Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Afghanistan surge 'threat to deal'

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee insisted the US and UK must step up talks with Taliban elements in Afghanistan

Nato's military surge in Afghanistan could threaten the chances of securing a political solution in the troubled country, an influential group of MPs has warned.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee insisted the US and UK must step up talks with Taliban elements rather than just wage a "full-scale counter-insurgency campaign" against them.

The warning came in a report into the Government's approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Richard Ottaway, chairman of the cross-party committee, said: "There is a danger that without political leadership, the current military campaign is in danger of inadvertently de-railing efforts to secure a political solution to what is essentially a political problem.

"The US should not delay its significant involvement in talks with the Taliban leadership because, without US support in this respect, there can be no longer-term peace in Afghanistan."

The Tory MP continued: "We question the fundamental assumption that success in Afghanistan can be 'bought' through a strategy of 'clear, hold and build'.

"The distinction between al Qaida and the Taliban, which is so often overlooked or confused in current debates, is crucial to generating appropriate policy responses in Afghanistan.

"We question the Government's logic that a full-scale counter insurgency campaign aimed at the Taliban is necessary to prevent al Qaida returning or that it could ever succeed."

The committee suggested that the Government's stated purpose for being in Afghanistan - to protect UK national security - may have been achieved "some time ago" because al Qaida's strength in the country appeared limited.

The "security rationale" behind the 2015 deadline for withdrawing combat troops was also not clear, and the policy had "a number of potential risks", according to the MPs.

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