Sep 7, 2007

U.S./British Rift Growing on Afghanistan

On a day when the bedwetters are eagerly awaiting a new propaganda message from Osama Bin Laden, we are reminded once again why their beloved war of choice in Iraq was a bad idea.

Britain is risking a new foreign policy rift with the US after bluntly telling the Bush Administration that it is "winning the battles but losing the war" in Afghanistan.

Gordon Brown and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, fear that the US remains "fixated" by Iraq and is failing to address what they regard as the real front line in the war on terrorism.

Disagreement has surfaced already over the US military's desire to spray opium poppy fields from the air with herbicide, as well as to continue its bombing strikes on Afghan villages, which Britain complains undermines its strategy of "winning hearts and minds."

Other areas of contention include what Britain regards as Washington's indulgent attitude towards Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, who is accused of tolerating, even conniving with, widespread corruption inside his government.

One source said: "The Americans see a bit of military success in Afghanistan and think it's all fine. They are blinkered by Iraq and this is becoming symptomatic of a lack of serious engagement on policy across the piste."

Mr Miliband has instigated a strategy overhaul on Afghanistan which, although not a formal "review", is causing alarm within a US Administration still smarting over Britain’s withdrawal of troops from Basra in southern Iraq this week. ...

Mr Miliband has pushed Afghanistan up the policy agenda, choosing Kabul as the destination for his first trip abroad as Foreign Secretary in July. He wants to "step up the game" by building the strength of the Kabul Government and security forces, luring a broader range of Afghans into the administration, as well as tackling longstanding corruption surrounding the narcotics trade.

Some of the issues were aired this week by a team of Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence officials in Washington to discuss next year’s Nato summit, which is likely to be dominated by the mission in Afghanistan.

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