PEOPLE are angry.

Someone called Dominic Raaaab didn’t make a phone call that would’ve made no difference but been a meaningful gesture.

And so, people are angry, readers.

Angry about an empty gesture that would’ve had no impact on events.

There are many things of which Boris Johnson’s government can be justifiably accused: graft, nepotism, corruption, idiocy, callous indifference, amateurish bungling, cowardice, greed, venality, to name just the high points.

However, nobody could ever accuse the current government of being of the slightest consequence to international affairs involving anything more than banking and tax dodging.

The fury and the heat surrounding the Johnson government over Afghanistan is more about its members’ conduct confirming their utter hopelessness than any idea that their doing anything would’ve produced a different result.

The UK’s foreign policy is like going to a bar with Brad Pitt. All the gorgeous women will flock towards Brad, and you hope, by standing close to him and being his friend, some of the attraction might rub off on you.

Saying that does not diminish the bravery and endeavour of the UK’s service personnel.

In fact, given how they’ve had their numbers cut over the last eleven years, the UK’s armed forces have done more than anyone has any right to expect.

As a proportion of its GDP, the UK spends about the same as France and Australia (2.2%).

In 2020, the UK spent only US$2bn less than Russia on military spending.

In 2020, over 145 thousand personnel served in the British Armed Forces. That’s the second-fewest of any year since 1900, with just 144 thousand serving in 2019.

To put that in perspective, Sri Lanka, with one-third of the UK’s population, has 240,000 active armed services personnel.

Against that, the amount of money armed services procurement, to coin Boris Johnson’s phrase, has spaffed against the wall is nothing short of scandalous.

The Ajax vehicle, for example, has been repeatedly delayed and beset by problems.

Nearly four years after the vehicle was due to come into full service, only 14 have been delivered, at the cost of almost £3.5 billion.

Personnel have needed medical attention after being inside them. Some of the poor buggers put in them have had to leave the forces.

Oh, and they can’t fire accurately on the move.

Eight years ago, Lockheed Martin was contracted to upgrade the Warrior armoured vehicle.

By the time the UK Government cancelled the upgrade earlier this year, it had bought millions of pounds worth of new cannon, which were unusable on any of its other weapon platforms and blown over £420m on the project.

The cancellation cost 158 jobs, and goodness knows how many more depending on those jobs.
In the meantime, in the last eleven years, the same government scrapped the Harrier and Nimrod aircraft without having replacements ready for them.

For a period, the cancellation of the Harrier left a new aircraft carrier without aircraft that could use it.
The UK Government tried to sell a helicopter missile system to the US. When Congress blocked that sale, the UK bought the inferior US missile model for the UK’s helicopters.

We are in a ludicrous situation where we have bought US military machinery but are forbidden from servicing it ourselves. We need to ship the equipment back to the US for maintenance or employ US personnel to service the equipment we own.

That is the very midsummer of madness, readers.

Billions wasted on projects; a defence industry that sells overseas because it can’t sell to the UK; a government that shows no sign or intent of getting a grip on the problems in its procurement system.
The UK’s services personnel are at the whim of a government that lacks the courage to tell the UK’s people the truth: the UK is not an independent player on the world stage.

Simple arithmetic reveals that truth.

Let’s look at the Army.

Take out the staff supporting phase 1 and phase 2 training and any other training organisations that are on the staff assessment; take out the 15% unavailable to deploy, and the British Army regular manpower available to support a brigade-level deployment of just three years—a deployment in intensive operations for six months and every six months—is only about 55,000.

Given a deployed brigade current manning of about 12,000 people, the Army cannot sustain large operations for any amount of time. There aren’t enough trained personnel available to keep up a rolling commitment.

Bear in mind that the Iraq conflict ran for eight years and the Afghanistan one for 12 years.
Between 2003 and 2011, there were simultaneous operations at brigade-plus strength.
The jam is spread very thinly, readers.

Round and round, the personnel go; back and forth into life-threatening situations in which their lives and those of their comrades are under constant threat.

And here, at last, we might be able to identify the actual cause of the public’s anger against Foreign Secretary (at the time of writing) Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s abject admission that the UK was powerless in Afghanistan without a US presence confirms that “We are not now that strength which in old days/Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.”

It’s the truth, but it’s not one Conservative MPs, or the public wants to hear.

As far as left-wing critics of the UK’s actions in Afghanistan… they want it every which way.
To maintain democracy in Afghanistan would mean a continuing military presence to which they are fundamentally opposed.

Ensuring safe passage from Kabul to the UK for refugees in the current circumstances requires UK military support, risks further conflict, and subsequent military and civilian casualties.

Relying on diplomacy and the generous goodwill of the Taliban demonstrates a touching faith in human nature and a worrying disconnection with reality.Clueless at the outset, clueless at the end, the hindsight they exercise from their high horses is commanding.Damned if they do. Damned if they don’t.

Boris Johnson’s damnable government faces what amounts to Sophie’s Choice on a grand scale.Just how many Afghani lives is a shameless government prepared to sacrifice before it’s overwhelmed by public shame at the abandonment of those who allied with us and to whom we owe an untradeable moral debt?