Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Are the LibDems About to Change Policy on Afghanistan?

With every day that passes, I am convinced that the LibDems will enter the next election campaign with a promise to withdraw from Afghanistan. They daren't come out with it now, but as sure as eggs is eggs, that's the direction in which they are tiptoeing. If it was some principled stance, one could have a rational debate about it, but it's not. It's pure, calculated, naked political opportunism. Their strategists have identified it as the only issue on which they can really differentiate themselves from the main two parties.

What does this say about them? I'll let their actions speak for themselves.


Anonymous said...

this is very true, Iain. It's the same as Clegg banging on about flipping, etc. This moral grandstanding came AFTER he made sure the Limp Dims were cleared of flipping, not before.

This the kind of blatant opportunism and low politics we have all come to expect from them.

How elese can they get on TV? They are a nothing party with a nothing leader.

Unknown said...

What it says Iain is that it's a war not worth fighting. The problem with Islamic terrorists is on the streets of Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Blackburn.

Why do you think the English Defence League is on the rise? Wet liberal politicians are wasting soldiers lives for some nonsense about "teaching girls in schools" in Afghanistan. So what about every other backwards Muslim Country that treats women and homosexuals like dirt? We going to invade them as well?

We should get out now and start cracking skulls here in the UK.

I'd be happier with Predator Drones over Bradford than over Tora Bora.

Anonymous said...

It's clever, though. All those rather brainless people in places like Richmond and Twickenham who should be voting Tory and returning those constituencies to the Tory fold will like such a policy...."Well I was going to vote Conservative again, but someone on Good Morning the other day said it was high time we withdrew from Afghanistan and, you know what, they're right - all those senseless deaths, and all because of Blair's lies - we should withdraw now. Vote Liberal!"

Anonymous said...

Maybe it says they don't want to pintlessly sacrifice the lives and limbs of brave young people for the sake of fat, cowardly wastes of space like us.

Anonymous said...

Its what the LD always do!

They are the master political opportunists.

Just look at Nick Clegg on expenses today, yet he fails to release the letters sent to his MPs and says nothing about Rennard or the Dodgy £2.4 Million donation that were the proceeds of crime.

LD are pathetic, they claim to be above party politics but are the worst for playing party politics.

LD = Shameless two faced hypercrits.

Indeed the Most pompous of them in my opinion is Susan Kramer mp for Richmond Park. She is so condercending it is unreal. I think her predeccor was the one who mentioned bombing afghans with food or something equally barmey!

Brian Wright said...

But surely Clegg is right- unless we can end up with a functioning, semi-democratic government in Afghanistan then all the tragic loss of lives will have been in vain? I am afraid that the moment the US gave all the money to the Warlords to assist them with the occupation the game was lost. The Taliban was created because the Warlords could not run the country when the Russians were sent packing. Our only hope may be to detach the Taliban from Bin Laden and his chums. After all their biggest financial backer when they were in power before was the US Drugs Agency.

Kalvis Jansons said...

I hope that the LibDems do exactly that, but I also hope they do it for good reasons!

Dungeekin said...

Well, we do need a drastic change in policy.

What's needed isn't an increase in guns, tanks and bullets - it's an increase in fairness and social justice.


**warning - link may contain satire**

Anonymous said...

No there are lots of things that they could do that would distance them from the Labour Party and BluLabour.

A referendum for one.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree, the Libdems are an opportunistic amoral lot, and not to be trusted, just like Newlab and the Tories.

Still, if I had to pick the best of a bad lot, and I only had a choice of three, I suppose the Tories would get my vote.

Andy T said...

To be fair most (if not all) LD voters probably support a withdrawal from Afghanistan so not sure why this would be unprincipled or opportunistic?

Jimmy said...

What else can they do? They could attack the policy while simultaneously agreeing with it, but then that wouldn't differentiate them from the tories.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to borrow the thread but I heard your 'friend' Yasmin A-B on Radio 4, about 2.40.

