I ask Londoners I meet why their government is in Afghanistan, as their military leaves Helmand province. No one knows. UK Afghanistan

But there are reasons, probably good ones. Yesterday’s Sunday Times piece by war correspondent Christina Lamb outlines several. She was there early in her career for the Soviet invasion, again when British troops arrived post 9/11. And now, for the withdrawal.

It is easy to be confused. Here is an excerpt from a Lamb piece in February of this year:

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been accused of “spitting on the graves” of British soldiers after he said Helmand would have been better off if UK forces had never set foot there. 

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Karzai described the Taliban as “brothers” and America as “rivals” as he criticised the record of the West during the 12-year war. 

In contrast to David Cameron’s recent claim that it was “mission accomplished” for troops in Afghanistan, Karzai said that “. . . the US-led Nato mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand”. Asked whether it would have been better if British troops had never gone there, Karzai replied: “I guess so. Yes.” 

A total of 447 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 2,000 wounded.

Bookmarks London BookshopI picked up a collection of essays about Afghanistan at Bookmarks, a self-described “socialist bookshop,” around the corner from the British Museum.  The staff was great. No Hello Kitty notebooks or Godiva chocolates for sale.

Talked by phone this morning to the Afghan consulate in Abu Dhabi. I’ll be there  in two weeks for the annual AD Media Summit. It should be a treasure trove of interview subjects and leads. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and the president of the NY Times Company will speak, as will a few dozen Middle East North Africa journalists, activists and media professionals. The Afghan Washington, D.C. consul said, no problem, get an Afghan visa there. Which was then contradicted in emails by the local visa officer. A phone call seems to have cleared the way. I’ll see when I get there. I’d like to be in Kabul for the (official) December exit of U.S. troops.

In Amsterdam today, visiting the old headquarters of the defunct Dutch East India Company, the world’s first multinational corporation, as well as the first, but not last, to be authorized to have its own private army. Hosted by Afterparty Kickstarter backer and college pal Forrest Wright, who has shared his home and, importantly, his public transport pass.

Dutch East India Company HQ