Letter from 1st Secy for UK ambassador to US abt Afghanistan

#1
'No One Can Doubt' U.K.'s Afghanistan Commitment

Simon Shercliff | 22 Aug 2009

Editor's Note: The following is a letter to the World Politics Review editor from Simon Shercliff, first secretary for foreign security and policy at the British Embassy in Washington.

To the Editor:

It's important that I set the record straight on David Axe's World Politics Review column entitled "Afghanistan Could Portend British Pull-out" and his subsequent and related blog post on Wired's Danger Room, both of which wrongly argued that the 200th British soldier killed last week in Afghanistan could potentially weaken the U.K.'s resolve and long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

No one can doubt the U.K.'s commitment to this mission. This is an international mission to which the U.K. is second largest troop contributor and second largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan. And U.K. Forces are doing a large part of the heavy lifting in Afghanistan, having provided the vast majority of international forces in the most difficult province in the country for the past three years.

This commitment is long-term and has been continually reinforced in statements by our prime minister, foreign secretary, defense secretary and other leaders such as our ambassador to the United States. They have reiterated that our troops will stay in Afghanistan as long as they are needed because British security, as well as the security of other countries, depends on international support for the Afghan Government in ensuring that their country never again becomes a safe haven for al-Qaida.

Just as our public does, the British Government mourns every single life lost in Afghanistan. But as our Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at the weekend, "in moments of sorrow, Britain must not forget the importance of the mission in Afghanistan." The Prime Minister emphasized that "the best way to honor the memory of those who have died is to see that commitment through . . . the work of our troops . . . is vital to preventing al-Qaida once again using Afghanistan as a base for terrorist attacks against Britain and other countries."

The assertion that there are parallels between the U.K.'s involvement in Afghanistan and its involvement in Iraq is simplistic. Most U.S. and U.K. military commanders will point out that Iraq and Afghanistan are very different. Gen. David Petraeus said, "In looking at which lessons learned in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan, it is important to remember a key principle of counterinsurgency operations: Every case is unique. That is certainly true of Afghanistan. . . . We cannot just take the tactics, techniques, and procedures that worked in Iraq and employ them in Afghanistan."

Furthermore, the war in Afghanistan includes 42 countries contributing armed forces and a NATO mission under a U.N. mandate. British troops, along side the Dutch, Danes, others and more recently Americans, are doing the toughest fighting in Helmand and achieving some positive results. For example, Operation Panther's Claw has brought security to 80,000 people and reconstruction and development teams have entered the Babaji area to initiate projects.

But security operations are not a long term solution. That's why we've contributed over £740 million between 2001-09 to making sure Afghans have a stake in a country that is stable and can fend off the likes of al-Qaida. These funds have resulted in much progress. For example, child and maternal death rates have shown a marked fall while the number of children in schools has increased by over 5 million in eight years.

Ultimately, our commitment in Afghanistan is about protecting people in Britain and other countries from international terrorism. We will not be deterred from this objective despite hardships and obstacles. Suggestions to the contrary ignore facts on the ground, commitments of our political and military leaders, as well as our enduring resolve to secure the British people.

Simon Shercliff
British Embassy, Washington
http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articlePrint.aspx?ID=4212
 
#2
See that Simon Shercliff, that's him, that is!!

 
#4
Confusing thread title. I thought that the First Secretary 'Pretty 'oh I'm so sore' Peter Mandelson had been really brave and written a letter.

However, as this missive was written by a functionary of the Mandelson administration, I do not believe a word of it. Nor, I suspect, will the Americans.
 
#5
lsquared said:
Confusing thread title. I thought that the First Secretary 'Pretty 'oh I'm so sore' Peter Mandelson had been really brave and written a letter.

However, as this missive was written by a functionary of the Mandelson administration, I do not believe a word of it. Nor, I suspect, will the Americans.
'Sorry for confusion-I hope my edit makes it better.
 
#6
Colonel you may not be familiar with our game of soccer. But every season the Chairman of a football club states that his manager has his complete confidence. A few weeks later the manager is fired! Unfortunately what our Foreign Office write in a letter today has very little bearing on what we will do tomorrow. The phrase "we are committed" is Zanu-NL speak for "we would like to tell the electorate we are in favour of this but we might not manage it just yet".
 
