UK in Afghanistan for decades, says our man in Washington

Diplomat's warning comes as MPs say Britain has lost sight of its original security objectives

Britain must concentrate all its efforts on the military campaign to conquer the Taliban as its attempts to achieve a wide-ranging "rescue" of Afghanistan have failed miserably, an influential committee of MPs warns today.

A report on the Afghan campaign from the Foreign Affairs Committee claims that British politicians have allowed "mission creep" to interfere with the original objectives set eight years ago, but they have still failed to pull off wider goals including stamping out the opium trade. Instead, the MPs insist, the UK should target its resources on "one priority, namely security" and allow the international community to spearhead the broader effort to rebuild Afghanistan.

The dismal verdict on the UK's all-round performance in Afghanistan came as Britain's most senior diplomat warned that Britain's involvement in the country will last for "decades". Sir Nigel Sheinwald, British ambassador to Washington, painted a bleak future for British forces in the week that the Panther's Claw operation in Helmand was declared a success. In an intervention laying out the longest official timetable yet seen for Britain's commitment to Afghanistan, he predicted that the tide would turn against the Taliban "over the next year or so" rather than in a matter of weeks.

"We're going to have a very long-term commitment to Afghanistan's future. This is not just one year," Sir Nigel said in an interview with The Boston Globe. "This is going to be for decades. We're going to help them get to a state which can they can ward off the return of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida. That's our strategic objective. We need to avoid the vacuum returning. And that's what this huge effort is about."

The committee report, Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan, followed a three-month inquiry which took evidence from more than 40 individuals and organisations, including the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. It also concluded that the security situation in Afghanistan, particularly in the south where the majority of British troops are based, would remain "precarious" for some time.

But the report said there could be no question of the international community abandoning Afghanistan, and that the issue at stake must be how best the UK and its allies "can allocate responsibilities and share burdens so as to ensure that the country does not once again fall into the hands of those who seek to threaten the security of the UK and the West".

The committee chairman, Mike Gapes, said: "The UK has experienced mission creep from its initial goal of supporting the US in countering international terrorism, far into the realms of counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics, protection of human rights and state building. It is clear that despite the commendable efforts of the Foreign Office in adopting a broad-ranging, holistic approach to tackling narcotics in Afghanistan, success in that area depends on a range of factors which lie far beyond the control and resource of the UK alone."

The committee recommended that the lead international role on counter-narcotics should be transferred away from the UK, and that the Afghan government should be partnered at an international level by the United Nations and the Nato International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which is better equipped to co-ordinate international efforts.

Although the committee backed the current "surge" which has claimed the lives of so many British troops, members fired a broadside against "caveats" used by Nato members to limit military involvement in Afghanistan.

The committee said a negotiated, Afghan-led political settlement with broad popular support represented the only realistic option for long-term security and stability in Afghanistan.

Mr Gapes added: "Bearing in mind that this is the first Nato deployment outside of Nato's 'area', this has now become a most critical and seminal moment for the future of the alliance. The failure of some Nato allies to ensure that the burden of international effort in Afghanistan is shared equitably has placed an unacceptable strain on a handful of countries."

William Hague, the Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs, seized on the report's findings to demand greater clarity from ministers about the UK's strategy in Afghanistan. He said: "This report should be a wake-up call to the Government. It confirms what we have been saying for months: Britain's objectives in Afghanistan should be realistic, tightly defined, and subject to regular formal assessment. The Prime Minister must make clear which minister has primary responsibility for our policy in Afghanistan and the Government should make quarterly reports to Parliament, covering Britain's objectives, the progress made in achieving them and the resources required."

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
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
Latest stories from i100
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on