Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Foreign Affairs Committee: stating the obvious

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has just published its report "Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan". It confirms what most people have been saying for a long time: that the government should clearly state its priority for Afghanistan and put in the resources to meet it.
  • The report slams Britain's EU partners (particularly Germany) for failing to meet their obligations in Afghanistan and for thereby placing an "unacceptable strain" on the handful of NATO countries which are: principally the US, UK & Canada. Germany is also criticised for even failing to provide adequate training to the Afghan police force. The Committee says that if they can't provide fighters on the ground, out EU friends should be providing kit instead.
  • The Bush Administration is criticised for its unilaterlism and for its misdirection of the war in its early stages. The US focus on solely military objectives meant that there was little engagement with the local Afghan population, little reconstruction undertaken, a failure to build robust democratic and legal structures and a failure to tackle endemic corruption.
  • The UK government is slated for "unrealistic planning at senior levels, poor co-ordination between Whitehall departments and crucially, a failure to provide the military with clear direction". From the original goal of supporting the US's War on Terror, UK Armed Forces have been subjected to "mission-creep" with the result that they now committed to an "open-ended and wide-ranging series of objectives" (counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics, protection of human rights, state-building) without any prioritisation forthcoming from government.
  • The Committee states the blindingly obvious when it concludes that "the government must ensure that our armed forces are provided with the appropriate resources to undertake the tasks requested of them". Although euphemistically referring to "well-documented difficulties", the Committee fails to come out openly about the actual lack of resources currently being experienced on the frontline.

The report contains little new: UK Armed Forces are overstretched, lack cohesive political direction, are let down by EU partners and need to be adequately resourced. Despite all this the MPs found that their "overall impression was of British forces doing a terrific job to contain and improve the security situation in Helmand, but with very limited resources and support."

"Lions lead by donkeys" springs to mind.

Foreign Affairs Committee: Global Strategy: Afghanistan and Pakistan