BRITAIN is staring defeat in the face in Afghanistan according to Paddy Ashdown and Lord Inge, the ex-Chief of Staff, British army.
In a House of Lords debate on Afghanistan late last week, former Bosnia supremo Paddy Ashdown said he was sorry to have to deliver ‘a somewhat bleak message’ to new foreign minister Lord Malloch Brown.
Lord Ashdown said: ‘I fear that we are now staring failure in the face, unless we get the international community to act in a single and cohesive fashion.’
He added: ‘I wonder whether the minister or the government have calculated yet the consequences of failure in Afghanistan. They are much worse than in Iraq.
‘I do not think that we could hold Pakistan – and the consequences for the security of this country would be very grave.
‘Furthermore, it would do catastrophic damage to NATO. A British general recently said to me that a failure in Afghanistan would do as much damage to NATO as Bosnia did to the UN. I wonder whether we could then prevent a widening conflict in the region.’
Lord Inge, who was said to be speaking for the general staff, added: ‘The situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise.
‘We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for NATO.’
He added: ‘I do not see how you can make any real progress in Afghanistan and have a credible hearts-and-minds campaign while we still do not know what to do about the poppy crop.
‘To me, this seems to be a very major weakness in our overall strategic plan.’
He added: ‘I stress the point that was made all too clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that we need to recognise that the situation – in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan – is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.’
British troops have suffered heavy casualties in Afghanistan with 51 troops killed in the last 12 months.
Meanwhile the death rate for British troops in Iraq is higher than the death rate for US troops, according to Royal Statistical Society vice-president Professor Sheila Bird.
An intensification of the resistance in Iraq’s southern capital, Basra, has seen the number of British troops killed leap upwards in the past two months.
Bird analysed British and American fatalities from May 2006 to June 2007, and found that the death rate of UK troops has now surpassed that of Americans.
Britain’s 5,500 troops serving in Iraq suffered 23 fatalities between February 5 and June 24 2007.
America’s 165,000-strong force lost 463 over the same period.
Bird analysed the three 140-day periods from May 2006 to June 2007, taking account of the reduction in UK troop numbers in Iraq from 7,000 to 5,500.
In the first period, 12 British servicemen were killed, in the second period, 14 were killed.
In the third period, from February 5 to June 24 2007, the number rose to 23.
In the three weeks since this last period a further six soldiers have been killed.
There were 8.8 deaths ‘per 1,000 personnel-years’ for UK troops, whereas the US death rate was 7.3.
Professor Bird also found that the toll from roadside bombs was increasing.