Helmand Province in Afghanistan is the dangerous centre of British military operations, and the place where hundreds of British and other soldiers from elsewhere died or were wounded badly because of the Taliban.
Fighting an enemy that is cunning, brutal, and unconventional in a place that is harsh and unforgiving has made postings to Helmand a test of endurance at the very least, as well as a test of survival, and it must have been hard for the men and women who were sent there, to witness or experience terrible maiming or the killing of colleagues while knowing it was an unpopular cause that was hard to justify.
[caption id="attachment_2350" align="alignright" width="200"] Defending Colleagues in Afghanistan[/caption]
One achievement has been the pushing back of the Taliban out of Helmand, but even before the last of the troops has been withdrawn from the province, the Taliban are known to be back. Soon it will be as if the war never happened – apart from the evidence of thousands of lives lost or damaged unnecessarily, an embittered terrorist cause which has spread to Pakistan and beyond, and many billions of pounds and dollars wasted. Already military experts concede that the Afghan army cannot cope as replacements for Western forces, and Lord Ashdown has described the conflict as a textbook example of how to lose a war.
Afghanistan may a lost cause militarily, but it has not been a pointless cause. For the friends and relatives of the men and women who died, and for the people whose lives have been changed forever as they live with blindness, loss of limbs or mental difficulties, it is understandable if they wonder at the politicians who failed them and feel anger. I feel the greatest sympathy for them, admiration for the brave soldiers who go where they are sent and do their best, and concern that those whom we entrust to look after us wisely so often do so badly.
[caption id="attachment_2352" align="alignleft" width="200"] Taliban Insurgents[/caption]
Over and above these sentiments, I try to see the bigger picture, for there is a good reason for everything that happens: I know that karma will be involved, for it is always, and that it involves the land of Afghanistan as well as the people, the occupiers and the politicians; I know that each soul determines the experiences it needs in a carefully-chosen lifetime for its evolution, and that often the learnings are hard; and I know that one of the most important lessons for humanity is about the folly of conflict and the blessing of kindness instead.
What better example is there, now, about the pointlessness of war than Afghanistan? Nothing good has been achieved, directly, as a result of this sorry struggle, but the harm and humiliation that have resulted already have done much to convince many that armed conflict is wrong, and that there is a better, kinder way, always. The waste of life is sad, but those who have suffered through the Afghan War have given much, besides their lives.