Is it time to bring the troops home?

PUBLISHED: 10:55 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:22 12 August 2010

AN MEP who has branded the military operation in Afghanistan unjustifiable and poorly thought through has called for a reappraisal of Britain s role in the war. Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, has criticised the government for its failure to lay

AN MEP who has branded the military operation in Afghanistan "unjustifiable" and "poorly thought through" has called for a reappraisal of Britain's role in the war.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, has criticised the government for its failure to lay out clear objectives for the 9,000 British troops stationed in Afghanistan.

She said: "Our views as Greens have long been that the mission in Afghanistan was poorly thought through and it is still not clear what we are aiming to do there.

"I don't think the government can justify the military presence and I'm not sure we should.

"It's definitely time to have a serious look at the military presence in Afghanistan and, if it is going to stay, to look at how it is operating.

"There's winning the war and there is keeping the peace and they are not necessarily the same things at all.

"We are not even sure what victory would be at this stage. This started off as a mission supposedly dealing with Al-Qaeda but it's still not clear on whose behalf we are in there."

The stated aim of the war was to track down and destroy the Islamist terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda and to remove the Taliban regime which supported it. Last month, 22 British soldiers died in Afghanistan, taking the total since the war started to 204.

With no concrete plans for a withdrawal of troops in place, Ms Lambert has urged the government to rethink its position on the war and to consider pulling British troops out. But MP for Bromley and Chislehurst Bob Neill disagreed with Ms Lambert and said there was still work to do in the war-torn state. He said: "We should be in Afghanistan. You can raise questions about how well we did things in the beginning. However, our troops are still there and we therefore need to support them and equally we need to make sure they have the correct equipment.

"We want to leave Afghanistan in an orderly fashion that leaves it a better place than when we started. People were too optimistic in the beginning about the capability of the Afghan government and not enough was done to clear up security in tribal Pakistan, where borders are porous and people can move about freely.

"We have stretched our resources too wide. None of us wants to stay there for 40 years but it isn't sensible to put a timetable on it."

Orpington MP and Foreign Affairs Select Committee member John Horam said: "People are asking why we are there. We are there to stop them from bombing London. While we are fighting them there they can't attack us here. But people will only go along with that while it looks like we are succeeding.

"We did expect to see an increase in casualties because we are really fighting them now. It is too early to say what these latest efforts will yield.

"We need more troops and we need better equipment. Afghanistan is a more difficult mission than Iraq. It is going to take a long time."

But Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan from other Nato countries. The Labour MP said: "There is a case for an international presence in Afghanistan. I think there is the capacity. Apart from America, Canada and Britain have borne more of a burden than other Nato countries."

Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Derek Conway said: "I believe we have a national obligation to be part of the Nato force but I do not believe this government is delivering its part of the compact between a nation and its armed forces personnel.

"They are not paid enough, their equipment is not as it should be and the care and terms of war-wound compensation are not as generous as they would be in civilian life.

"The UK government should set Nato a timescale by which other major nations will meet similar frontline combat obligations, or announce the withdrawal of British troops. It is scandalous that nations such as Germany have caveats in the deployment of their troops to limit exposure to danger.

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