December was a busy month for Cold War developments- it was on 3rd December in 1989 that Mikhail Gorbachev and President Bush Snr declared an end to the Cold War, whilst on the 22nd December 1956, British and French forces completed their withdrawal from Egypt’s Canal Zone, ending the Suez Crisis.
But it was on 24th December in 1979 that Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in support of a Marxist government, beginning a nine-year occupation. This move not only saw another chapter in the Cold War, but the beginnings of a new conflict- what until recently was known as the “Global War on Terror”.
Those of you have already completed your GCSE coursework, either recently or in years gone by, will know something of this- how America financed and resourced Afghani ‘freedom fighters’ to take arms against the USSR, not knowing that the ‘freedom fighters’ of the 1980s would be the terrorists of today. As the victorious Mujhadeen evolved into the tyrannical Taliban, Al Qaeda enjoyed a safe haven for many years.
Living near Wootton Bassett as I do, a lot has been said recently of the merits of the conflict in Afghanistan, especially as the 100th soldier of 2009 sacrificed his life yesterday. Studying History in this sense provides us with the precious benefit of hindsight, and poses a rather interesting question- what if Afghanistan had been left to the Soviet Union? Assuming it would still collapse in 1989, what would Aghanistan be today? A democracy? A peaceful country? Your thoughts are welcome.
However, regardless of this interesting but ultimately futile question, we have heard from Obama and Brown, as well as other NATO representatives, that more forces will travel to this desert war-torn land in order to bring freedom to the country. With the greatest respect to those who have lost loved ones, and may wonder what their sacrifice will be worth- the removal of this safe haven for terrorist activity, not only here but in Pakistan also, is surely a must. Al Qaeda’s hatred of Western civilisation would not be quelled by our removal. Moreover sadly, the question of whether conflict will ultimately lead to an end of terrorist activity is a much harder one to answer, and is one that neither Obama or Brown can put a timeframe on.