Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wire: UK Lawmakers Slam US Afghan Strategy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

"Significant mission creep"

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services late today reported that an influential committee of British lawmakers said the international military mission in Afghanistan has delivered "much less than it promised" due to the lack of a realistic strategy.

The French news agency AFP said that, in a report, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said without a clear strategy stabilizing Afghanistan had become "considerably more difficult than might otherwise have been the case."

Lawmakers criticized United States' policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and warned the "considerable cultural insensitivity" of some coalition troops had caused serious damage to Afghans' perceptions that will be "difficult to undo."

"We conclude that the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has delivered much less than it promised and that its impact has been significantly diluted by the absence of a unified vision and strategy grounded in the realities of Afghanistan's history, culture and politics," the report said.

As for Britain's roughly 9,000 troops in Afghanistan -- who in July suffered their worst month since the 2001 invasion with 22 deaths -- the members of parliament said their role has seen "significant mission creep," AFP said.

They were initially sent to counter international terrorism and are now working on areas like fighting the drugs trade and counter-insurgency, it said, adding the military had not been given "clear direction."

AFP noted the following details:
"We conclude that the UK's mission in Afghanistan has taken on a significantly different and considerably expanded character since the first British troops were deployed there in 2001," the report said.

"The UK deployment to Helmand [province] was undermined by unrealistic planning at senior levels, poor coordination between Whitehall [government] departments and crucially, a failure to provide the military with clear direction."

Britain's role as lead international partner on counter-narcotics was "a poisoned chalice", the report said, adding there was "little evidence" to suggest that cuts in poppy cultivation were down to deliberate strategy.

It called for British troops to focus on security alone.

The "Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan" report also looked at problems caused by the use of air power, particularly by the United States.
Responding to the report, the Foreign Office said it would study its conclusions and submit an official response in the coming months, AFP said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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