Cameron’s Blairism on Afghanistan. Ainsworth on “impossible” Brown

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    10th June 2010

    BLAIRISM VIA CAMEROONISM (TOLD NICK YET, DAVE?)

    In Kabul today David Cameron said that the issue of Afghanistan was his “number one priority” (BBC with video). In reference to “long-term relationships” he said that we “mustn’t repeat the mistakes of the past, when we seemed to think that areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t matter to British security and interests, they do”.

    Not sure when we used to think THAT in the recent past. Certainly not while Tony Blair was running things, that’s for sure.

    Some in the press are suggesting that his position has moved from that of the previous government. He is talking, some say, not one word about nation-building or doing away with the poppy trade, but only about stabilising enough to get out ASAP.  Well, maybe. But it’s early days. America wants to go more slowly and steadily while Cameron, some say, implies that Britain wants to move more quickly. Guess who’ll win this battle.

    We Brits will be right to be thoroughly ashamed if we leave Afghanistan to the Americans only, or worse still if we ALL leave it to the Taliban. In fact we can only do that as and when Islamic fundamentalist terroris has been relegated to history. That could take some time. Certainly not one year.

    PLOT UNCOVERED TO SHOOT DOWN CAMERON’S HELICOPTER

    But before we go on to that and the ongoing tales of Brown & colleagues, there has been “a little excitement in Helmand tonight” as James Kirkup put it at his Telegraph blog, altering the plans for the prime minister.

    Pictures below from The Daily Mail show Cameron’s initial arrival at Kabul and his second arrival at Helmand.

    Excerpt: David Cameron dodged a Taliban death plot tonight after intelligence officers uncovered plans to assassinate the Prime Minister.

    Mr Cameron’s first trip to Afghanistan as Prime Minister was thrown into disarray as a visit to a forward base was aborted to thwart an insurgent bid to shoot down his helicopter.

    Military spies intercepted two Taliban phone calls in quick succession near to the Shahzad patrol base that Mr Cameron was due to visit

    The Mail: "Commitment: Mr Cameron arrives in Kabul on his first visit since becoming prime minister. "

    Don’t you just LOVE the Mail’s inclusion of the word “commitment” in this picture? That’s his job, FGS, The Mail! Did you add the same fawning words to Blair’s pictures when he visited Iraq and Afghanistan on numerous occasions? And never with a flak jacket (though that could have been a costly mistake)? Was he too showing COMMITMENT?  Come on! If DC had been shot down he’d clearly already be a … what is that fashionable word? … oh yes, “martyr”.

    SPOT THE DIFFERENCE

    Disembarking at Helmand. Mr Cameron wears a bulletproof vest as he arrives in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office.


    Of course, often the greatest danger does not come from the known enemy, but from the enemy within – see here.

    Tony Blair in Afghanistan shortly before he left office

    So DO take care, Mr C, and listen to your security people. It’d be nothing personal if the bad guys got you, of course. But I really couldn’t put up with the hammering the Daily Maul would then give Blair – of the “NOW are you proud of yourself, Mr Blair?” variety.  So, consider my sensitivities, and please take advice and strap that flak jacket on whenever they tell you, Dave. There’s a good prime minister.

    Now where were we? Oh yes, the sort of “new” business about “now” working for stability, security, long-term etc. Not exactly new. See FCO here – Excerpt:

    Afghanistan’s relations with the UK

    The UK is committed to helping Afghanistan achieve stability, security and prosperity, to the benefit of the Afghan people, the United Kingdom and the world community.

    The UK restored resident diplomatic ties with Afghanistan when the Interim Administration was inaugurated on 22 December 2001. British HRH Prince Charles meets Afghan  elders during his trip to Afghanistan on 24 March (gettyimages)diplomatic staff had left in February 1989 due to the deteriorating security situation that followed the Soviet withdrawal.

    Still, as it so many other policy areas, it’s good to know that Cameron is emulating Blair. I suppose we can take it that the ‘Blairite’ who said this is in exactly the same place as his coalition partner, Nick Clegg who –

    “… also believes that the American surge of troops will further marginalise the British effort in the same way that it did in Iraq when British troops were “relegated” to the background.”

    He says: “I can only imagine how demoralising it must be for British troops at all levels to feel they have to be bailed out by Uncle Sam.”

    [Clegg: “We are asking our troops to do the impossible” – More, Daily Telegraph]

    Button it, Mr Clegg. This is no longer losing time in Europe, but winning time in government. (Daily Telegraph: Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, in the aftermath of the European Election results, 08.06.09, London.)

    Now that you and Dave have thrown more money at it, all will be fine, no doubt. And yes, we DO know you are not that fond of Uncle Sam, even under Obama.

    “… an extra £67m would go into countering insurgents’ bombs. It is on top of £150m pledged last year by ex- PM Gordon Brown for a similar project.”

    Also in the Telegraph 8th July, 2009, Clegg said, “Recent events have led me to question, for the first time, whether we’re going about things in the right way. Mr Clegg has gone further than any other political leader by questioning Britain’s strategy in the region. He also says British troops should be given better equipment.”

    Yes, as they always say, many of the unwilling/unconvinced. But don’t claim credit, Mr Clegg.  Dave was bound to throw more money at the IED cause anyway, your insistence or not. Now that a few extra million has been thrown at the roadside bomb question, we’re BOUND to be all right. Except we’re not. It takes years, some say 6 years to train an IED expert, and meanwhile IED tactics keep changing, as the previous government found to its cost. Those who now appear trained will be due to the work done and the money invested under the previous government, not yours. Wonder if the Mail will remind us of that? As if.

    THE REAL MESSAGE?

