My Open Letter to Westminster

Henry Hopwood-Phillips 10.53am

There is a caustic and remarkably resilient strain of liberalism that is proving intransigent in spite of an unravelling of the trends that caused it. We live in a post-white, post-Christian society; however, an entrenched elite refuses to yield political ground to the sincere viewpoints of Islam and other minority faith groups on a range of vital issues from dress to diet, from war to homosexuality.

These vested interests are manifestly preventing many ethnic minorities from flourishing. I therefore call upon all liberals - a political class that is almost exclusively white - to resign immediately so that a new political order, perhaps one that can reflect the new demography of the country somewhat better, can take root; and liberalism - that relic of an old order - be extinguished alongside the late imperialism that devised it.

This late imperialism may come with extra servings of hand-wringing but its first principles remain the same. Countless Islamic countries are invaded on an almost annual basis in the name of foreign ideals Muslims never subscribed to.

When Muslims do manage to escape their homelands (countries that have become war-torn thanks to western well-wishers whose enthusiasm for demolishing our governments has never quite been matched by their zeal to replace them), they have been exposed to the unrelenting judgement of “the English” (a misnomer surely, for m’learned academics tell us that no such people exist), who no less unremittingly chime to the high heavens panegyrics about their levels of tolerance.

It is this “tolerance” that informs Muslims that the ideals they teach to their children are wrong. It is this tolerance that tells Muslims that protecting their women’s dignity is oppressive. It is this tolerance that tells Muslims that eating their meat in the Qur’an-honoured way of their forefathers is a disgraceful way to treat livestock.

Historically speaking, we can all understand why this uppity and entitled elite think they have the whip-hand over us. But we are no longer living in an occidental hegemony circa 1945, and we call on Westminster to reflect this.

————————————- Spoiler Alert ~ May contain satire ———————————-

Follow Henry on Twitter @byzantinepower

Think twice Mr Cameron before arming Syria’s rebels

Aaron Ellis 11.03am

During a statement to the House of Commons yesterday about last week’s European Council, the Prime Minister warned that the Syrian crisis was “attracting and empowering a new cohort of Al Qaeda-linked extremists.” The only way to check their malign influence is if the West arms those “parts of the Syrian opposition that want a proper transition to a free and democratic Syria.”

“My concern is that if the UK with others is not helping the opposition, and helping to shape and work with it, it is much more difficult to get the transition we all want”, said Mr Cameron.

To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, practical men are usually the slaves of some bad pundit. In this case, the Prime Minister is the slave of pro-interventionist commentators like Anne-Marie Slaughter, who have been arguing this for months.

"Sooner or later some combination of the opposition groups will indeed control Syria," she wrote in July.

"The eventual winners…will matter a great deal to the health, wealth and stability of what is still the most geo-strategically important region in the world. Syrians will remember those who remember them, those who cared enough to help save their lives." Neither history nor recent events substantiate her argument.

As Micah Zenko wrote in response to Slaughter, it assumes a number of things:

First, that the post-Assad political leaders of Syria will be the same individuals who received U.S. weapons…Second, any country not arming the Syrian rebels will be remembered for their lack of enthusiasm, and suffer the wrath of Damascus for some period of time. Third, Syria’s political leaders will closely align their policy preferences with the United States, because the Obama administration armed them – rather than say the preferences of the Qataris or Saudis, who are providing weapons to Syrian rebel groups.

Western support for the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s shows these assumptions to be dubious. Some of its commanders later formed the Taliban, who, when they controlled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, ignored both American and Saudi demands that they kick out Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida because they thought it was in their interests to keep them there.

Internal politics will also determine whether or not opposition groups align with the West.

The newly-created ‘National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ (NCSROF) recently recognised the al-Nusra Front because of its popularity within Syria, even though the United States has listed it as a terrorist group due to its links to al-Qa’ida. Yet the NCSROF is recognised by the British government as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people and enjoys the full support of the Foreign Secretary.

“[Syrians] need to feel the solid ground of a unified political alternative to the Assad regime”, William Hague declared last week. “The National Coalition has now begun to offer that hope, and it is only right that we give them the recognition they deserve, and the support they need to survive and to prevail.”

