If a Prime Minister uses a phrase as historically loaded as ‘mission accomplished’ to describe the situation in a country, it suggests that he’s pretty confident that things are – and will continue to be for a good chunk of time – all hunky dory there.
Today David Cameron touched down in Camp Bastion and declared ‘mission accomplished’ in the country, ahead of the planned withdrawal of troops next year. Asked whether the troops were returning with ‘mission accomplished’, Cameron said:
‘Yes I think they do. I think they can come home with their heads held high. You know, we will not leave behind a perfect country or a perfect democracy.
‘You have to remember that Afghanistan is an extremely poor country with a very, very troubled history but I think the purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps.
‘That has been the most important part of the mission … The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror.
‘That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission and so our troops can be very proud of what they have done.’
So ‘mission accomplished’ is a ‘basic level of security’ that prevents the country slipping back into being a ‘haven for terror’. But as the Telegraph reports, British military sources are bracing themselves for attacks disrupting the country’s elections in April 2014.
But there were also warnings earlier this year that suggested ‘mission accomplished’ might yet prove to have dreadful hubris. In April, the Defence Select Committee warned that ‘we are concerned that Afghanistan could descend into civil war within a few years’. Con Coughlin made a similar warning in the Spectator in March, worrying that the difficulty in withdrawing equipment from the country could lead to some of it falling into the wrong hands.
But this afternoon Number 10 insisted that the PM was right to use those words, saying:
‘Has the situation improved significantly in terms of the threat terrorists pose? Yes it has.’