Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Coalition's mixed messages on Afghanistan is the real blunder

Clegg blunders into Iraq minefield declared the page 3 lead in today’s The Times. Let’s leave aside the unpleasant, clich├ęd headline that equates the dangers faced by our troops in that dangerous land with a Westminster gaffe.
I agree with Nick. His blunder – in the Alice in Wonderland world of politics - was to tell the truth. Standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday, the deputy Coalition leader called the invasion of Iraq “illegal.”
The lame defence from No. 10 later was that Clegg spoke in a personal capacity. Yet he was supposed to be representing the new Government at the Dispatch Box, which hasn’t taken a position on legality.
More importantly there appears to be distance between the Top Two’s time table on withdrawal from Afghanistan. Clegg has said our combat troops have to be out by 2015 – Cameron agrees but only if conditions on the ground allow.
On various other occasions Defence minister Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary William Hague have contributed their own take on just what is official policy.
Mixed messages from the Government are to be deplored at the best of times but disturbing the peace of mind of our soldiers and their families is unforgiveable.
As much as I’d like our troops out of harm’s way, you don’t need to be a military strategist to see it is probably unwise to let the enemy know the date by which you intend to be home.
There are commentators who suggest the 2015 deadline is intended to put pressure on the Kabul government to reach some sort of arrangement with the Taliban having concluded that the chance of defeating them militarily has passed.
If completing what his father failed to do hadn’t obsessed George W. Bush – defeating Saddam Hussein – the resources employed in the Iraq war could have been directed at Afghanistan to a swifter, ultimately less bloody outcome.

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