Around 10,000 people have rallied in London today (20 November) to call for the immediate withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron met with other NATO leaders and said that the UK's “combat role” in the country would end by 2015.
The demonstrators insisted that the UK's war in Afghanistan is counter-productive and a huge waste of resources.
The 'Time To Go; demonstration, which involved a march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, was organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), British Muslim Initiative and the Stop the War Coalition. It was backed by several NGOs, faith groups and trades unions.
The protest was peaceful and the Metropolitan Police told the BBC that there had been no arrests.
The number of UK troops killed in Afghanistan since the invasion of 2001 reached 345 on Wednesday (17 November) with the death of Christopher Davies.
Speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square included the former soldier Joe Glenton, who has just spent six months in a military prison for refusing to fight in Afghanistan. Yesterday, he handed back his medal to Downing Street.
"Bring home the troops and bring justice to the people of Afghanistan,” insisted John Hilary, Director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, as he addressed the rally.
He added, “We want the £11 billion that is being spent on the war in Afghanistan to go on things we need”.
Despite the NATO leaders discussing an “exit strategy” at their meeting in Portugal today, the Guardian columnist Seamus Milne told the rally that, “This talk of an exit strategy is a sham”.
While the organisers estimated attendance at the rally to be around 10,000, the police declined to give an estimate of numbers. CND said that coaches had brought demonstrators to London from over thirty towns and cities.
The campaigners pointed out that polls consistently show over 70 per cent of the UK public to be in favour of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan within a year.
“It is not surprising that there is so much opposition to the war in working class communities,” said the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in a statement read out at the demonstration, “People can see that their loved ones are being sent to fight in a war that seems to have no clear military objectives”.
Recalling Remembrance Sunday last weekend, he added, “This is the month we commemorate those who have been killed and wounded in war. Yet at the same time we are sending more young people into battle. We should honour those who lost their lives in past wars by stopping present and future wars."