Speaking about Afghanistan, Rory Stewart warned: “we should recognise the limits of our knowledge, power and legitimacy.” The same could be said about our deepening involvement in Syria.

Neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary possess the knowledge, power, or legitimacy to shape the internal make-up of the Syrian uprising. Post-war Libya ought to have taught them this. When the Syrians formed a political union with Egypt in 1958, the president warned the Egyptian dictator Colonel Nasser that his people were difficult to govern.

"Fifty per cent…consider themselves national leaders, twenty-five per cent think they are prophets, and ten per cent imagine they are gods." This accurately describes the opposition to the Assad regime.

British involvement in Syria should reflect its interests, which are limited.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronHEllis

The situation in Syria is appalling, but it truly isn’t in Britain’s interests to intervene

Aaron Ellis 10.38amimage

Britain should help topple brutal regimes only where it is in our interests to help and our help ought to be proportionate to those interests.

I thought up the 'Ellis Doctrine' for humanitarian intervention in response to David Cameron’s justification for intervening in Libya, oft repeated by the war’s supporters.

“Just because you can’t do the right thing everywhere doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the right thing somewhere”, argued the Prime Minister.

But by what criteria had he judged Libya to be “somewhere”? Why was intervention the “right thing” for us to do, as opposed to other forms of help? For years, the Conservatives had said that British foreign policy under them would be “strategic”, yet Mr Cameron’s justification for the Libyan campaign was extraordinarily non-strategic. The Ellis Doctrine offered a framework with which to think about a future crisis.

Given the crisis in Syria is far more complex than the one that confronted us in Libya, British policy needs to be appropriately nuanced. There are many reasons why Britain should help the Syrian people topple Bashar al-Assad, but we ought to limit our involvement as much as possible. The risks of too big an investment outweigh the rewards. We must limit ourselves to containing the spillover from the conflict into neighbouring countries.

Yet our policy is trending in the other direction. The Prime Minister has suggested arming the rebels. The Chief of the Defence Staff warned recently that troops may intervene if the humanitarian crisis worsened. And the ‘National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ (NCSROF) has been prematurely recognised as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.

If Britain is to surmount the challenges of the twenty-first century and re-climb the greasy pole of international affairs, we need a prudent foreign policy. The country must sort out its finances, build up its resources, and think carefully about where in the world it gets involved in and how.

David Cameron used to recognise this, and, in recent months, seems to have rediscovered his ‘grand strategic’ ambitions. At the Conservative party conference, he declared that “[e]very battle we fight, every plan we make, every decision we take” was designed to help the United Kingdom “rise” amidst the decline and fall of other Great Powers. “I am not going to stand here as Prime Minister and allow [us] to join the slide.”

As welcome as his rediscovery of ‘the vision thing’ is, he has also consistently fallen short of realising it whenever put to the test. Unless Mr Cameron wants Britain to become a hegemonic power in the eastern Mediterranean, then our deepening involvement in Syria is part of this disappointing trend. Involving us in a fourth conflict in a decade – with little at stake and with no coherent political-military strategy – will hasten our fall, not reverse it.

British policy must focus on stopping the civil war from spreading into the lands of close allies like Jordan. There are nearly 200,000 refugees there. Speaking in August, when the number was around 140,000, King Abdullah said: “We can’t afford anymore Syrians coming through because of the load it is on the system here.”

In October, the New York Times reported that the United States had sent military personnel to the country to help the Jordanians handle the crisis. Given our long history with the Hashemite dynasty, this is what we ought to be doing.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronHEllis

Syrian rebels must accommodate Russia to end the civil war

Alexander Pannett 12.30pm 

The civil war in Syria has entered a new chapter of vicious proportions. In the past week a government plane and helicopter have been shot down and suicide bombs have erupted through the capital, Damascus. The rebels have now acquired heavy weaponry and surface-to-air missiles, underlining their growing proficiency and power.

Worryingly for the West, foreign Jihadists have been reported amongst the rebel ranks, including such al-Qaeda linked groups as the Al Nusrah Front. Fourteen of these groups based in the city of Aleppo recently rejected the newly formed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Oppositional forces, instead calling for an Islamic State. In a country with vast stores of biological and chemical weaponry, the threat of Islamists gaining control of such dangerous reservoirs is particularly chilling.

