Britain is wasting the lives of its soldiers, Ashdown warns

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The Independent Online

The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has accused ministers of "wasting the lives" of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, claiming the international community did not have a plan to bring peace to the country.

As President Barack Obama named his envoy to the war-torn country, Lord Ashdown issued a grim warning that the "scandal" of inadequate planning threatened Nato's ability to take advantage of victories over the Taliban. Lord Ashdown, who had once been earmarked as a UN representative in Afghanistan, said insufficient military and aid resources had been committed to the country. He warned that a resolution of its problems would not be reached without better international co-ordination and an agreement involving major powers.

He added: "I fear that we are now – and it is a scandal – wasting the lives of our young men and women whom we are putting in the frontline in the most difficult circumstances when our political leaders have failed to produce any kind of plan that can take advantage of the victories they win over the Taliban at great cost. If you speak to senior commanders in Afghanistan, you will find they are saying the same thing. They are winning the battle, often at great cost in death and mutilation of our soldiers, but I am afraid to say the international community has failed to take advantage of the victories they have gained."

Lord Ashdown welcomed President Obama's decision to appoint the veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as his "point man" on Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he backed Mr Obama's plan to deliver a "surge" in US troops to fight the Taliban. But he said the international community was trying to stabilise Afghanistan with 1/25th of the military personnel and 1/50th of the aid it committed to Bosnia.

"The issue is the complete failure of the international community to have a plan," he told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme.