Joyce’s Resignation Raises Same Old Question

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by Sian Lower

In September Falkirk MP Eric Joyce issued his letter of resignation as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary, stating that Britain is ” punching above it’s weight” with regard to the war in Afghanistan, and Gordon Brown needs to do more for the soldiers and their families, including more funding for kits. Now the question is raised again – why are the soldiers still there?

Joyce,48, is a former Army Major and had been involved in politics since becoming MP for Falkirk in 2000 by by-election. He has always taken a firm viewpoint on the subject of Afghanistan and now believes the Government need to change their attitude to the situation. In his resignation letter he stated:” I do not think that the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets”. When questioned further on the subject, he said,

“Britain is very highly committed in Afghanistan, much more so than European allies.  That’s not a criticism of them, I think they have their ears very close to the gound when it comes to their respective public’s opinion, but it does suggest we need to look at what that means in the context of keeping UK streets safe from international terrorism.  My own view is that UK public opinion is prepared to support present, or even slightly higher levels of commitment, but only if they have a clear sense of an end-game – that means, I think, substantial withdrawal well before the end of the next government’s term.  The present election results in Afghanistan look like being the subject of manipulation by not only the Afgh govt, but also potentially the UN itself.  Over the next couple of days, the result will be announced and will give president karzai 50.4% of a vote in which at least 10% was fraudulent.  If we sweep this under the carpet, many will accuse the allies of propping up a crook and there is a risk that the UK public will increasingly withdraw their support from the Afgh operation.  We should therefore insist on another round, or a full new election next year.”

Joyce also wrote that British allies are not pulling their weight and many people are losing sight of what the point of the war is and as such are turning against it, ” We do punch a long way above our weight, many of our allies do far too little…it should be possible now to reduce our forces there (Afghanistan) substantially”.

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50 British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan over the summer, clocking the total British body-count at 212 since 2001. Gordon Brown hit back after Joyce’s resignation letter was published, insisting, ” The UK’s aims in Afghanistan are realistic and achievable… it remains my judgement that a safer Britain requires a safer Afghanistan”.

There are currently more than 9000 UK troops in Afghanistan. Brown claims that that military spending has increased from £180,000 per year in 2006, to £390,000 for each soldier in 2009. Yet Joyce still believes the entire task is under-resourced , and said, ” It’s all about securing people in the UK, but also important that lots of other countries just as big as Britain  don’t contribute the way we do… America are so vast they could do the job themselves”.

Yet Brown is convinced he is doing the right thing, ” We are taking the right action, the action that us necessary, to safeguard both our country and promote security in the world”.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg agrees with Joyce, ” Joyce confirms what I have been saying for along time, our approach in Afghanistan is over-ambitious and under-resourced”.