FOLLOWING the recent expulsion by the Afghan puppet government of two British diplomats – they were carrying out secret negotiations with the Taleban in Helmand province – the Afghan president has named Paddy Ashdown, the former SBS soldier, Lib Dem leader and one time combined EU special envoy and UN High Representative in Bosnia, as persona non grata in Kabul.
One of the expelled diplomats is a high-ranking British UN employee, Mervyn Patterson; the other was the acting head of the EU mission in Afghanistan, Michael Semple.
They were accused of posing a threat to Afghan national security in Helmand province, whose governor warned them not to meet the Taleban.
This episode and the continuing war in Helmand province, with heavy civilian casualties and no outcome in sight, has led to Karzai’s decision about Ashdown.
It is being said that Karzai thought that Ashdown was too strong a political figure, and that he was being sent to sideline him and run Afghanistan as an occupied colony for NATO, as he did Bosnia.
Karzai was determined not to have him in Kabul, where he would be able to negotiate with the Taleban, and quite possibly negotiate Karzai out of his job, as part of a compromise peace settlement.
Ashdown, in a humiliating climbdown, yesterday told the UN secretary general that that he no longer wished to become UN special envoy to Afghanistan.
He observed that, ‘This job can only be done successfully on the basis of a consensus within the international community and the clear support of the government of Afghanistan.’
He added: ‘It is clear to me that, in Afghanistan at least, the support necessary to do the job effectively does not exist.’
He also pointed out that initially Karzai had said that he welcomed and supported his appointment.
Now Karzai is saying that that he wishes a soldier, and not a politician, General John McColl, NATO’s British deputy commander in Europe, to take the job instead.
Karzai’s refusal to accept Ashdown reflects the situation where the actions of British and US forces have made Helmand province a magnet for the Taleban, who have succeeded in taking it over, and holding it against the imperialist powers.
In response to this situation, the US and the UK have alienated the local populations by their use of massive artillery and air bombardments, killing hundreds of civilians.
At the Davos summit in Switzerland, Karzai has been telling journalists of his fears about the UK and the US operations in Helmand, and their relations with the Taleban.
Karzai said: ‘There was one part of the country where we suffered after the arrival of the British forces.’
He added that ‘Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them . . .
‘Before that we were fully in charge of Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, “Your governor is no good.”
‘I said, “All right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces? . . .”
‘Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taleban came.’
Meanwhile, Helmand province remains the centre of central Asian poppy production, which is breaking production records all the time despite the fighting in the province. This shows that there is an understanding between the drug producers and the British and US military commands.
Karzai is clearly worried that the military stalemate will lead to a political understanding between the imperialists and the Taleban about the future government of Afghanistan, at his expense.
The imperialists are being beaten in Afghanistan as they were in Iraq. The trade unions must demand that all British troops are withdrawn from Iraq and Central Asia at once to allow the Afghan people to settle their future, without interference.