These developments re-affirm the importance of the recent establishment of the National Coalition as the political leadership of the rebellion. It offers hope that a national government can be formed after Assad’s fall that will represent all the disparate elements of the rebellion and prevent Syria fracturing into chaos.

However, the Assad regime’s demise is far from certain. As each day goes by, Syria falls more and more apart as mounting atrocities splinter societies and allow extremist elements to gain support. Now that there is an established opposition government, the West must send arms and funds to secular rebel groups that support the National Coalition. But it must and can do more to speed the downfall of Assad. The quickest way to achieve this goal is to use old-fashioned realpolitik to both cut away Assad’s international support and to offer him a personal exit and sanctuary.

The major supporter of Assad that is preventing any action by the UN Security Council is Russia. I have written before about why Russia supports Assad and it is one reason above all others, Tartus. The Russian naval base at Tartus on the Syrian coast grants the Russian navy access to the Mediterranean and influence over the vital water-ways that lead to the strategically important Middle East. The West must press the National Coalition to assure Russia that it will retain its naval base after the fall of the Assad regime. This will encourage Russia to allow a UN mandate to impose no-fly zones in Syria.

For their part, the Russians are worried about direct military intervention in Syria, citing the sovereignty of nation states to resolve domestic disputes. This is a smoke-screen dilemma that hides Russia’s anxiety about losing influence in the Middle East to the US. These fears can be allayed by the West’s encouragement of the National Coalition to announce that palatable representatives of the Assad regime will have a place in the future of Syria. The National Coalition must also emphasise that minorities will be protected and could even gain autonomy.

Russia is also concerned about the advent of Jihadist elements amongst the rebels. The West also shares these security concerns. It should therefore share intelligence with Russia in order to isolate these extremist elements. It is in Russia’s interests as much as the West to ensure that the post-Assad regime is secular and not extremist. Russia must be encouraged to see that the National Coalition is an answer to its concerns, not an enemy to its interests.

Finally, the West should allow Assad a sanctuary to encourage him to end the fighting. Despite being a betrayal of the rights of the victims of his atrocities, if he is denied escape he will resist until the last and will likely resort to chemical and biological weapons as he becomes more desperate. For this Russia could be approached to facilitate Assad’s safety. He will be more likely to respond to assurances from such a powerful protector. Allowing Assad to avoid immediate punishment may be a distasteful solution but it will save many lives and Syria from further ruin if it brings the war to a swifter end. It should also be added that sanctuary offers only temporary safety, and as Mladic and other war criminals have discovered, justice not politics is a friend of time.

Civil wars erode the fabric of society that forms the basis of any functioning state. They run in negative correlation to the abstract legitimacy of a national identity. Now that the National Coalition has formed, Western support must crystallize around its secular aims. However, to achieve a quicker end, Russian interests must be consulted and accommodated. The National Coalition can isolate the Assad regime from international support if its guarantees Russian influence in post-Assad Syria. It can also end the war before extremists become too strong by granting Assad sanctuary to Russia.

Realpolitik may be an ugly solution but, at times, it saves lives.

Follow Alexander on Twitter @alpannett

Arab politicians continue to use distant British history as an excuse for their own mistakes

Aaron Ellis 2.31pm

For many in the Arab world, the Sykes-Picot Agreement is what the Yalta conference was for many conservatives in the United States during the Cold War. It is a betrayal of people seeking freedom; a damning indictment of Great Power politics; and the source of all problems in the Middle East.

As with Yalta, all kinds of things are attributed to Sykes-Picot years after the event. For instance, the veteran Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt has said the Syria crisis is “unravelling” a deal that created the countries of the region. This lazy understanding was reinforced by the Guardian’s Martin Chulov writing that the Agreement was adopted by Britain and France in 1919, not 1916

The Sykes-Picot Agreement divided up the Middle East between the two Great Powers and the Arabs; it did not create the nation states we know today.

France got modern Lebanon and southern Turkey, as well as a sphere of influence over an Arab kingdom in Syria. Britain acquired most of Mesopotamia and exercised influence over a Y-shaped Arab kingdom that stretched from the Egyptian border to northern Iraq and down into the Arabian Peninsula. Though the post-war carve-up vaguely resembled the deal, it actually began to unravel almost as soon as it had been negotiated by Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot.

