UK reporter tells JP how to end Afghanistan war

November 4, 2011
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(Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira) Jonathan Steele signs copies of his new book, “Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground,” during a talk in JP on Oct. 18.

Jonathan Steele, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. who has been covering Afghanistan for over 30 years, told a small but rapt audience Jamaica Plain audience exactly what to do to end conflict in Kabul.

That means not only ending the U.S. war, but also solving the country’s internal conflicts.

“If pulling out [of Afghanistan] is framed as, ‘We’re helping them end a 35-year civil war’,” Steele said, the end of the war becomes a success instead of a potential defeat.

As someone who witnessed first-hand the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan 30 years ago, Steele drew many parallels between then and now during his visit to JP’s First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist on Oct. 18.

The motives of each occupation, Steele said, are exactly the same: “Anger, revenge and lack of forethought.”

And just as the Soviets lost the war as a matter of politics and public support, so will the U.S., unless the Obama administration follows his recommendations, Steele said.

His recommendations include prioritizing negotiations “with the full weight of U.S. diplomacy,” a complete removal of U.S. troops by 2014, and the cessation of hostilities against Taliban leaders.

Steele compared the Taliban presence in Afghanistan to the Irish Republican Army in the U.K. during the 1970s and 1980s, and suggested the only way to reach peace is identical.

“The only way to get them to stop it, without defeating them, is to talk to them,” Steele said.

“We’re working against a backdrop of suspicion and anger…This war is going nowhere,” he said.

Acknowledging that the U.K. will follow U.S. policy on Afghanistan, Steele asked for JP’s help in pressing our elected officials.

“We want to end the war. Please end it for us,” he asked of the 20-person audience.

Steele was promoting the release of his new book, “Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground.”

The JP Forum event included a short period for questions, during which Steele briefly talked about his involvement in the Guardian’s coverage of WikiLeaks material, including the U.S. embassy cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs.

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