Ex-ambassador criticises Afghan deadline


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The Independent Online

A former British ambassador to Afghanistan today denounced the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of troops from the country as "tactics without strategy".

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, ambassador from 2007 to 2009, said the move was "worse than questionable, it's disgraceful" if it was not to be accompanied by a concerted peace process.

Nato troops including UK forces are to be withdrawn from combat roles by 2015.

"It is very questionable - it's worse than questionable, it's disgraceful if it's not accompanied by serious political strategy," Sir Sherard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Had the decision to stop fighting been accompanied by an effort led by (US Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton to bring all the regional leaders together and keep them together until they thrashed out an agreement, had we started a serious peace process ... then signalling to the people of Afghanistan that our troops were going to come out of combat wouldn't have been a bad thing.

"But to do it without that is rather similar to our scuttle from Palestine in 1948 or our scuttle from India in 1947 - it's tactics without strategy."

Asked whether there was still time to initiate such a peace process, he said it depended on whether US President Barack Obama had the will to do so.

"It breaks my heart, because we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, we owe it to all our servicemen and women who have fought and died and been wounded in Afghanistan," he said.

"I don't think time is ever too short to start something like that but the problem lies not in Kabul, Kandahar, Islamabad or even in London - it lies in Washington. Is Obama's America up for it?"