She was bemoaning the fact that she was the only coloured Comment writer on The Independent (!) and saying that she felt that unlike her white fellows she was writing for coloured readers and not just white ones. Hence her 'importance'.

Pardon me? Who does she think she is? Quite apart from effectively saying that The Independent is institutionally racist, she brazenly assumes that a white writer cannot be writing for a coloured audience, or any audience except a white one.
This, 'the only coloured in the village' stance is a disgrace.

SHE is the one creating divisions. You are far to soft on her Mr Dale.

BTW I believe Jo Brand on R5 has been saying that black people being prejudiced against whites is not racism but vice versa is.

Ah well, 'go figure'!

Anonymous said...

You may well be right. The mood music has been pointing that way since before the conference season.

I'm also wondering if the LDs are planning to position themselves as the clean party at the election. I'm imagining a guerilla campaign rather than a national strategy. Clegg is essentially right; flipping and capital gains tax are important potential abuses of the expense system. However, is he motivated by strategy and politics or a principaled position.

Nic Conner said...

I can not help think your right with this one Iain.

If this does turn into LibDem policy it will be the lowest of the low of election pledges. They know they can not win so they will play on people's emotions to try and keep a couple of seats.

With the media reporting negative news about Afghanistan, as most news producers seem to think this is there vietnam and only reporting of the deaths in Afghistan instead of aswell reporting British and other forces victories. This could damage the mission and put our boys and girls at more of a risk.

Savonarola said...

Whether the LibDem's new position is unprincipiled or not is not the point. Give them some credit for saying what we know but are afraid to express.

The question is this. Why are we in Afghanistan? The Govt's stock answer is this that this is for our securuity. Bollocks.

We are there under an ill thought through prospectus.

The taleban are there for life. We will withdraw ignomeniously when the body bag counts becomes.

An utter waste.

Just like Vietnam. The Viet Cong were never going to give up against a corrupt regime in the South. The Taleban will never give up to a corrupt regime in Kabul.

Wake up. It will happen. The Butcher's Bill is far too high already for this unwinnable ill thought out campaign.

Will 883 said...

Disappointing post, Iain, and smacks of the worst type of negative campaigning: i.e. speculate about something that hasn’t actually happened, and then go on discuss it as if it was fact (e.g. “What does this say about them?”).

Have you any evidence to suggest it is being considered by the Lib Dems in terms of being a political opportunity?

neil craig said...

The problem is that if there were any principles involved they would have had to oppose it at the beginning when Bush appeared to have won.

Indeed even then the fact that the LibDems were the party most enthusiastic for bombing Yugoslav hospitals, to help a KLA they all knew were NATO organised gangsters, sex slavers & organleggers openly engaged in genocide against a democratic & peaceful Yugoslav regime, stops it being possible for them to oppose any war as a matter of principle. I grant that they only win the prize of party most enthusiasticly supporting war crimes & genocide by a nose.

That leaves their reason for running purely cowardice. I think it is unwise cowardice too.

The fact is that though the Afghan war is being fought very badly & on the enemies terms we know that we are capable of easily defeating them because we did initially & we know that it is simply impossible for the Taliban to win because even before we were involved they were unable to fully defeat the northern alliance alone.

Anonymous said...

To get back to the tread.

Clegg is not willing to address the problem and stay the course to see it through. To be honest it does not sound as if Brown is either.

Training the Afghan Army will be a long job. To leave the job half finished will definitely mean that the dead have died for nothing. The hints coming out of Brown, that training will be stepped up, probably means that it will not be done properly and that in effect means that it will be a waste of time.

The fact is that the war is being badly explained by the govt and badly explained by the press ('Defence of the Realm' do rabbit on but they are far to long winded and pompous about it). A future govt needs to be much more clear and straight forward as well as making sure priority goes to the fight.

The fact that Obama himself has not made his mind up speaks volumes. If he does a U-Turn than Brown will be hung out to dry.

rob's uncle said...

