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Afghanistan ‘not war without end’


Mr Miliband

The military commitment in Afghanistan is “not a war without end”, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said. In a speech to the Nato parliamentary assembly, he said military and civilian resources had to be aligned behind a “clear political strategy”.

But while he wanted troops brought home, Nato could not risk leaving a “vacuum” for the Taliban, he said. Gordon Brown said on Monday he hoped Afghan districts could start being handed over to local control next year. In his speech Mr Miliband recognised it had been the “bloodiest year” for the UK since the Falklands War.

Fear of retribution

He said: “I, as much as anyone else, want to bring our troops back home to safety, but we cannot leave a vacuum which the Taliban will quickly fill.” When troops eventually leave, they have to do so “knowing we will not have to return”, he said.

“This is not a war without end, but success must be based on aligning our military and civilian resources behind a clear political strategy,” he said. That strategy had to reassure ordinary Afghans and encourage them to resist the Taliban, it must divide the insurgency and build new relations between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Mr Miliband said there was a fear among ordinary Afghans that the international community would tire of the war and the Taliban would return “inflicting brutal retribution on those who ‘collaborated’ with the government”, he said.

He said President Karzai – recently re-elected in a poll marred by fraud allegations – would use his speech on Thursday to set out a “positive new agenda”. This must offer a “new contract” with the Afghan people – including addressing corruption, Mr Miliband said.

‘Strategy of strength’

Mr Miliband gave his speech after Nato’s secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that “if we were to walk away and turn our backs on Afghanistan, al-Qaeda would be back in a flash”.

“There’s absolutely no reason to think otherwise and anyone who does so is not living in the real world,” he said, urging other Nato countries to send more troops to bolster military efforts.

Mr Miliband said it was important and he endorsed the arguments for “burden sharing” but wanted in his speech to concentrate on the need for a “political strategy of strength”. The foreign secretary said military pressure must be combined with support for insurgents “to flip sides rather than fight or run away”.

And he said there must be more support for local leaders – specifically the “shuras” – bodies of local elders – to help govern and provide security. In the areas worst affected by the insurgency “sub-national governance is the only form of governance they know”, he said.

Provincial and district governors should be trained, empowered and equipped to create “truly representative” shuras which could guide funds, create jobs and build schools, he said – as well as “provide the re-entry mechanisms for insurgents seeking reintegration”.

There may need to be “a different approach to the insurgency in rural areas – where sympathy for the Taliban is much stronger and where security and governance have never been delivered by conventional military or police forces – to that in urban areas”.

In his annual speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday night, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he hoped to host a Nato meeting in January to “set a timetable” for control of some Afghan districts to be handed over.

It raises the eventual prospect of withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan but Downing Street stressed it would not be an “exit” summit – just an opportunity to discuss future strategy.

Source: BBC

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