Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 17 July 2009


It has been painful to hear the news of the increasing death toll of our troops in Afghanistan. It begs the question why are we out there.

I strongly support the mission of taking the fight to the Taliban and Al Qaeda to prevent that part of the world becoming a crucible of terrorist training and planning once again. We must not forget that it was from Taliban-run Afghanistan that the attack on the twin towers was planned and put into practice back in 2001. It was there that training camps were set up to fire up young radicals to bring their terror to our streets in the USA and UK, including the attacks in London on 7th July. It could be Plymouth next.

I entirely accept the argument that if we don’t challenge them in their bleak homelands, we will have to challenge them ever more frequently on our own streets.

So this crucial campaign has a clear mission. The current surge by US and UK troops under the NATO banner will result in more casualties but hopefully drive the Taliban back and destroy their capacity to reap mayhem and incubate terrorist activity around the world.

What I am less certain about is the lofty ambition to turn this region into some kind of 21st century paragon of democracy. Or rather I would support it, if it were realistic. I fear that Afghanistan is still very much in the pre-democratic phase – mainly run by gangsters and warlords. The best we can hope for is to destroy the Taliban’s potential for a generation and then withdraw our forces to allow the Afghan people to run the country as best they can, with no doubt much aid being poured in from the developed world.

And while our troops are doing such heroic work in such inhospitable conditions, they should have the very best kit to protect and equip them for the job. We should never send our soldiers and marines into conflict with second class equipment. People ask in a recession where the extra money would come from. I approach this differently. If defending our nation is any government’s first priority, the defence budget, an adequate one to meet our commitments, should be the first claim on the Exchequer. Once that amount is sorted, we can turn to the other spending commitments that have to be made. In a dangerous world, our armed forces should always come first.

posted by Gary @ 10:05