It says [1] we have common sense and [2] we are not Tories. Let's do it!

Iain Dale said...

Will, yes. I interviewed Nick Harvey. I put it to him that it was possible they would go into an election with such a policy and he admitted it. It will be in the next issue of Total Politics.

I don't just write a post like this on a whim, you know.

Tapestry said...

I want Clegg to carry on with his claimed campaign to re-establish Parliamentary Privilege.

That would be wonderful, wouldn't it.

We might say - 'Mr Clegg, was it not you who deprived your voters of a referendum on Lisbon, and the destruction of Britain's Constitution?

And thereby it was you who personally ensured Parliamentary Privilege was lost - so that, in future once Lisbon is signed, companies like Trafigura can have 'accidents' killing and maiming thousands, and yet still, with the services of Solicitors Carter-Ruck, keep it all quiet?'

We know two things about you, Mr Clegg.

You don't keep your promises when it counts.

The other thing is that your policy initiatives are as meaningful as the hot air that flows out of your Carter.

Keep going with the Rucks if that is the agenda you want. As long as we don't need to listen to any more of your legendary insincerity.

That's all we ask. At least Kennedy made it sound as if we meant it (when coherent).

Nic Conner said...

First Martin:
We are not in Afghanistan for "teaching girls in schools" that is just one of the good things which comes out of being there. The main reason we are there is to secure the regian: Afghanistan, north Pakistan etc. from extremists and if we do not secure the regian we see it on the steets of the UK.

Second anonymous 3:31
'all those senseless deaths, and all because of Blair's lies'
The deaths are not sensless as I point out for the reason before. please do not get confused with Iraq and Afganistan. We are there becose of 9/11 and 7/7 and stop the spread extremism.

Anonymous said...

Clegg and Obama on same wavelength then.

STB2 said...

It's the easiest thing in the world to attack your opponents as political opportunists, for how could they disprove it? How could anyone? Reasonable arguments for withdrawal, ones that would be accepted if they came from David Cameron, will simply be dismissed out of hand.

This was a poor post, Iain.

Botogol said...

but it would be right to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Captain Haddock said...

So Iain,
The Tories can change their mind about Iraq but the Lib Dems can't about Afghanistan. The Tories are so opportunistic and jump on whatever bandwagon comes their way. Works both ways Iain.

Nigel said...

>If it was some principled stance, one could have a rational debate about it, but it's not ...<<

Forget the Liberals stance on this. It's an irritation at best.
There should be a rational debate on whether we stay in Afghanistan, and nothing approaching one has taken place so far.

And you should read Rufus Phillips' book.

Brian Wright said...

Perhaps Ian Dale could spell out what victory in Afghanistan will entail? Is it merely that Karzai becomes mayor of a few more towns? Why not ask Rory Stewart on the hustings in Bracknell? Brian Wright

Anonymous said...

It makes no difference what the Libdims say I will not vote for them.

Also tell Cameron, no referendum-no vote for the Conservatives.

Weygand said...

You have stated your evidence for saying the Lib Dems are considering changing their policy.

You have not explained why this would be "blatant opportunism".

As you suggest, whether one might agree with such a policy or not, it's certainly not an unarguable position.

You will recall that the Lib Dems argued against the invasion of Iraq and I would guess that a large number of MPs on all sides of the House have now come round to the view that they were probably right.

One thing is certain, the government has so far failed to explain the strategy of the present mission in Afghanistan and how it might be achieved with the resources that are being made available.

The Purpleline said...

I am a Tory through and through, but I can see some logic in this policy, if the LibDem do reverse their position on Afghanistan.

What is the point sending our boys and girls into harms way, if some fucker from the ministry and his CIA chum are talking to the Taliban. Either we are total War and fight until we vanquish militant Islam or we should leave & retrench protecting our own country.

Like with Iran, I believe Afghanistan should be left alone, with the following warning.

