7 years ago
I have previously discussed the intense disagreement between the British and the American defense departments over the strategy in Iraq and the British retreat from Basra, this disagreement spilling over to the campaign in Afghanistan. The British desire to negotiate with mid-level Taliban officers to attempt to split the organization away from the most senior leaders, an effort aided by Hamid Karzai that has as its price a place in the new Afghan government for the Taliban. But the U.S. is of course deeply opposed to this strategy, and this disagreement has reached an important milestone.
The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that two senior diplomats were expelled from Afghanistan and the U.N. wants them back in the country. The Brits see this all as very disturbing and some in the British government praise the attempt to talk to the Taliban, but these two individuals were no diplomats. They were MI6 agents whose job it was to negotiate with the Taliban.
The Australian is reporting on the agents and their discussions.
KABUL: A UN official and an EU diplomat ordered out of Afghanistan on allegations of posing a national security threat left the country yesterday.
It was the first time the Government of President Hamid Karzai had expelled senior Western officials and is a sign of growing frustrations at the lack of progress in the country.
The UN employee, British national Mervyn Patterson, left on a UN flight. The EU official was identified as Irish national Michael Semple, the organisation’s second most senior representative in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Government on Tuesday gave the men 48 hours to leave, saying they had posed a security threat.
Officials said on condition of anonymity that the men had been in contact with the Taliban.
The UN says the affair was a misunderstanding that arose after the diplomats visited the southern town of Musa Qala, which was in Taliban control for 10 months until a military operation about two weeks ago. They had visited in co-ordination with the Afghan Government to assess “stabilisation” efforts after the military offensive.
The men left the country as reports claimed the British secret service had engaged in peace talks with senior Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s pledge that Britain would not negotiate with terrorists.
Reports claimed MI6 agents held a number of discussions, known as jirgas, with members of the hardline Islamist group over the northern summer.
We have advocated a more robust presence in Afghanistan, in addition to seeing Afghanistan as the key to Pakistan, rather than vice versa. Musa Qala fell to the Taliban due to inadequate force projection, and seven purple hearts had to be awarded to U.S. soldiers because of the battle to retake control of this area as a result of previous “negotiations.” Rather than a single city, the British and U.S. strategists are locked in combat over the way to approach the counterinsurgency campaign for an entire country. Afghanistan hangs in the balance.