Miliband breaks consensus on Afghanistan

Miliband showed concerns about strategy
Miliband showed concerns about strategy

By Ian Dunt

David Miliband distanced himself from coalition strategy in Afghanistan today, with a rare explicit criticism of operational strategy.

The comments, which follow the death of six military personnel on Tuesday, are particularly noteworthy because Labour and the Conservatives try hard to adopt a consensual approach when discussing the conflict, which they both supported.

"The absolute key is that at the moment we have extraordinary bravery, as well as sacrifice, intelligence and skill, from British service people and that is tactically making advances, but what is missing is a clear strategy," the former foreign secretary told the Today programme.

"That is absolutely key to the last two years of British combat operations."

Asked whether talks should take place with the Taliban, he replied: "To protect future British servicemen, yes."

The departure was not entirely revolutionary. Asked about the need for a "political process", Mr Miliband replied: "I think the prime minister has the right instincts on this. However, I think that what has happened is the international community has not been able to prosecute a clear political strategy.

"No one trusts anyone else. We desperately need an independent mediator who all the sides will talk to. There will be no stability inside Afghanistan without the regional powers on side."

But even with the caveat about the prime minister's instincts, Mr Miliband's reference to "two years" without a clear strategy will be interpreted as an attack on coalition policy in Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron previously announced a 2014 withdrawal timetable, leading to criticism from some quarters that he was effectively handing the Taliban a date when they could take over the country.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) insists it is making headway training the domestic army and police force, but many analysts are unconvinced local forces will be able to hold territory without western assistance.


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