Peter Hoskin

Brown misjudges the Afghanistan waiting game

Brown misjudges the Afghanistan waiting game
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There's something futile about Gordon Brown's and, now, David Miliband's speeches on Afghanistan.  After all, the world is still waiting to hear what Obama's strategy is for the country.  Will he increase troop numbers – and by how much?  What does he actually want to achieve with them?  Until that's known, it's a little premature to talk about a "comprehensive political framework" for handing security responsibilities over to the Afghan army.

Worse, though, the PM's statements may actually be damaging.  Sure, it's frustrating that the US President is leaving his allies hanging.  But, in the meantime, any international talk about handovers and withdrawal – even if Downing Street maintain that they're not talking about withdrawing troops just yet, and even if they’re ready to increase troop numbers themselves – could simply ramp up the pressure on Obama not to increase US troop numbers to the levels requested by military commanders.  In the end, it all comes down to a vicious irony: talking about a timetable now could draw the whole process out.