Before I forget to blog on this…
First the leaked message:
A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan as predicting that the NATO-led military campaign against the Taliban will fail. That was not all. The best solution for the country, the ambassador said, would be installing an “acceptable dictator,” according to the newspaper.
“The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust,” the British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as saying by the author of the cable, François Fitou, the French deputy ambassador to Kabul.
The two-page cable – which was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2, and was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which printed excerpts in its Wednesday issue – said that the NATO-led military presence was making it harder to stabilize the country.
“The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Sir Sherard was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.”
Within 5 to 10 years, the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,” the cable said, adding, “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome.
Sir Sherard, as quoted, was critical of both American presidential candidates, who have vowed, if elected, to substantially increase American military support for Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
In the short run, “It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan,” he is quoted as saying.
Then the admission from the outgoing commander of British operations in Afghanistan that the war can’t be won:
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, whose troops have suffered severe casualties after six months of tough fighting, will hand over to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines this month.
He told The Times that in his opinion, a military victory over the Taleban was “neither feasible nor supportable”.
“What we need is sufficient troops to contain the insurgency to a level where it is not a strategic threat to the longevity of the elected Government,” he said.
The brigadier said that his troops had “taken the sting out of the Taleban” during clashes in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, but at a heavy cost. His brigade suffered 32 killed and 170 injured during its six-month tour of duty. The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment alone lost 11 soldiers, most of them killed by roadside bombs or other explosive devices.