    You would be better advised trying to convince the unsure that there is a REAL issue of our homeland security. And, may I say, better not to have every death of a British soldier leapt on by the mournful press as though it is proof incontrovertible as to how WRONG we are to be there in the first place.  As a tactic to persuade that is WRONG, SO wrong.

    Personal tragedies as every death is, under 300 soldiers’ have died in 9 nine years (!) This in number is as nothing in comparison to the bigger issue of stabilising a few more countries in the Middle East. We need to understand that THAT kind of stability, for all sorts of reasons, is why we need a ‘long-term relationship’.

    Countering fundamentalist Islamic terrorism in the region is a phrase that you and others in government will need to learn to get your tongues round.

    Clegg’s thoughts on the right way forward, may have some resonance, to be fair, in that Brown’s government was no more than half-hearted in its approach to Afghanistan, imho. This seems to have been confirmed by the former Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth’s on working with Gordon Brown today, here.

    It is also worth noting Ainsworth in the same article as Clegg’s saying that there was “gloom and worry” over the number of British fatalities in Afghanistan.  He said that in the face of recent casualties it was understandable that people were questioning whether the operation was “too difficult”.

    Ainsworth:

    “There is, of course, gloom and worry back here in London with the numbers of people that we’ve lost,” he said. “If people weren’t [worrying], there would be something seriously wrong with them.

    “But when you go out to Afghanistan, as I did last weekend, there is a very real sense of momentum.”

    But his message on “compelling reasons” fell on stony ground, largely the cloth-ears, to mix metaphors, of the anti-press.

    He insisted that there were compelling reasons for British engagement in Afghanistan which went to the heart of the UK’s national security. And he said everything was being done to give troops increased protection from roadside bombs.

    “Our troops are in Afghanistan to keep our country safe from the threat of terrorism. If we leave now the Taliban will take control and al Qaeda will return,” he said.

    But Mr Clegg took a characteristic swipe at our oldest allies in that earlier report. He said that he believes that the American surge of troops will further marginalise the British effort in the same way that it did in Iraq when British troops were “relegated” to the background.

    He says: “I can only imagine how demoralising it must be for British troops at all levels to feel they have to be bailed out by Uncle Sam.”

    I have to say that I am also afraid that Mr Cameron may be making a tactical error to suggest that this is “THE vital year.”  A hostage to fortune?

    Now, what is Ainsworth saying today about working with Brown?

    Labour Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth behind Gordon Brown, in a picture which speaks a thousand words.

    THE TROUBLE WITH GORDON BROWN

    Coventry North East MP Ainsworth, who spent the 11 months up to the General Election in the cabinet, was rarely able to secure one-to-one meetings with Mr Brown and when the two did get together Ainsworth says his views on defence policy were generally ignored, he has revealed.

    “It’s no secret that Gordon and I are not each other’s greatest fans,” he explained. “I found him very difficult to work with. Impossible really.”

    The greatest strain in the relationship occurred in October last year when an official inquiry was published into the death of 14 servicemen who were killed when an RAF Nimrod surveillance aircraft burst into flames over Afghanistan.

    The report, by Charles Haddon-Cave QC, exposed catastrophic design faults in the Nimrod MR2 which were not put right as a result of cost-cutting and “complacency”.

    Ainsworth revealed that Gordon Brown’s office made it clear the entire Nimrod fleet should be grounded, even though repairs to faulty hot-air ducts and fuel pipes on the remaining aircraft had taken place.

    […]

    Addressing his relationship with Brown directly, Mr Ainsworth said: “I don’t suppose I am the easiest person to work with, but I am a party loyalist. I’m a team player and not a maverick.”

    Even as Defence Secretary, Ainsworth found it extremely difficult to speak directly to the Prime Minister. And when the two did meet, the sense of frustration at running up against a brick wall was palpable.

    “It’s no secret that Gordon and I are not each other’s greatest fans,” he explained. “I found him very difficult to work with. Impossible really.”

    […]

    There is something of a paradox to the way most people see Britain’s role in the world, according to Ainsworth.

    “We want to be an important country but we don’t want to pay for defence. That’s not just a Labour party issue, it affects the Tories and the Liberal Democrats as well.

    “We are still spending more than most European countries on defence as a proportion of GDP. The big dilemma is, and this annoys me more than anything, that people will look at the television and say something must be done but they won’t pay for the means with which to do it.

    “The reason we were able to do something in Bosnia, to stop men being taken into the woods and shot, to stop women being raped, was because we could. We had the means to do so.

    “The biggest issue is that the overwhelming majority of people in this country don’t get Afghanistan. They don’t believe us when we say our national security is at stake. But it’s not for a lack of trying, we have tried to put the case.

    “We in the West walked away from Afghanistan at the end of the cold war and left it a country devastated socially and armed to the teeth. If we do that again there will be consequences.”

    He flatly rejects complaints about supposed poorly-equipped soldiers, noting that the budget for urgent operational requirements in Afghanistan – paying for trucks, helicopters and kit – rose from £3 billion to £5 billion a year on his watch.

    Addressing his relationship with Brown directly, Mr Ainsworth said: “I don’t suppose I am the easiest person to work with, but I am a party loyalist. I’m a team player and not a maverick.”

    Even as Defence Secretary, Ainsworth found it extremely difficult to speak directly to the Prime Minister. And when the two did meet, the sense of frustration at running up against a brick wall was palpable.

    Mr Ainsworth said: “You have to pay a price if you want people to be part of the team. There has to be discussion, you have to be given your day in court, there has to be a conversation.

    “You have to be given a chance to promote your bid, but with Gordon so often you don’t.”




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