Wars have been fought throughout history, many with strong idealistic principles. This would be held at the forefront of every soldier’s mind while in these conflicts. Does this make it worth the monumental sacrifice? In some cases it could be argued so, but with the armed interventions of recent times, this great sacrifice has become increasingly unjustified.

Just fewer than 40 million individuals were killed in World War II. This was however in the wake of an evil dictator’s expansionist ideology, which was obviously a serious threat to the freedom of many in Europe and worth fighting for.

But once you remove this endeavour to fight for something you believe in, what’s worth the pain and suffering that wars inevitably shed? These outlooks are shared by many who believe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought in vain. Afghanistan in particular, as Britain failed to eliminate the corruption and weakness in the Kabul government, or prevent the Taliban finding safe haven and support in Pakistan, which ultimately prevented any long-term success.

The number of American troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan totalled 6,802 as of April 2014. Four-hundred and fourteen British soldiers died since conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001. This unbelievable cost is not just suffered by the UK and US however, as many civilians have also been murdered needlessly in the process of eliminating hostilities. A UK human rights group gave statistics on collateral damage from American drone strikes in many regions including Afghanistan. This showed attempts to kill 41 terrorist leaders caused the deaths of 1,147 people, mostly civilians and families – appallingly suggesting it took 28 civilian lives to kill a terrorist leader.

In terms of the financial cost, estimates by the independent House of Commons Library said that so far the war has cost the British taxpayer £17.3 billion. Surely this would be much better spent on employment, NHS, Housing etc.

Similar incidences of armed intervention have occurred throughout history. The Vietnam War is another example, which saw the USA opting to fight much to the horror of many Americans. After losing around 58,220 soldiers in Vietnam, America would finally pull out having failed to deal with the Vietcong after a bid to contain Communism during the Cold War.

So now it comes to dawn at the end of 2014, with plans for both the US and Britain to remove their troops from Afghanistan. This has raised questions of whether there will finally be a period of peace and prevention of needless deaths, but with 2015 firmly in place, David Cameron’s notion that December 2014 is the deadline for withdrawing British combat operations from Afghanistan, seems less believable.

An official claimed in May that there will still be troops left behind. Saying: ‘As we’ve said previously, British forces will not remain in a combat role in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The majority of forces that remain in Afghanistan will be in a training and mentoring role, for example at the Afghan Officer National Training Academy. But I wouldn’t rule out a small number of forces playing a counter-terrorism role if needed. This would be in keeping with how we are working to protect ourselves from the counter-terrorism threat emanating from other parts of the world, such as the Arabian Peninsula’.

This may well mean more casualties in Afghanistan, since while troops remain within the country they will always be under threat. Similarly the US will leave 9,800 troops there, which Obama announced in May, to train Afghan forces but also to continue raids against al-Qaeda. This once again produces a risk of fatalities, even if on a smaller scale than before.

If every single soldier is pulled out from Afghanistan, does that mean all the other fatalities were in vain? This seems to produce a lose/lose situation, whereby staying risks more deaths and withdrawing is failure and disrespect. This could mean keeping some soldiers grounded within the country in order to preserve a sense of purpose for the sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers, while still taking into account the costs of war and trying to reduce possible fatalities in the future.

 

Sources:
1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/10858629/Barack-Obama-announces-plans-for-9800-US-troops-to-stay-in-Afghanistan.html
2) http://costsofwar.org/article/us-killed-0
3) http://rt.com/news/208527-reaping-lives-drone-strikes/
4) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18135589
5) https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/18/1884018_-utf-8-q-uk-afghanistan_-_costs_of_british_military_-utf-8-q.html