2.9 million Afghani girls are now in school compared to none in 2001, when the Taliban ordered they should not be educated because of their gender.

Another argument used by Western leaders to justify the invasion was the need to rid Afghanistan of its massive poppy fields from which the killer hard drug opium comes. Yet, this year the opium harvest was the largest ever and accounted for 90 percent of the world’s supply.

During the US troop withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011, US President Barack Obama said that the United States military was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq”. This was not only an inaccurate account of Iraq’s situation at that time, but, like Afghanistan, the country has since become less secure and politically stable.

Experts, including the non-partisan Costs of War US think tank, which has studied the war in Afghanistan since 2011, estimate that 24,000 civilians have been killed in the dozen or more years since the West invaded. Forty nine countries took part in what they euphemistically described as the “International Security Assistance Force”.

Two thousand three hundred and forty nine US troops and 453 British were killed. But those figures are much less than the loss of Afghani military and police, which stood at 4,500 this year alone.

The war has cost the American tax payer £700bn and £37bn in British public funds.

Camp Bastion, Britain’s last base in Afghanistan, was home to 30,000 people, had its own airport, fire station and police force – and in six years grew to a city the size of Reading.