Kim Howells, the former foreign office minster responsible for Afghanistan, has described the occupation of the country as corrupt “from top to bottom”.
He said, “There are few signs that the chaotic hegemony of warlords, gangsters, presidential placemen, incompetent and under-resourced provincial governors and self-serving government ministers has been challenged in any effective way by President Hamid Karzai.
“On the contrary, those individuals appear to be thriving, not least because Karzai has convinced himself that he cannot afford to sack or challenge the strongmen who, through corruption, brutality, power of arms or tribal status are capable of controlling their territories and fiefdoms.”
He warned that the British government’s recent pronouncements on the war were “daft”. “People will not accept the notion that British families should send their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters to risk their lives fighting religious fanatics, tribal nationalists, corrupt warlords and heroin traffickers in one of the most godforsaken terrains on the face of the earth.
“The notion is daft, however much we may try to rationalise it by arguing that it is better to fight Al Qaida over there than over here.”
This recent change of heart by one of New Labour’s chief supporters of the occupation reflects growing unease over the Afghan war.
This week four British troops were killed in one day. Three Canadian soldiers suffered the same fate the next day, bringing to 280 the number of foreign troops killed this year.
Now the US is planning to push in 5,000 extra troops to help British soldiers drive back insurgents in the south.
This “mini-surge” comes as the US and its Nato allies are desperately attempting to open peace talks with sections of the Afghan resistance.