For all the talk about Afghanistan being the “right war,” and with both Obama and McCain insisting that they want to send thousands of additional US forces there, our British allies have let the camel, so to speak, out of the bag. Meanwhile, more and more information is coming out to confirm that the government of Afghanistan is negotiating with (gasp!) the Taliban. This is important stuff.
First, here are the quotes from British Ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, whose leaked comments in a French cable were reported at the end of last week. In them he says that sending more troops to Afghanistan would make the problem worse, not better, and that the NATO forces in Afghanistan are “part of the problem, not part of the solution”:
“The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust. … The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution. Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis. …
“It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan. [Sending more troops] would have perverse effects: it would identify us even more strongly as an occupation force and would multiply the targets [for the insurgents].
“We must tell [the Americans] that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one.”
Equally astonishingly, not leaked but speaking on the record, the UK’s Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith says point-blank, as the London Times headline proclaims, “We can’t defeat Taliban, says Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith”:
“We’re not going to win this war. … It’s about reducing insurgency to a manageable level that’s not a strategic threat.”
He called for negotiating a political settlement with the Taliban. Here’s the lead of the Times story:
The departing commander of British forces in Afghanistan says he believes the Taliban will never be defeated.
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, whose troops have suffered severe casualties after six months of tough fighting, will hand over to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines this month.
He told The Times that in his opinion, a military victory over the Taleban was “neither feasible nor supportable.”
I guess he didn’t get McCain’s or Obama’s talking points.
You can read the latest news about hush-hush talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban here, here, and here. Various sources, on various sides, are denying parts of the story, but it seems that the effort is being brokered directly by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.