British officials in Cairo hated the Agreement and worked to undermine it: they wanted Syria to be part of a Greater Egyptian viceroyalty that would rival the Indian Raj.

"I am afraid that swine Monsieur P[icot] has let M. S. badly down," wrote the Tory politician and diplomat Aubrey Herbert, an intelligence officer in Cairo. “This is what comes of disregarding the ABC of Diplomacy and letting Amateurs have a shy at delicate and important negotiations.”

In 1917, the deal unravelled further when the Bolsheviks leaked its details to embarrass the Allies, prompting a fierce reaction to what was viewed as outdated imperialist thinking, especially in the United States. The Russian Revolution had also removed Britain’s geopolitical reasoning for giving the French such a huge chunk of the Middle East: creating a buffer zone between them and the Russian Empire, which had been promised land in Turkey. Sykes wrote that the sooner the Agreement was scrapped the better, as the world had “marched so far” since it had been negotiated a year before and it could “now only be considered as a reactionary measure”.

His about-turn coincided with one higher up in government when David Lloyd George became Prime Minister in December 1917. Lloyd George wanted to increase Britain’s sphere of influence beyond that which Sykes had negotiated just a few years before. In his book A Line in the Sand, James Baar reports a conversation between Lloyd George and French premiere Georges Clemenceau in which the latter conceded to British demands. “Tell me what you want,” Clemenceau is supposed to have asked him.

“I want Mosul.”

“You shall have it. Anything else?”

“Yes, I want Jerusalem too.”

“You shall have it,” said Clemenceau. These concessions were recognised in the many peace conferences after the First World War, thus by 1922 the Sykes-Picot Agreement had completely unravelled.

The Middle Eastern order that people like Mr Jumblatt fear is disintegrating was created long after this much-maligned deal was a dead letter, and centuries-old problems in the region cannot be blamed on what was even then considered to be old-fashioned thinking about Great Power politics.

Britain can be rightly blamed for many things, but too often Arab politicians use our decades-old faults as an excuse for their own mistakes.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronHEllis

We cannot intervene in Syria

Giles Marshall 9.16am

I hate to say it, but Vladimir Putin has something of a point about Syria. We could do worse than simply wring our hands and leave things to the once and future Russian President.

Our problem is our outraged liberal values. Yet if we were able to take a step back from moral emotionalism, we would also have to acknowledge that not a single western intervention in the Middle East has resulted in a safer and more stable regime. Usually the reverse - utter chaos, anarchy and extremism, where innocents still die in large numbers.

Peter Oborne has a revealing account from ‘free’ Libya in this week’s Spectator (not yet online). In it he offers a vision of street fighting as a spectator sport, the kidnapping of hotel managers, and the descent of society into a murderous, corrupt abyss. There may not have been sweetness nor light under Colonel Gadaffi, no more than Iraq was a blissful democracy under Saddam Hussein, but what the West has orchestrated in its place is arguably much worse.

There are few things more damaging to a society, or more inimical to the pursuit of worldly peace, than countries without functioning governments. We might rail in our foolishness against governments and politicians here in the liberal West, but that is because we have them.

Governments are absolute prerequisites for stable, functioning and prosperous societies. That is why in 1787 the American Founding Fathers decided it was so important to have strong central government rather than merely a loose confederation of states. And that is why western nations today should err on the side of caution before conniving to overthrow yet another ghastly regime.

It could be that President Assad will fall in time as a result of internal revolt. On the other hand, it could be that we have greatly underestimated the support he still receives in much of Syria, and the fear that Syrians have of being overrun by Islamic militia of the type now ruling the roost in Iraq and Libya.

Whatever the true state of affairs, it would be madness now to propose action on the basis of emotional news reportage, regardless of how imperative and moral such an intervention might seem to us.

In this instance, it is the morally neutral President Putin who could in fact understand the value of realpolitik more than we do. We do not have to like Putin or the Syrian regime to realise that there is far more to Syria than we could ever hope to comprehend. That of course was the case in both Iraq and Libya, but this time, perhaps, we should resist the temptations of our better nature in favour of realism, however unpleasant it may seem to us. It is profoundly conservative, and reflects that clear understanding of man’s flawed nature.

