Daniel Korski

Time for a British Manley Commission?

Time for a British Manley Commission?
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If the government wants to stem the haemorrhaging of elite support for NATO’s Afghan mission, there is one major thing it can do at this stage: establish a British version of the Manley Commission. In Canada, ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Manley was asked by the Harper government to take a hard look at Canada’s role is Afghansistan, and lay out a clear plan. Its work effectively rebuilt Canadian support for the war effort.

The Brown Government is simply not trusted to give an honest assessment of what is happening on the ground or give the military what it needs. The Defence Secretary is an unknown entity outside of Westminster (and even inside), and can hardly be expected to succesfully champion something as contentious as the war. The best the government can hope for is to survive the coming weeks and hope the British public focuses on their summer holidays. But this is a reactive strategy, one that will leave it exposed when the Taliban achieve their next Viet Cong-style success.

 

Given the excellent work undertaken by Paddy Ashdown and George Robertson on the IPPR’s National Security Commission, why not ask them to take a proactive look at British operation, military and civilian, and report to the Government and Parliament on the way forward? To avoid the kerfuffle surrounding the Iraq Commission, let the two peers determine who they want on their commission; they are smart enough to be trusted to bring the right expertise on board.

Let them conduct hearings, travel to both Afghanistan and Pakistan and report back when Parliament returns after summer recesses so they may take into account the Afghan presidential elections planned for 20th August. If the government wants to be on the front-foot, this may be the only option. The alternative: to fight a rearguard action. And as any military officers would tell you, that is rarely a winning strategy.