The British Foreign Service is known for its independence. The famous Downing Street Memos gave us a clear-eyed view from a British diplomat of what was really going on before the war in inside the Bush White House. Now in a leaked diplomatic cable we learn what the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, really thinks about the war there.
“The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Sir Sherard was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.”
Within 5 to 10 years, the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,” the cable said, adding, “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome…
The cable also quoted the British envoy as saying that despite public statements to the contrary, “the insurgency, although still incapable of a military victory, has the capacity to make life more and more difficult, including in the capital.”
Acknowledging that there is no option other than supporting the Americans in Afghanistan, the ambassador reportedly added, “but we must tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one.” The American strategy, he is quoted as saying, “is destined to fail.”
I continue to be skeptical that there is any military solution in Afghanistan. Sir Sherard had an important warning that Obama should heed, “It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan.”