Skip to comments.US Envoy Attacks British Truce With Taliban
Posted on 10/24/2006 7:07:23 PM PDT by blam
US envoy attacks British truce with Taliban
By Tom Coghlan in Kabul and Damien McElroy in Washington
Last Updated: 2:10am BST 25/10/2006
America's ambassador to Afghanistan yesterday expres-sed deep unease over the British military's ceasefire with the Taliban and subsequent withdrawal from a flashpoint town.
British troops on operations in Helmand
British troops moved out of the town of Musa Qala in north Helmand last week after a truce negotiated by tribal elders acting as intermediaries with the militia. After months of heavy fighting in which eight British soldiers and hundreds of Taliban fighters died, they handed over to an Afghan militia raised from local men.
Both the original decision to send troops to outposts "platoon houses" and the deal proved highly controversial. It is understood another such arrangement is being negotiated in another hotspot, Sangeen.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ronald Neumann said: "There is a lot of nervousness about who the truce was made with, who the arrangement was made with, and whether it will hold."
He said the "jury is out" over whether the deal can be seen as a positive move.
Mr Neumann said repercussions of the takeover by local forces must be "rigorously tested" to ensure that Musa Qala had not simply morphed into "a sanctuary for an area governed by the Taliban".
British commanders have denied that the Taliban were directly involved in the truce negotiations, which they say were conducted alongside the Governor of Helmand with local tribal elders. Nato officials have briefed journalists that local tribal elders in Musa Qala forced the Taliban to stop fighting.
The summer saw intense fighting across Helmand, where 4,300 troops are based as part of a Nato campaign to end the insurgency and begin reconstruction.
British forces have fired close to half a million rounds. More than 1,000 Taliban fighters are estimated to have died in the fighting, which has also seen 17 British soldiers killed and more than 70 injured.
Mr Neumann said that US and Nato analysis earlier in the summer indicated that in areas of the south such as Helmand, local tribes were siding with the Taliban because of grievances over local bad governance. "If you just say anyone who is sympathetic to the fight on the other side is forever outside the pale of negotiation you rather shoot yourself in foot," he said. "But at same time if you have an area that is under the Afghan government flag but is not under the actual authority of the Afghan government then you are losing in a very big way.
"It (the truce) certainly shouldn't be replicated until those questions have been answered."
There is also a high degree of nervousness in the Afghan government about the Musa Qala deal, with ministers comparing it warily to truces with the Soviet army in the 1980s which mujahideen commanders used to build up their forces and gain a tactical advantage.
Brigadier Ed Butler, the outgoing commander of British forces in Helmand, said after the initial truce was agreed last month: "I fully acknowledge that we could be being duped; that the Taliban may be buying time to reconstitute and regenerate. But every day that there is no fighting the power moves to the hands of the tribal elders who are turning to the government of Afghanistan for security and development."
Mr Neumann also went on to criticise the continued refusal of several European nations with troops serving in quiet parts of Afghanistan to commit their troops to the fighting in the south.
"There was a Nato decision to go to Afghanistan," he said. "I think it is appropriate to ask all nations to respect the decision that they participated in making. Not everyone has respected that decision."
Mr Neumann refused to name the countries in question, saying "I can make newspaper headlines in Europe very easily here", but France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Turkey all have sizeable forces in Afghanistan that are protected by so called "caveats" from serving in the south of the country. "We need more troops in the south of Afghanistan," he said.
Nato's supreme commander Gen James Jones said in Washington yesterday that the mission to subdue the insurgency was at a turning point following recent fighting.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he predicted that insurgents would not continue to confront coalition troops in pitched battles but turn instead to the car bomb tactics that had proved so devastating in Iraq.
"Militarily we will not be defeated," he said. "Their strategy is that we suffer a loss as a result of 1,000 IEDs [roadside bombs]."
He said there was a clear link between the country's rampant drug production and the increasing violence. To prevent further attacks, anti-drug campaigns in Afghanistan must have a real impact on the ground. British-led efforts to quash the drug trade had failed. "The link between narcotics and insurgents is now clear," he said. "There has to be more focus, more cohesion in counter-narcotics."
Gen Jones warned that 50 different restrictions placed on troops by home nations were hampering operations. He said insurgents would target nations that placed caveats on forces. "A thinking enemy, which we're facing, will seek out those nations."
Not just the Brits, but the Euroswine as well, and Turkey, which is probably still hoping to butter up France and get into the EU.
This is reminiscent of the French "participation" in Gulf War I. They insisted on going many miles out to the left of that giant swing by our armor around the left flank of Saddam's defensive line. The French were out in the desert somewhere, completely away from any possible contact with the enemy, in what they refered to as a blocking maneuver.
What we later learned, of course, is that they were Saddam's allies, with an oil for food program probably already up their sleeves.
I would attribute this latest action by the British contingent as a portent of what will happen when Gordon Brown replaces Tony Blair.
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