Total number of British Soldiers killed in Afghanistan = 344
I could not make it up.
An old friend buttonholed after the Remembrance Day event in Newport. As always it is a well attended event supported by thousands of members of public and dozens of local organisations who proudly parade. I have not seen my friend for a couple of years, but I worked closely with him on community projects in the Pillgwenlly part of my constituency in the early eighties. He is an intelligent pillar of society and a former military man of mature years.
He dispensed with the usual greeting pleasantries because he had an urgent message for me. 'I want you to do something for me' he insisted.' Go up to parliament, stand up there and tell them 'Bring our troops home from Afghanistan'.
It is tad disappointing that he had not noticed that I have given MPs earache by calling for troop withdrawal on more occasions than all other MPs added together. My friend reinforced his message by saying all his friends agreed with him. There was a supportive murmurs from the poppy proud crowd nearby. These are the people that would be expected to support military action. They don't. Public opinion is well ahead of the delusions of politicians.
I will do precisely what my constituent asked me do. Again.
I am indebted to the Independent today for giving a platform to the best informed writer on Afghanistan. James Fergusson provides a deflating blast of truth against the complacency of the military and politicos. He writes:
"Three years ago, the Taliban's control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness – although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan"; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word "Republic" and insert "Emirate", the emir in question being the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.
The most astonishing thing about this rebel district – and for Nato leaders meeting in Lisbon this week, a deeply troubling one – is that Chak is not in war-torn Helmand or Kandahar but in Wardak province, a scant 40 miles south-west of Kabul. Nato commanders have repeatedly claimed that the Taliban are on the back foot following this year's US troop surge. Mid-level insurgency commanders, they say, have been removed from the battlefield in "industrial" quantities since the 2010 campaign began. And yet Abdullah, operating within Katyusha rocket range of the capital – and with a $500,000 bounty on his head – has managed to evade coalition forces for almost four years. If Chak is in any way typical of developments in other rural districts – and Afghanistan has hundreds of isolated valley communities just like this one – then Nato's military strategy could be in serious difficulty."
Yet on the Andrew Marr show today, our military supremo is still looking forward to success. But he did confess it might take 'generations'. Public opinion will not stand for an eternal war.
Let there be darkness
A lively new Tory MP is selling the benefits of daylight saving skilfully and convincingly. I have wished her well. Today the Mail on Sunday declared war on her bill. They have no arguments to challenge the case on road safety and a better match between our daylight hours and working hours. Inevitably their plea is chauvinism. Don't drop British time in exchange for Berlin time.'
It's a fight between intelligent argument and blind prejudice.