It is almost unbearable when the names of young men and women killed in Afghanistan are read out in the Chamber of the House of Lords. After we returned from the summer recess the roll call was no less than 38 and it was more than many of us could cope with. The question hangs in the air, heavily: for what are our young dying?
This week we honoured the dead and the wounded on almost every day and the ceremonies became more poignant as the week wore on.
Last Friday there was a mammoth debate on Defence which inevitably focused almost entirely on the Afghanistan question and others have already blogged about it. The fight that the armed forces mount each and every day is brave beyond belief and they need (indeed must have) the support from a public which has some idea of what they are going through. But this cannot stop us from asking the fundamental question over and over again.
I have to say that if only a small part of the billions of dollars spent on arms and maintaining the armed forces in the south of Afghanistan could be deployed to proper, thought through, sustained reconstruction and development – with a strong emphasis on investment in industy and natural mineral wealth – there would be hope for some communities in the safer areas.
I firmly believe that this model of investment and coherent planning would help Afghans to face the Taliban or rather turn their backs on them. It is amazing what can be achieved if money, people, plans and other resources come together and insist on resolving a problem – however intractable.
It could be achieved but I guess that it probably won’t happen.