1) Iran if you get the bomb and continue to seek getting the bomb, we will nuke you
back to the Stone Age.

2) Afghanistan and Pakistan, if you continue to allow and encourage militant Islamic terrorists to attack us, we will Nuke you plus Mecca and every single Islamic site in the World. If all five members of the Security Council signed that pledge, perhaps we could stop this in its tracks and then sort Israel and the Arabs out.

The above takes away our futile attempts to treat these people as equal, we should never care about teaching girls or saving women. It is not our duty to patrol the world and democratise the planet. Perhaps on the Girl and Women front we could just ensure they have safe passage to India or Iraq leaving the men to their own devices.

Your call, Simples we have Nukes so let’s use them for a good cause.

Ed Butt said...

It's the only way the Lib Dems can differenite themselves from Labour and Conservative because the other two intellectually bankrupt gangs of crooks and liars have stolen all the Lib Dems other ideas.

ex_Dip said...

Commitment to withdrawal from (that unwinnable war in) Afghanistan and a vote on Europe and they'll get my vote. They're no more hypocritical than the other troughers!

Andy said...

Iain, you know as well as I that there is a debate in the Lib-Dems about the Afgan war. You know this because these debates happen in all parties.

You just disasgree with the policy but because it comes from the Lib-Dems you say it's opportunistic, if this was Cameron's new policy you'd just say you disagree.

Laurence said...

Your use of "rational debate" like this is straight out of the New Labour Lexicon. It sounds reasonable at first blush but the implication is that your counterparty is irrational. Let's get rid of these people and their language too.

WobblyJim said...

A sensible policy would be one where :

A) Agree to purchase the entire Poppy/Opium output of the country, thus funding the Afghani Government and depriving the funding of the Militia.

B) No Militia - no need for International troops, bring our squaddies home.

C) Using previously purchased opium, licence it for refinement into pharmacutical products for the NHS with excess being sold to other countries pharmacutical markets.

Win Win Win situation,
makes war difficult in Afghanistan as the main source of militia's funding is now being used by the Afghani government for the people of Afghanistan.
Brings home our troops and saves us a fortune in fighting the "war".

Produces cheaper opiate based medicines for the NHS as the UK would own and provide the raw material.

Excess product could be sold on and create a revenue stream.

What is wrong with this as a sensible plan where nobody loses except the Taliban and a few bent war lords ?

Dangerouslysubversivedad said...

"Their strategists have identified it as the only issue on which they can really differentiate themselves from the main two parties."

LOL, a bit of unintentional hitting of the nail on the head there...

David E. Jones said...


I am sensing that it is not just the LibDems who are re-thinking their policy on Afghanistan but the Tories as well!

David J.

Nigel said...

Afghanistan has been going on for eight years now.

Preventing terrorism is not a credible reason for staying in - numerous countries are far safer havens for AQ.
The 'war on drugs' is a sad joke which should have been buried with Nixon.

What are we trying to achieve there - and even if we knew what that was, how long might it take ?

And at what cost ?

Joe Public said...

So Gordon's sending another 500 targets to the Taliban.

rob's uncle said...

Nigel: this was the deputy PM’s answer in July:
‘John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): ' . . I wonder whether she could remind the House of precisely what our military objective in Afghanistan is.'
Ms Harman: . . We do not want anyone to be in any doubt about the importance of this mission in Afghanistan. It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism, which threatens people not only in those countries but in the wider region and, indeed, the whole world.
This mission is also important for the education of people in Afghanistan. There are now 6 million children in school in that country, compared with only 1 million in early 2001. Our troops have paved the way, working with other international forces, to make that possible. They are paving the way for economic development and a more secure democracy as well as security in the region and the world . . ‘

I took this at the time to mean that she doesn’t have a clue why we are in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Over a year ago Paddy Ashdown warned unless policy changed the war was lost, and we would have to withdraw. The Lib Dems have been consistent on Afghanistan.

