Afghan war is bad for security, voters say

Independent poll casts doubt on key justification for Britain's involvement in conflict

The main justification offered by the Government for keeping troops in Afghanistan is rejected by the majority of British people, a new opinion poll for
The Independent shows today. Four out of five of those questioned do not believe that British involvement in the conflict, with its rising toll of casualties, is keeping the streets of Britain safe from terrorist attacks.

The findings come as senior commanders have begun warning that the next few months will see intensifying military action, and that British forces will be expected to play a full part. There is no question of British troops "retreating to safer areas", senior Nato officials stressed.

In direct contradiction of the Government's position, almost half, or 46 per cent, of those surveyed held that the presence of British forces in the US-led war actually increased the threat of attacks in the country by creating anger and resentment among the Muslim population.

The findings of the survey, by GFK NOP and commissioned by Colin Francome, Emeritus Professor at Middlesex University, will intensify the political dilemma facing Gordon Brown. Yesterday was a day of deep emotion with the return of the bodies of six fallen soldiers, but the Prime Minister must now also contend with the risk of mounting anger if the core argument for continuing the deployment of British forces eight years after the overthrow of the Taliban lacks conviction for the public.

The Prime Minister, who has been subjected to personal attacks over misspellings in a letter of condolence written to the mother of a dead soldier, faced rebellion over the direction of the war from within his own party. A former minister, Frank Field, will today seek an early House of Commons debate on Afghanistan. Mr Field who has the backing of 19 Labour MPs, says that the debate should cover the UK's role, the objectives of the intervention and "the time scale over which these goals will be achieved".

Although the Government says it is committed to "staying the course" in Afghanistan, Mr Brown signalled yesterday that plans were being drawn up to hand control over a significant part of Helmand province to Afghan forces from mid-2010. British troops aim to transfer authority "district by district" as the Afghan army and police forces are trained and local government structures put in place. "We think that, by mid-next year, probably two parts of Helmand can be transferred from our responsibility," Mr Brown said.

But in Kabul, Brigadier General Eric Tremblay, a Canadian officer in the International Security Assistance Force, said the south of Afghanistan would remain the focus for the Nato campaign. "No one is pulling out and we continue with our military strategy. In fact towns like Musa Qala are the sort of population centres which we are protecting and where we need security to grow, and British troops will, of course, play a crucial part in that." He said 68 per cent of violent incidents occurred in Helmand and Kandahar and so the region is obviously of key importance.

Separately, a senior American officer who played a key role in the plans drawn up for a military "surge" by General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato forces, said British operations in Helmand would continue. "Forces like the British in Helmand and the Canadians in Kandahar are needed for combat. Getting involved in operations means there will be more casualties. That applies to all of us."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the transfer Mr Brown referred to would "not necessarily" mean British troops coming home, suggesting the initial plan would mean UK forces withdrawing to an oversight role in areas handed over to the Afghans.

Public disillusionment with the war has been reinforced by the massive fraud which characterised the recent elections in Afghanistan. Questions are being asked in all the countries supplying troops for the Nato mission as to why soldiers should die for the government of Hamid Karzai which has been internationally labelled corrupt.

Britain with its force of 9,100 is the second-biggest contributor after the US to Nato's Afghan mission, and Mr Brown has already pledged to send reinforcements of another 500 troops.

Brigadier General Tremblay said that instead of the scale of the combat diminishing, the Taliban are trying to open up other fronts around the country. One of the most senior commanders in the British forces also told The Independent that there would be no withdrawal from the town of Musa Qala, which gained iconic significance after being retaken by British forces from the Taliban. "Even if we planned to do this, it simply would not be politically acceptable because of the sacrifices which have been made there," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home