It is not heroic, but international affairs rarely are.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesmarshall

It is simple: we cannot allow the offensive and malicious Ken Livingstone back into City Hall

Craig Barrett 11.39am

Polls polls polls! "Boris lead narrows!" "Ken less popular than his party!" "Boris more popular than Tories!" "Only 12% of people believe that Ken is honest!"

While opinion polling has become much more sophisticated, anyone who watched the 1992 general election coverage on Easter Monday would know that only one poll matters: when you enter your booth and wield your pencil (unless you live in Tower Hamlets, of course).

With just one week to go until the election for London’s mayor, the current polling serves only to allow campaigners to twist and spin to whatever advantage possible and to remind people (like me) that we should be doing more to help.

I feel a bit sorry in some ways for the London Labour party. They have had a candidate forced on them who seems to owe no loyalty to them barring the right to campaign under their banner and deploy their activists for his own ends.

Had Labour picked someone else, Mr Livingstone, who believes the mayoralty his divine right, would have run as an independent candidate as he did in 2000.

Mr Livingstone’s campaign is a goulash of undeliverable policies, bold but inaccurate pronouncements about his Tory opponent, and craft attempts to shift the media’s focus away from his own activities. It is not so much that Mr Livingstone is a stranger to the truth, it is more that lying and smoke-screens come easier to him.

To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that he has no power to restore the EMA, or that the TfL ‘cash mountain’ is intended for investment rather than fare giveaways. To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that the only experience he has to validate his comments on Boris Johnson’s tax affairs comes from his own hypocritical tax avoidance. To Mr Livingstone, it matters not that what spews from his mouth is offensive to one group of Londoners or another.

Mr Livingstone has given us no compelling reasons to vote for him; no policies on which any Londoner can be certain of his delivering. His crony-aplenty, wasteful record in City Hall speaks for itself.

Contrast that figure with Boris Johnson, who has actually delivered on his promises - whether policing, sustainable housing, tax freezes and others - and whose plans are both costed and practical.

But above all else, consider two vital points. First, I am not old enough to remember Mr Livingstone’s reign as leader of the Greater London Council but I know enough to understand it for what it was: a publicly funded one man crusade of self-justification, with money poured down the drain to embarrass Mrs Thatcher’s government or to challenge its actions in the courts.

The Mayor of London must speak for the city with an independent voice, but they must also be able to co-operate with central government to ensure the best for the city. For at least the first three years of the next mayor’s tenure there will be a Conservative politician in 10 Downing Street and while Mr Johnson and Mr Cameron may not be close personally, they do at least have a mutual understanding and interest.

Boris Johnson is a doughty fighter who has regularly exercised his inherent independence to seek the best for London. Mr Livingstone’s egomania and pathological hatred of the Tories will mean that were he to be elected next week, it would be the start of at least three years of pitched battles on meaningless fronts, all paid for by London’s rate payers.

Second, and perhaps most important, Mr Livingstone’s public utterances over the past few months demonstrate the type of man he is.

Whether suggesting that a councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham ought to “burn in hell…and…flesh be flayed for demons for all eternity”; whether suggesting that gay bankers in the Middle East could be mutilated; whether suggesting that London’s Jewish population is too rich to vote Labour; or whether simply another cheap insult at a critic, Mr Livingstone appears oblivious to the effect of his own words.

It is not good enough for the Labour party to say “Ken is just being Ken”, or words to that effect. Mr Livingstone is no Jed Bartlet, and the fact that many in the Labour party are doing their best to distance themselves from their own candidate shows the whole strategy is a farce.

In a few months, the eyes of the world will be on London and other cities around the country as Britain hosts the Olympic & Paralympic Games. Boris Johnson may be gaffe-prone but unlike Mr Livingstone his gaffes are rarely offensive and certainly not malicious. We in this great and historic capital city cannot afford to have as our mayor a man who appears to set his stall deliberately to offend others.

For this reason, above all others, I urge you to back Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.

