British soldiers fallen in 2009
It has been a long while since I had time to sit down to penned a blog post. Work commitments has been keeping me on my toes.
Nevertheless, despite the busyness of the day, I have been able to do some research on the war in Afghanistan in the late nights. Books, videos, news were my source of information. In the same way, I have been doing this research on Iraq since September 11, 2001.
The British Army has always been one of my favourite source of information on conflicts. They are far more objective than the US and as a ex soldier trained under the British military system used in Singapore. I was able to relate to their hierachy and their tactics.
I came across Ross Kemp's documentaries on Afghanistan on Youtube from 2006 to 2011. I am really grateful for his willingness to put his own life and limb at risk to report on the status of Afghanistan. From then on, Ross Kemp became my UAV, my eyes and ears on the ground. He showed me how life was for the frontline troops, how life was for the the Afghans. But unlike a UAV, we cannot afford to lose Ross Kemp. There is no replacement.
From the tiny screen of my Nokia, I experience the ferocity of Taliban fire. I was there equally confused with Ross Kemp when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) went off and only to found out later that a very young British Marine Travis Macken, a member of 45 Commando, lost his life. His warm and colourful life extinguished in that puff of flash and smoke in an instant.
From then on, I began to acquire a sense of dread whenever I hear a boom and see a puff of smoke in the distance. I realised that I am beginning to feel like a frontline soldier. It was not easy to hear someone talking and laughing away one moment, and after a puff of smoke. A man missing limbs lay on the hospital bed or worst, another name engraved on a placard.
In the course of my research, this has happened so many times.
I am really glad to see the improvements in security in Afghanistan over the years. Abandoned towns slowly coming back to life as security improved. Children getting back to school as schools were rebuilt for them. The changes in roles for the soldiers as they move from frontline infantrymen to doing detective work tracking down Taliban commanders.
The sad news is that the ISAF will be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014 and the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police will take over all the soldiering and police work. In my opinion, these two forces are barely ready to take over the roles. If the ISAF were to leave, all the sacrifices made by the Afghan people, the British forces, the American forces, Danish forces etc will all be in vain. The Taliban will take over the country again and it will become another safe haven for fundamentalists and terrorists.
I really hope the politicians will rethink their strategy. The ISAF are professional soldiers and they know and accept the risks involved. They do not need the protection from their home countries by pulling them out of Afghanistan. What they need is the support from their home countries to support them in their mission to rebuild Afghanistan. Only when that mission is complete which could take many many years, can the soldiers answer to those who have fallen, that their sacrifices are not in vain.