Ben Delicious writes from Kabul: You know how it happens: prime ministers and presidents of all sorts of countries, who are bored out of their wits, pay unexpected visits to other nations, pretending that it’s hugely significant for them to be there, as if they couldn’t have just picked up the phone and called the relevant authorities to discuss things.
Which brings me to Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Afghanistan. He obviously visited the British troops in Helmand province, to tell them how the nation is grateful to them for their brave effort to last until 2014 when they would have to withdraw hastily, opening the way for the Taliban to take over. Later Mr Cameron flew to Kabul and met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Ashraf, who obviously also had pretty much nothing to do so he decided to pay a visit to his neighbours.
According to the official version of the talks, the British PM pointed out to both Afghan and Pakistani leaders that it is in their interests to have a safe and stable Afghanistan (no s..t!) and that they should work together and with the others to make this happen. If that was not stating the bleeding obvious then it is difficult to imagine what is. Dave could have at least made the talks a bit more exciting by pointing out that once NATO troops pull out of Afghanistan all hell would break loose here and things will get pretty hot for the current government which would not last a day without the presence of Western forces. But he stuck to his prepared script and banged on about peace and stability and democracy and all that other stuff that is basically meaningless in Afghanistan, a country that is still living in the 13th century.
As word would have it, both the Afghan president and the Pakistani PM were nodding to everything that Mr Cameron said, praising the wise West for its peace-loving policies while hinting that increasing financial aid to both countries might help to resolve lots of outstanding issues. The current British government, as Kabul and Islamabad know, is steadily increasing overseas aid while cutting social spending for its own people and that fills foreign leaders with hope that the flow of money to them will be increasing every year.
Now you can call me a cynic but for the life of me I don’t understand why Mr Cameron had to travel to Afghanistan, having already met President Karzai twice this year, in Britain and in the US at the NATO summit. He could have simply made a collect call to Kabul, in the spirit of austerity and knowing that Mr Karzai is loaded with foreign aid money, and tell him everything over the phone. He could have then called the Pakistani PM and have a meaningless chat with him as well. And as for visiting the British troops in Helmand, well, as far as morale boosting exercises go it couldn’t have been a great success, considering that many of the servicemen there would be booted out of the army once they return home under the cuts proposed by the government.
And if you think about it even more, Mr Cameron could have done better by staying at home and sorting out the mess in the economy that he and his ministers seem to be ignoring in favour of all sorts of symbolic gestures and politically correct causes. Or failing that he could have sent his Defence Secretary, who doesn’t really have anything to do these days, to Afghanistan - considering that the British armed forces are practically non-existent.