Afghanistan: The End of the Fourth Anglo-Afghan War

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Debater Writer: Aaron Fentonblake

The withdrawal of our combat troops from Afghanistan next year signals the rapidly approaching end to the fourth Anglo-Afghan war. It also provides the opportunity to assess our position in the middle east. Currently we are a nation that militarily occupies another, we support Israel, rebels in Syria, we oppose Iran and through our interference in Iraq, the country has been plunged into civil war. Lastly and arguably most importantly our empirical past has left deep scars in the region that are far from healed.

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US solider in Afghan

At home we have just escaped a triple dip recession with an uncertain economic future, high unemployment, increased reticence towards immigration, a diminishing position on the world stage and an increasing uncertainty concerning Europe. However before any decisions as to what our position in the Middle East should be we must first consider our previous actions in the region. Afghanistan is a poignant example of our past with the Middle East. Our first two wars in Afghanistan took place during a period known as ‘The Great Game’ where the British and Russian empires manoeuvred for dominance on the world stage. In 1838 Lord Auckland invaded Afghanistan under the assumption that Russia was planning to invade British India through Afghanistan. After an initial victory a protracted insurgency forced a retreat. The empire then invaded Afghanistan again in 1878 to encroach upon Russian influence in the region, afterwards we gained control over Afghanistan’s foreign policy. In 1919 after the assassination of Afghanistan’s ruler, they seceded from the British Empire and in return Britain declared war. After the war Afghanistan regained control over its foreign policy and gained independence.

After our fourth war in Afghanistan has finished, how will history remember it? We are leaving the country with a corrupt government, a fragmented society, an increased drug trade and a continued civil war that we inflamed with modern warfare. We also leave an uneasiness with Pakistan in which we will see the full extent of when the dust settles and either Pakistan or India has the greater influence in the region.

So what do we actually require from the region? Resources. If Scotland gains independence the question of the North Sea oil arises and drilling in the Falklands won’t bear fruit for some time so we may require a new source of oil or an increased dependence on another nation; however history has taught us that an energy dependence on the middle east can be detrimental to our nation.

Our past in the region is empire, colonialism and war; what should our future entail in the Middle East? A returning colonial power? A consumer requiring materials? A peace broker for the region? A covert financier of rebellions? Whatever our future role in the region it must be carefully considered with knowledge of past events both distant and modern. We must consider our economic needs and the demands of our population. Most importantly we must consider what would be best for the Middle East as well as for ourselves.

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