Follow Craig on Twitter @mrsteeduk

Talking to the Taliban will not solve our problems in Afghanistan

Aaron Ellis 10.34am

The debate over Afghanistan is like a boom & bust economy: repeatedly rocked by speculative financial bubbles that promise to end the war quickly.

As with financial bubbles, these get-peace-quick schemes show good returns initially but soon collapse under the weight of their own hype. Their investors - politicians, media pundits et al - are left feeling cheated, and so begin looking for the next big idea. The cycle continues.

In 2009, many ‘investors’ bought into population-centric counterinsurgency (P-COIN). That bubble burst when the following year when President Obama fired ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal, the architect of the P-COIN strategy in Afghanistan. If you’re looking for the proverbial get-peace-quick investment today, the smart money’s on talking to the Taliban.

Like bubbles before it, talking to the Taliban is not a solution to our Afghan problems. It will not achieve our stated objective of stopping al-Qa’ida from returning to the country and using it as a safe haven from which to plan attacks on the West.

David Cameron signed a strategic partnership with President Hamid Karzai in January, which states that both their governments:

"…recognise the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism, particularly from Al-Qaeda, and will strive unceasingly to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for any insurgent or terrorist group…"

The West’s strategy is two-fold. First, we will build up the country’s security forces so that they can expel al-Qa’ida if they try to return after our troops leave in 2014. Second, we will persuade the Taliban to break from the terrorist group by luring them into a power-sharing deal. The Prime Minister mentioned this during his press conference with President Karzai.

Regrettably, this strategy is conceptually flawed.

The first part assumes that Osama bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan in the 1990s because it was a defenceless failed state. The second part assumes that if the Taliban agree to keep al-Qa’ida out of the country then they will be able to impose their will on local powerbrokers in a way no Afghan government has been able to do since the Iron Amir in the nineteenth century.

Both assumptions are undermined by the Haqqani network, which is allegedly responsible for the attacks in Kabul on Sunday.

When Osama bin Laden was kicked out of the Sudan in 1996, he did not flee to Afghanistan because it was a failed state; he fled there because of the protection offered by his close relationships with local powerbrokers like Jalaluddin Haqqani. Indeed, the grizzled guerrilla leader was crucial to al-Qa’ida, according to a paper published last July by West Point’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC). Haqqani provided al-Qa’ida with space to develop.

The CTC paper warns that Haqqani’s network retains strong ties to al-Qa’ida, suggesting it is unlikely the former will meaningfully disengage. If we are to contemplate talking to the Taliban, we have to understand the important role the Haqqanis play in the war. They are the most militarily effective force among the insurgency and the only conduit for the Taliban to project power in the direction of Kabul and south-east Afghanistan.

It is likely that the Haqqani network orchestrated the attacks on Sunday, as well as similar attacks in the Afghan capital last September. These ‘spectaculars’, as they are called, are meant to convey the simple message that the Taliban (via the Haqqanis) can strike anywhere irrespective of how secure an area seems.

Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador in Afghanistan, captured the insurgents’ dynamic when he commented tartly: “The Taliban are very good as issuing statements, less good at fighting.”

The historian Thomas Barfield explains, and is worth quoting at length:

"…[t]hose Afghan leaders who would best succeed during the [twentieth] century employed a ‘Wizard of Oz’ strategy. They declared their governments all-powerful, but rarely risked testing that claim by implementing controversial policies.

Conversely, the leaders who were most prone to failure and state collapse were those who assumed that they possessed the power to do as they pleased, and then provoked opposition that their regimes proved incapable of suppressing.”

Afghanistan is perhaps the most complex conflict in history. It contains all the problems of modern warfare and is the sum of decades of internal strife and great power politics.

The downside to this is the difficulty in finding solutions. “In Afghanistan, things are rarely as they seem,” General McChrystal once said. “If you pull the lever, the outcome is not what you have been programmed to think.”

This applies to the many get-peace-quick schemes that have dominated the Afghan debate, whether in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, or talking to the Taliban. All produce outcomes that their many ‘investors’ do not anticipate, so putting the war effort at risk.

If we truly want to achieve our stated objective in Afghanistan - a relatively stable  country that can block al-Qa’ida’s return - then our solutions need to be as nuanced as the war is complex.

And of course, more and more governments are concluding that this just isn’t worth the effort.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronHEllis