It is reassuring to discover, from the Independent's new poll, that a majority of the British public remain opposed to our troops occupying (with other NATO forces) Afghanistan. The media campaign to stir patriotism and rally support for the war has evidently had little impact. Likewise the Tories' efforts to make alleged under-resourcing of UK troops the central political issue. The poll findings indicate that many people realise the crucial issue is in fact the presence of troops in the first place - not the state of their helicopters or weaponry.
Most importantly, 52% want an immediate end to the occupation. This is enormously impressive when you consider that virtually no mainstream political or media voices express such a viewpoint. The whole debate around Afghanistan, in Westminster and in newspaper columns, is premised on the assumption that obviously troops must remain. The differences concern technicalities and the defence budget: exactly how much money should we spending on the occupation?
The anti-war movement remains vital for promoting the case for immediate withdrawal of the troops. Stop the War and its partner organisations have a unique track record of mobilising large demonstrations against war and occupation. It's likely there will be a major national demo in November (probably 14 November, co-inciding with NATO defence ministers' summit in Scotland and the anniversary of the invasion in 2001).
There's also a big Edinburgh demo in the pipeline, for the same day, to take the message direct to the politicans waging this war. And Stop the War is calling on local groups everywhere to initiate protests when the toll of British military dead reaches 200 (it's currently 191). These protests will commemorate the Afghan dead as well as military personnel killed in the conflict.