The west’s Afghanistan campaign

2011-09-14 00:00

THE author was Her ­Majesty’s Ambassador in Kabul and then Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2007 to 2010.

A career diplomat with a clear ­affinity for the military, he has written this personal account from memory and a rough diary, without ­access to official papers.

At one level it is the ­inevitable account of embassy life in an exotic location, but this one is punctuated by frequent bomb blasts.

There are also hazardous visits to British troops in Helmand, which Cowper-Coles obviously relished. He is frank about his ­deteriorating relationship with the moody President Hamid Karzai; and as for interactions with missions from other nations, these are sometimes surprising.

He quotes Harold Macmillan to the effect that the first rule of politics is not to invade Afghanistan. Having made this mistake three times, the British should know.

Cowper-Coles is uncomfortable with American tactics that seem destined to repeat the error of Vietnam: over-confidence in military and material resources without a plausible political strategy. He agrees with Georges Clemenceau that war is too serious a matter to be left to the military. And he is adamant that without a peace settlement, it is fruitless to indulge in wishful thinking about development projects.

On the evidence of this book the Afghans would no doubt agree. The extent to which they are engaged in the latest plan from Washington is unclear and their options seem bleak: the Taliban, warlords involved in the drug trade or the corrupt regime in Kabul.

Cowper-Coles has written an engaging account, but sooner or later the occupiers will be gone. His readers are left with the feeling it will probably all have been for naught.

Certainly this will be the case, the author argues, if there is no accommodation with the Taliban. And that will require the cooperation of regional powers such as Pakistan, about which Cowper-Coles is disappointingly reticent.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.