Tapestry said...

Clegg should campaign for PR.

The Lib Dems came 4th in the European elections.

Once the Green section have gone,the Lib Dems have little support left.

True Belle said...

Has anyone asked our guys in the services why they joined up?

I believe they would be very unhappy if they had no battles to fight, ask them what they think.

Adrenaline is a heady fix!

Anonymous said...

The Libdems have a policy to change? Now that is news.

Unknown said...

Nic Conner: Rubbish. Every other sentance from politicians (especially wet liberal ones) is that we are in Afghanistan to allow girls to be educated. This crap is spouted from every female politician as well.

Al Qaeda (or Alky Ada as McIdiot calls them) are NOT in Afghanistan, they are in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and parts of Africa. Oh and part of England as well.

The idea of nation building is rubbish, outside of the large cities Afghanistan is a dumphole, always has been, always will be.

If you want to deny Tora Bora to Al Qaeda just nuke it a few times. No one will be able to use it then.

If Muslims from Bradford can't go to Afghanistan for training they will go elsewhere. The problem is Islam and the 1400 year old mentality of a backward religion.

You need to defeat a whole religion. The only safe Country would be one totally free of Muslims, anyone offering to set one up please?

Nigel said...

>>I took this at the time to mean that she doesn’t have a clue why we are in Afghanistan.<<

Do the Conservatives ?

This isn't a party political issue for me. I am dismayed by absence of any attempt by anyone to provide a serious rationale for staying in Afghanistan.

Tory criticism of tactics, funding, equipment etc. is fair enough. They seem to have nothing substantive to say about strategy.

Weygand said...

I am sorry not to see no explanation from our host.

Is it that Iain suspects that DC himself is still unsure what the best policy is - like most of us.

Perhaps it is now clear to Iain that should he become a candidate and then MP that this wonderful blog would soon be compromised beyond redemption.

You cannot remain true to the principle of independent thought and action and pledge unflinching support to another hierarchy - however sympathetic one may be to the other.

Sooner or later, you'll need to decide which team you are on; your own or that of another. As an atheist may I still cite Matthew 6: 24

Iain Dale said...

Weygand, clearly you cannot read. I explained above that this story came from an interview I did with Nick Harvey, the LibDem defence spokesman. Sigh.

Nic Conner said...


I do agree that Afghanistan is not by it self the sole epicenter more as a peace of the jigsaw of the regian. This is why we need to stay and help make Afghanistan more stable which will make the regian as a hole more stable.

One of many good thing about being there and bring freedom is that it 'allow girls to be educated.' Not the reason of being there but a result.

If we did leave, it would destabilize the regian and with that destable us here in the UK. So being there and 'nation building' is good for our own safty.

Islam is not the problem, nor are Muslims evil. It the few extremist who take Islam out of context are the evil ones.

A country which denies the individual the freedom of religion is not a safe country and any one who believes this is no different from the Islam extremist.

Dimoto said...

Strategists ?
Who they ? Simon Hughes, Lord Razzell and Shirley Williams ?
Ooo er missus.

Dimoto said...

I also agree that the Afghan entanglement is stupid and futile, and we are only there to please the US.

Doesn't mean I'll waste my vote on Cleggy though; there is only one priority right now, get this corrupt, incompetant scum out of the government of Britain ASAP before our chronic condition becomes terminal.

Magical_Mist said...

This will more than likely happen. The Lib Dems suck ass.

Manfarang said...

The question is not if but when is Britain withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Bunny Smedley said...

But isn't one of the notional benefits of representative democracy its ability to give voters the policies they want?

I suspect that unless the Lib Dems change their position on Afghanistan, very soon we'll be at a point where the majority of British voters favour more or less gradual withdrawal from our present military intervention there - a bit of a Rory Stewart stance, if you don't mind my saying so - while all major parties favour open-ended, ever-increasing intervention. That can't be quite right, can it?

Weygand said...

