As is almost always the case on Question Time, the audience has the heart of the question. Janet Street Porter was irrelevant, Ruth Davidson was - well, a Tory - and Frank Field was stuck with the Blair/Brown/Labour legacy.
The insidious and contemptible argument that we should stay to justify the 404 British service death and 5000 injured was trotted out, as it always is. Kill more in an unwinnable 'war' to 'justify' the needless, criminal sacrifice of the past.
The wife of the serving officer said it all, lucidly and with calm dignity and deep regret - we are achieving nothing in Afghanistan.
And what exactly did Willie Rennie mean by his "Even Humza agrees it was the right thing to do at the start" remark. Even Humza?
MY COMMENTS (incorporating material from a 2009 blog)
America and Britain’s original case for invading Afghanistan was to remove the Taliban and the training camps for terrorists. That was achieved in the first year.
Although most commentators and political parties supported the initial invasion and its rationale, I argued - and still do - that we are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige.
After that first year, the UK’s rationale for remaining rested on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain. It still rests on that lie. The Afghanistan war brought terrorism to Britain – it politicised a whole generation of young Asians. The locus of terror has long shifted to Pakistan.
We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.
Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question.
We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.
The vacuum at the heart of the UK position was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -
“We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency.”
The UK’s behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.
The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date, i.e. the tragic deaths and serious injuries, are used as a justification for continuing.
It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.
Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.
We are still there because of US and UK fear of loss of face when we withdraw, and both countries are prepared to let soldiers and civilian non-combatants to die to save their political faces.