Miliband: 'Mixed messages' on war
Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband has accused the Government of sending out "mixed messages" over the UK's military mission in Afghanistan.
Labour leadership hopeful Mr Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Liam Fox of "chasing newspaper headlines" over their comments about how long troops may remain in the country.
Mr Miliband said setting an "artificial deadline" for withdrawing the armed forces would create false hope in the UK and spur on the insurgents in Afghanistan. His comments came after Dr Fox warned against any premature pull-out by international forces - saying it could jeopardise national security and would be a "betrayal" of those who had died fighting the Taliban.
The tone of Dr Fox's remarks contrasted with those of Mr Cameron, who said at the weekend that he hoped to bring back the British forces by the time of the next general election, due to be held in 2015.
Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's essential in a war that a government provides clear leadership. We must say that the worst thing to do would be to leave only to have to send our troops back, that is the absolute worst thing."
He added: "I think it's very important that the mixed messages that are coming out from the new British Government are corrected very, very soon."
Mr Miliband said any decision on bringing troops home must be decided on the basis of the situation in Afghanistan. He said: "It's right that we do this on the basis of the conditions on the ground. To start setting artificial deadlines will give false hope to the British people and would give a false message to the insurgency.
"In fact, it would make it more difficult to get this political talks process finished. Because the absolute key to understanding this is to realise that a political process is not an alternative to military pressure. Military pressure makes it possible for the talks process to conclude."
He went on: "I say that David Cameron and Liam Fox have to stop immediately saying different things. They seem to be, each of them, chasing newspaper headlines, they are sending mixed messages. I think that's very dangerous indeed."
On Thursday Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted there had been no contradiction in what Mr Cameron and Dr Fox were saying.