Afghanistan 'needs new political plan'

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At an unprecedented appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington yesterday, the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, warned that sending more troops to Afghanistan was all well and good but that a fresh political strategy had to be put in place also.

The Washington visit came one week before Britain hosts an international conference on future strategy for Afghanistan, to be chaired by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – and two months after Barack Obama authorised a 30,000-strong surge of new US troops there.

"While necessary, military reinforcements alone will not be enough to achieve success," said Mr Miliband. "In 2010, the international community needs to fully align military and civilian resources behind a political strategy that engages the Afghan people in defence of their country."

Speaking earlier, he praised General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander, for re-emphasising the need to protect the Afghan people from violence. "I think they know that we mean what we say about protecting the population," he argued, saying that 2010 had to be "decisive year" in the war in Afghanistan.

"Putting the political to the fore" would be a main concern, he told a group of reporters, as well as winning the "trust and loyalty" of local populations in the country. "We have to make sure we are not outgunned, but we always have to make sure we are not out-governed," he said.