#7
duffdike said:
Colonel you may not be familiar with our game of soccer. But every season the Chairman of a football club states that his manager has his complete confidence. A few weeks later the manager is fired! Unfortunately what our Foreign Office write in a letter today has very little bearing on what we will do tomorrow. The phrase "we are committed" is Zanu-NL speak for "we would like to tell the electorate we are in favour of this but we might not manage it just yet".
Message received and understood DD. You have observed one of those universal truths about politicians most everywhere unfortunately. In fact if I heard that and was in some way dependent on it, I would start looking for the back door. The US said much the same thing to the poor Hungarians in 1956.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#8
RE: Axe Job
Difficult to argue with Axe's snide critique of the UK mission in Iraq - even if I don't like the way he words it. But to state that this is a foretaste of things in Afghan in hardly on target: The outcome of any given war is not predicated on the outcome of the war preceding it. And as the good sec notes in his rebuttal, one lives and learns. Well....hopefully.

RE: US Troops in Helmand
A key problem with this op has been too much terrian, too few boots; too much clear, not enough hold. With the US deploying bayonets into Helmand alongside us,that problem is some way to being solved. And with the US Marines being America's best light infantry, they will set a competitive standard for our battlegroup.

RE: Richard Norths latest
I had some respect for Richard North as an analyst and for his chiding the government to provide the right support. But he seems increasingly to be a defeatist: One gets the impression that he is almost hoping for an ignominious end to the UK's Afghan op just to prove his predictions correct.

RE: Lack of Public Support
While the UK public may not support the war, I can't think of another time, bar a few brief months in 1982, when there was so much respect and support for HM forces. If the next government can leverage this public sentiment to increase spending on the forces and generally muscle up our commitment in Afghan - while also explaining War 101 to the general public (ie that conflicts do, in fact, incur casualties), we would have a far better chance of a successful outcome.

All we need then would a strategy, and Robert's yer Dad's uncle...
 
#9
Andy_S said:
RE: Axe Job
The outcome of any given war is not predicated on the outcome of the war preceding it.
This is a very perceptive statement and one that so many nations' militaries and politicians usually fail so miserably to understand.
 
#10
It feels more and more like the US want Britain to fail and have done little to toe the party line in the UK. With constant criticism on Force size, poor equipment, political and public willingness to support the fight (they already support the services well the public do). We have been branded as the US lapdog all round the world for showing support to the US on their War on Terrorism and it is your war, we faced our War for years with no support from the US in fact the major funding for that War came through the US.

We have had tons of back door briefings from some very senior US officers on every thing from poor tactic through to how dirty the boys are in FOBs with little if any washing water, due to the fact with limited resources ammunition takes priority over washing water. I think the point I am so poorly trying to make is if you keep kicking the dog don’t be surprised when he doesn’t come home for dinner.
 
#11
cbgramc said:
It feels more and more like the US want Britain to fail and have done little to toe the party line in the UK. With constant criticism on Force size, poor equipment, political and public willingness to support the fight (they already support the services well the public do). We have been branded as the US lapdog all round the world for showing support to the US on their War on Terrorism and it is your war, we faced our War for years with no support from the US in fact the major funding for that War came through the US.

We have had tons of back door briefings from some very senior US officers on every thing from poor tactic through to how dirty the boys are in FOBs with little if any washing water, due to the fact with limited resources ammunition takes priority over washing water. I think the point I am so poorly trying to make is if you keep kicking the dog don’t be surprised when he doesn’t come home for dinner.
While I can't speak for the current administration, if you mean US military leaders want the UK to fail I think you are mistaken and I would not accept at face value the reports to which you refer about US commanders conferring with their UK counterparts.
 
#12
Not just this article but a number of others posted over the last few weeks have left me with this opinion. JJ on a personal note can I just say it has been a pleasure reading your posts nice to see a balanced view from across the Pond some of your country men on here can give a rather bad impression of the US
 
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