'Afghanistan is on a knife-edge and may implode without more troops'

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The Independent Online

Afghanistan may "implode" and return to a state as chaotic as it was under the Taliban if Britain and the international community do not pour military effort into the country, MPs warned yesterday.

In a scathing verdict on the handling of the situation after the war to oust the Taliban, MPs warned that the drugs industry which provides 95 per cent of the heroin on Britain's streets was worsening and demanded to know how the Government planned to tackle the crisis.

The Foreign Office, which leads international attempts to end the Afghan poppy harvest, has admitted that this year's production is expected to rise once more, while members of the foreign affairs committee, who visited Afghanistan earlier this year, returned branding the country a "basket case".

Yesterday, senior members of the committee warned bluntly that there was no evidence of a clear policy to meet the Government's goal of eradicating Afghan opium poppy production by 2013.

Sir John Stanley, the former Conservative defence minister, said: "In security terms, Afghanistan is absolutely on a knife edge. Countries like Britain, the United States, Nato and round the world either give President [Hamid] Karzai the support he desperately needs now in terms of an increased security presence on the ground in Afghanistan ... or if we fail to do so I believe there is a very serious risk that the country and security concerns are going to go back very, very seriously and could end up in a situation where everything we have tried to achieve since the removal of the Taliban regime could be set back almost to square one."

He added: "We questioned our officials at length while we were out there and members of the government and, speaking personally, I did not hear any convincing policy which was likely to achieve in the medium term a significant reduction in poppy cultivation."

The report, which was published yesterday by the foreign affairs committee, said: "There is little, if any, sign of the war on drugs being won, and every indication that the situation is likely to deteriorate, at least in the short term."

In a sharp criticism of the failure of Nato countries to back efforts to introduce democracy to Afghanistan, the MPs warned: "Fine communiques and ringing declarations are no substitute for delivery of the forces and equipment which Afghanistan needs on the ground."

The report added: 'There is a real danger if these resources are not provided soon that Afghanistan, a fragile state in one of the most sensitive and volatile regions of the world, could implode with terrible consequences."

It warned that Afghanistan's warlords and their private militia forces were a major part of the problem in the country, but were also "real stakeholders" in the future and called on the Government to ensure that they were brought into the political process.