Sorry Iain you're the one who cannot read.

Had you done so, you would have seen in my first post that I noted your evidence for the Lib Dems change of policy but not for the allegation that it was blatant opportunism and asked what that evidence was.

That explanation that had not and still has not come.

Like many others here, I would have rather you addressed the serious issues behind any change in policy rather than turning it into a sneering, point scoring party political issue which questions people's good faith - unless you do indeed have a good reason to do so and in that case what is it?

Savonarola said...

Well said Weygand.

The Con Party will nudge nudge towards the in inescapable conclusion that we have absolutely no rational reason to be in Afghanistan.

Security is total bollocks as anyone with half a brain can work out. This is another knee jerk Bush-Blair escapade -they should hang their heads in shame.

And the cost of this reckless adventure is the blood of our brave men in the field.

Spectator said...

So the Lib Dems are the only political opportunists?!

In any case I think that the Tories would be happy to hide behind the LibDems skirts on this one.

(BTW I'm not a LibDem)

Victor, NW Kent said...

Never mind Clegg. It is Cameron that needs to see the folly of continuing in Afghanistan.

I am about as Conservative as one can get but I am very far from being alone in wanting us out of there.

I no longer care what the Afghanis do to their own populace - that is their way of life. They are a mediaeval culture with some modern weaponry. Their traditions involve women as property and centuries old clan and tribe conflicts. Those require a lot of killing and so lots of breeding to keep up.It also means that they have more young women than young men so polygamy is acceptable.

Andrew said...

Can't help feeling the Lib Dems are ahead of the game on this.
It's only a matter of time before we withdraw from Afghanistan.

Simply put in order for any democracy to win a long, hard military campaign there needs to be a popular concensus that the war is neccessary coupled with a clear understanding of what actually constitutes "victory".
In the case of Afganistan we have neither so public opposition will
gradually grow as the cost in lives and resources starts to mount.
For an operation to succeed the "Home front" must be secured
before committing troops, to do otherwise is to risk wasting the lives of good you men - which is where we are today.
NATO leaders need to think ahead and start pursuing a credible exit
strategy to prevent a withdrawal from looking like an abject defeat.
For good geo-political reasons we can ill afford for the west to be seen as humbled by a bunch of tribesmen.

Of course all of the above is completely lost on our politicians and the mostly like scenario is that the next government will hurriedly pull out when we can't afford it.
"strategic" defence review anyone?

Nigel said...

Succinct summary....

Q: Is the Taliban a threat?

A: Of course. The Taliban is an ongoing threat to our ongoing mission to eliminate the Taliban.

Q: And if we fail to eliminate the Taliban?

A: We cannot fail to eliminate the Taliban, as long as the Taliban continues to provide safe havens and training grounds for the Taliban.

Q: And the Taliban, of course, offers aid and comfort to the ever-dangerous Taliban.

A: Such is the deadly circle of terror.

Nich Starling said...

I think you probably aregued the same point in 2003 over Iraq.

Quietzapple said...

It would be a structural policy for them.

Charles Kennedy MAY have been honest re his anti 2nd Iraq War policy, BUT it was close to a shot to nothing.

Neither of the other main parties dared take that line. Has Sadam been toppled and there been little insurrection let alone mass murder between the factions he would not have lost much kudos or votes - some people would have said " How nice to be anti war"

He was well positioned.

Clegg may take the same sort of view re Afghanistan, BUT the stakes are higher: One Big Bomb in London traced to a plot on the Pakistan - Afghan border and . .

Lib - Dems egg on face.

Chameleon is much the same in his thinking, positioning. Brown is old fashioned. Yay!

Nigel said...

When even Jeff Randall (today's Telegraph) agrees with getting out of Afghanistan, then I think the game's up.

Quietzapple said...

I'm wondering if they might take on board the later start to formal education (to oversimplify) recommended by the Cambs Report?

Naah, too sensible . . . But structurally sound.