The Pope's visit this week has certainly cheered more than the Roman Catholic population in Britain. David Cameron and his government must be more than relieved that the visit has kept Afghanistan off the front pages.
Remember 20 August last year? Few of us will, unless I remind you it was the day Afghanistan held its presidential election - one characterised by every type of electoral fraud imaginable. It was the second presidential election under the present Constitution of Afghanistan. The voting result was unresolved and two months later, under heavy US and ally pressure, a second round run-off vote between the incumbent President Karzai and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah was announced for 7 November. However, the week beforehand Abdullah announced he would no longer be participating in the run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met and a 'transparent election is not possible'. A day later, on 2 November 2009, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Karzai as President o Afghanistan for another 5 year term.
You remember now don't you? I doubt if any of us will forget the military and civilian deaths involved.
Tomorrow sees the election for the parliament's lower house. More than 2,500 candidates are standing nationwide for 249 seats. A Taliban spokesman said that polling centres, election workers and security forces would be targeted on polling ay and warned that voters who dare to try to cast ballots 'will get hurt'. NATO forces are not directly involved but ISAF say it is prepared to back up Afghan forces in the case of 'emergencies'. Over 1000 polling stations will remain closed for voting tomorrow for security reasons.
There's an excellent article by David Pratt in the Herald today which explains the reasons why our politicians have been so silent compared with 13 months ago. After all the 'strategy' meetings, announcements and propaganda expounding the achievements of western troops, the Taliban are slowly taking more and more control in the country, while all we can do is discuss how much our armed forces should cost in the future. We have no foreign policy - if you don't count the billions paid out by DFID - yet our great and good think they can structure our military to meet today's security needs and also save money. The majority seem to be happy with William Hague popping up on their screens occasionally and feeding them another ludicrous soundbite and to watch our money being poured into many suspect projects in countries governed by corrupt leaders.
'Out of sight, out of mind' is the coalition's Afghanistan policy these days but a decision to withdraw needs to be made. We've obeyed orders at great cost and our job there is finished. We haven't achieved the US's desired result, but we've done the best we can do. Time to say goodbye with the little dignity that remains and allow the Afghans to run their own country in their own way. Our way has proved a failure.