British troops are in Afghanistan, we are told, to forestall terrorist attacks on UK soil. This post hoc justification is one of the many myths about the ‘War on Terror’ debunked by Mark Curtis’s fascinating and timely examination of the British state’s collusion with radical Islamic groups.
Curtis argues that the roots of more recent deals and accommodations with extremist groups lie in the Imperial era, when Britain and Russia manoeuvered for power and influence in Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan; a grim strategy referred to as ‘The Great Game’. He shows how the installation of puppet rulers and the removal by force of democratically elected ones has shaped the region, and how post-War foreign policy has been consistently bent to the maintenance of control and the expropriation of wealth, most notably oil.
In an impressively detailed sweep through the history of the region, Curtis exposes, time and again, British government support of militant groups. In Iran and Iraq, Libya and Syria, Egypt and Indonesia, Britain has provided funds and logistical support for organizations whose aims would seem inimical to the ostensible Western objectives of security and stability. He also sheds light on the murky US-British links with those two major sponsors of fundamentalist Islam, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Secret Affairs deals with a weighty subject in a meticulous manner, but Mark Curtis writes engagingly and it is surely beyond argument that his contention – that post-War British foreign policy in the Central Asian region has made the world a more dangerous and more lawless place – is a topic worthy of debate.