James Forsyth

Might Ashdown’s Afghan appointment be collateral damage in the row between Britain and Russia?

Might Ashdown's Afghan appointment be collateral damage in the row between Britain and Russia?
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The news that Paddy Ashdown is going to be a reconstruction supremo in Afghanistan, coordinating the military and development work, seems to be announced every few weeks. But it has never been officially confirmed that he will go and do the job. Now, Michael White reports that there is a danger that the appointment might get dragged into the row between Britain and Russia over the Litvinenko assassination. Michael White reports on his blog that,

“The foreign secretary is anxious that the row doesn't spill over to Iran or Kosovo, policy areas where we need Russian cooperation. One casualty could be Paddy Ashdown's Afghan appointment by the UN on Monday. He was furious that the deal leaked out of the UN this week when it has yet to be ratified.”

If Ashdown’s appointment was to fall victim to this row, it would be a tragedy. Afghanistan desperately needs someone like Ashdown, a man with invaluable post-conflict experience thanks to his work in the Balkans, to bring the Americans, the Europeans and the various UN agencies together.

In the absence of an Ashdown-style figure, it is almost certain that the divisions within the international community about Afghan policy will begin to have negative consequences on the ground. The extent of the split between the Americans and the Europeans was brought home at the end of last year when two European diplomats were expelled from the country at the urging of the Americans. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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