Peter Hoskin

The past few weeks have made the struggle in Afghanistan even more difficult

The past few weeks have made the struggle in Afghanistan even more difficult
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Domestically speaking, it has been an encouraging week from the coalition. Internationally speaking, less so. And today we see the first real rush of fallout from David Cameron’s appearance on the world stage, as the Pakistani intelligence agency cancels a visit to London, “in reaction to the comments made by the British Prime Minister against Pakistan.” It’s not the kind of development that we should exaggerate –after all, it still looks likely that President Zardari will visit Cameron next week, even if officials in Pakistan have been wavering on that front. But we shouldn’t underestimate it either.

The main reason to worry is, largely, one of personality. The Times runs a quote to the effect that Gereral Ashfaq Kayani is behind the decision to cancel the intelligence trip, and that he has been “angered” by Cameron. As the man whom Ahmed Rashid describes as “the most powerful man in Pakistan” in this week’s Spectator, Kayani has a key role to play in the deadly game that is being played over Afghanistan. He is said to working ceaselessly towards a Pakistan-friendly regime in Kabul, and that goal most likely involves making concessions to the Taliban. Anything which pushes him further away from the West, and closer to the West’s enemies, could make those concessions even greater.

There tends to be something attractive about blunt-speaking from a politician, so uncommon it has become. But as Charles Moore warns in the Telegraph today, Cameron should remember that “telling it like it is” can have harmful consequences in international politics – particularly when some sides think you are telling it like it isn’t. The upshot of the past few weeks – with its uncertain promises about troop withdrawal, those WikiLeaks, and now a souring of the relationship with Pakistan – is that the war effort in Afghanistan now looks a whole lot messier