UK ministers question future of Afghan mission

Posted By: Staff
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London, Nov.8 (ANI): British Cabinet ministers have begun to question the future of the combat mission in Afghanistan as pressure on Gordon Brown mounts over the conflict, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

Their comments followed last week's public comments from Kim Howells, the former Foreign Office minister who is now Brown's intelligence and security watchdog, who called last week for the "great majority" of Britain's 9,000-strong force in Afghanistan to be withdrawn.

A new poll today shows a fresh drop in public support for the Afghan conflict with nearly two-thirds of voters believing it to be a lost cause.

Some 64 per cent of those quizzed in a ComRes survey for the BBC One Politics Show today felt the war was "unwinnable" while 63 per cent thought British troops should be withdrawn as quickly as possible.

Another cabinet member, close to Brown, said: "We didn't get into this war to create the new state of Afghanistan. What we want to do is to leave. There are problems. All our advice rightly shows us that there are clear links between what we are doing there and our own national security."

Last week, Brown tried to regain the initiative on Afghanistan when he delivered a speech telling Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to deliver an end to the corruption which has plagued his government and contributed to the danger to British forces.

He said: "We cannot, must not, and will not walk away."

But the Prime Minister found himself under attack from senior former military leaders with Lord Guthrie, ex-chief of the defence staff, accusing him of "dithering" over a pledge to send 500 extra British troops to Afghanistan.

Ministers supporting Brown, however, hit back by attempting to pin the blame on Barack Obama, the US President, for failing to act on a top-level recommendation to send 40,000 extra American forces.

A senior source at the Ministry of Defence said: "Even if we wanted to change our strategy, how could we when Obama is keeping us in limbo over his plans. There is a great deal of frustration both here and over the road [The Foreign Office] about this." (ANI)

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