November 13, 2009 in News
Nico Hines and Tim Reid
November 13, 2009
Gordon Brown downplayed the issue of corruption in Afghanistan today as he demanded that other Nato countries come forward with thousands more troops.
The Prime Minister professed his confidence in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s desire to end corruption and insisted that allied forces operating in Afghanistan could muster an additional 5,000 troops in addition to the US troop surge being debated in Washington.
One week ago Mr Brown cautioned Mr Karzai that unless he quashed endemic corruption he would have forfeited his right to international support.
“I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm’s way for a Government that does not stand up against corruption,” he said.
Today, however, after telephone conversations with Mr Karzai, he insisted that he was now convinced that, with sufficient support, the President would work to quash the problem.
“The question is not his willingness; the question is whether the delivery is satisfactory,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme.
The Prime Minister accepted that British public opinion was wavering but insisted that his commitment was undimmed. “There will be periods you go through when people question whether the strategy is right,” he said.
As Mr Brown called for more nations to share the burden in Afghanistan, the scale of his problem was highlighted by Germany announcing that it would send just over 100 additional troops in January.
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German Defence Minister, said that the quick-reaction force soldiers would be deployed in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, a formerly relatively peaceful area that has seen an increase in Taleban activity in recent months. Most of the 4,365 troops that Germany already has in Afghanistan are stationed there.
The Prime Minister is now lobbying some of the 43 nations involved in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to make their own contribution to a fresh push.
“I have taken the responsibility of asking others in Europe, and outside Europe actually, if they will back this strategy, which is partnering the Afghan forces, mentoring the Afghan forces,” he said.
“We need our other Nato allies to help. I am asking them to help. I think we can probably get another 5,000 forces into Afghanistan from that Nato and outside Nato group and Britain will be part of that.”
He attempted to seize the initiative as members of the Nato-led ISAF continued to await a final decision by President Obama over whether to send tens of thousands of additional US troops.
Mr Brown said that his conversations with the White House had left him assured that Britain’s strategy was “very much in line with what President Obama wants to achieve”.
The Prime Minister spoke as two classified cables from the US Ambassador in Kabul were leaked, voicing grave concern about sending more American troops to Afghanistan.
The documents exposed open conflict inside President Obama’s national security team over his war strategy.
The contents of the cables, passed to The Washington Post and The New York Times yesterday by three officials, also highlighted growing uncertainty inside the White House about how to prosecute the war, amid deep concerns over the corruption of Hamid Karzai’s Government.
The cables put the Ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, a retired general who in 2007 was the top military commander in Afghanistan, starkly at odds with the current ground commander, General Stanley McChrystal, who has requested an increase of at least 40,000 troops.
In the memos General Eikenberry said that he had deep reservations about sending more US troops because he was concerned by the unreliability and corrupt nature of Mr Karzai’s Government. It is a problem that has dogged Mr Obama’s deliberations and undermined General McChrystal’s urgent demand for more troops.
Related Material From the Archive:
- Ahmed Wali Karzai and the CIA: America’s conundrum in Afghanistan
- U.K. Presses Anti-Insurgent Strategy
- New Nato chief takes charge
- Karzai, top rival run about even in Afghan returns
- Karzai Opponent Alleges ‘Widespread’ Voter Fraud
- Mullen Says Afghan Security Situation ‘Serious,’ Getting Worse
- Gates hints at US buildup in Afghanistan
- Major military operation under way in Afghanistan