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UK MPs criticise strategy and justification for Afghan war

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, March 2, IRNA -- Counter-insurgency measures in Afghanistan are not working and could be counter-productive unless the US and its allies start peace talks with the Taliban, a damning parliamentary report warned Wednesday after a seven-month inquiry.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, which also questions the justification for continuing the war, said it was time for a “political surge” as the current tactics being used in Afghanistan are not succeeding in achieving a stable solution.

'There is a danger that without appropriate political leadership, the current military campaign is in danger of inadvertently de-railing efforts to secure a political solution to what is essentially a political problem,” said committee chair Richard Ottaway(pictured).

“The US should not delay its significant involvement in talks with the Taliban leadership because, without US support in this respect, there can be no longer-term peace in Afghanistan,' the Conservative MP warned.

The report called on the British Government to use its influence to persuade Washington to engage more fully, and swiftly, with the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan if the US wishes to disengage its forces there.

It queried whether the sacrifices of the armed services in Afghanistan 'have a direct connection to the UK's core objective' to eliminate the country as a base for al-Qaida, saying this justification for fighting 'may have been achieved some time ago'.

'We question the fundamental assumption that success in Afghanistan can be 'bought' through a strategy of 'clear, hold and build',” Ottaway said.

“The distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which is so often overlooked or confused in current debates, is crucial to generating appropriate policy responses in Afghanistan,” he said,

The Conservative MP challenged the logic of a full-scale counter-insurgency campaign aimed at the Taliban to prevent al-Qaeda returning or whether it could ever succeed.'

The report said that the war after 10 years was now being heavily influenced by the 2014 deadline set to transfer security and civilian control back to Afghans and warned that there were inherent risks behind the UK Government's decision to end combat operations in 2015.

Ottaway called on the British government to clarify why the decision to withdraw troops was taken and why it was not made in the National Security Council set up by Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Given that the decision to announce a deadline has now been taken and could not be reversed without causing irreparable damage to the UK's standing at home and abroad, the task must be to ensure that the 2015 deadline has the effect of focusing both Afghan and international minds on the core tasks at hand,' he warned.

The committee was concerned that the criticism of the government’s policy may be interpreted as criticism of the troops facing extremely hazardous, hostile and difficult conditions, but said that nothing could be further from the truth.

'Her Majesty's Armed Forces have our full support in tackling the challenges before them and their efforts are rightly described in so many instances as heroic,” Ottaway said.

“It is our hope that this report will be received in the constructively critical manner in which it is intended, and regarded as a contribution to the wider debate which is taking place on how to improve a situation to which there are no easy solutions,' he said.

In an initial response to the findings, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the government was building on military and civilian gains but agreed it was time to advance a political process.

“The report raises a number of concerns which will be addressed in our formal response to parliament within the next two months,” Hague said.

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