Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Cutting and running from Afghanistan

MPs on the Defence Select Committee made a similar warning this morning about the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan as Con Coughlin made in The Spectator last month. He wrote that Britain’s ‘attempt to undertake a dignified retreat from Kabul has all the makings of yet another Afghan disaster’. You can read the full piece here, but here are the main points that it makes, followed by the main warnings from the select committee’s report:

1. Is the ANSF ready to take over?

Because of a failure to defeat or reach a political settlement with the Taleban, the withdrawal plan depends on trusting Afghan troops ‘who have already shown a worrying ability to switch sides’. Coughlin outlined a trend of ‘green on blue’ killings in recent months.

The Defence Committee’s report this morning said ‘we remain concerned that, as withdrawal and the final handover to the ANSF draws near, violence levels have not fallen. The lack of progress in reducing violence does not auger well for improving security and economic development on a long-term sustainable basis’. Keeping the ANSF a ‘cohesive and loyal force’ depends in part on those forces having confidence that they have the necessary support from the air and medical care when engaged in conflict with insurgents.

2. Is a withdrawal in 2014 right?

The 2014 withdrawal date was agreed by Washington and London in spite of judgements from those leading the task force that it was a ‘task which one measures in decades’.

‘We are convinced that the withdrawal of troops will not be as straightforward or risk-free as the MoD tells us,’ the committee’s report said, demanding that ministers share their detailed plans for withdrawal with the MPs. These would include:

– An orderly handover of responsibility for security to the ANSF.

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