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We're haunted by Iraq and ruin

EVEN in Afghan caves, they can get the internet. And a Taliban commander checking this week’s news would be delighted.
In America, a dithering president has still not made up his mind what to do in Afghanistan. A decision is promised next week.
And in Britain, ‘discussing the war’ means another pointless inquiry into the IRAQ of six years ago. Not Helmand today.
All this will fit the jihadis’ analysis perfectly. They reckon the West is too weak and short-termist to see through a military campaign.
As this newspaper reveals, Gordon Brown wants a withdrawal plan to start next Christmas (and to announce it before the election).
He has a timetable. A handover. Targets for recruiting 5,000 Afghan troops in 12 months — thus enabling Britain to go home.
The Taliban fear the British military. But they always calculated that squeamish politicians would order retreat after a while.
Obama, for example, is visibly squirming. He asked General McChrystal to advise him, and is having second thoughts about that advice.
I hear that he’ll order another 35,000 troops in. We’ll do 500. But his delay has undermined their impact: America already looks weak.
Britain’s problem is that its political leaders are blind. They are set to repeat all the mistakes of Iraq.
Take the Chilcot Inquiry last week. It is the THIRD inquiry to obsess about who said what to whom in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
None of it is new. Jeremy Greenstock, Christopher Meyer: We’ve heard them all before. Read their books. Bought the T-Shirt.
Anyone who spent a summer sitting through the Hutton Inquiry (as I did) saw the emails — which revealed much, much more. So far, we’ve learned that Tony Blair fibbed, and governed by a secret cabal. Next week’s shock: That he used spin doctors.
The real questions are being ducked. And these are questions that can actually help win the war in Afghanistan. It comes down to a horrible truth: That the British army was defeated in Iraq. Run out of Basra by Islamist death squads.
Why did we lose? That’s what we need to find out. And the answer bodes ill for this great 12-month plan hatched by Gordo.
Blair was so desperate to fake progress — in time for the 2005 election — that he rushed to hand over to local police.
These ‘police’ were death squads, delighted that the British were giving them badges and police stations all of their own.
But the spin was perfect. Forget about WMD. Blair and Gordon Brown fooled a nation, saying we were ‘handing control’ to locals.
These were ‘locals’ who executed barbers for ‘un-Islamic’ hairdressing and introduced terror not even seen in Saddam Hussein’s day.
So what’s our plan in Afghanistan for 2010? To rush through a plan to train Afghan troops, and police. To hit a target, in a timeframe.
Why the urgency? It was the rush that lost us the Iraq war. Soldiers had to work to a politician's target: They badged up militias.
How long will it be before Taliban insurgents start to infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan army that Brown wants to build so quickly?
A proper Iraq inquiry would alert us to these dangers. It would ask: Did soldiers complain about handing power to death squads?
It would take evidence from those in Basra (I have spoken to some) who knew they were handing guns to thugs. They hated it.
They knew they were doing it so a politician in London could say: “We’re making progress and have recruited 2,000 police.” How far has spin started to affect the priorities of the British military? This is what the Chilcot inquiry should be asking.
When Gordon Brown has his Afghanistan conference in London, he will doubtless speak sternly about his iron resolve to win.
But in Afghanistan, actions speak far louder than words. And if he gives ANY timetable for withdrawal, that will speak loudest of all.



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