Time to quit Afghanistan, says Ashdown

Published — Saturday 17 November 2012

Last update 17 November 2012 3:46 am

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London: Paddy Ashdown, a former leader of UK’s Liberal Democrat party wrote in a newspaper yesterday that Britain should accept defeat and move all of its soldiers out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. “All that we can achieve has now been achieved,” wrote the peer. “The only rational policy is to leave quickly, in good order and in the company of our allies. This is the only cause for which further lives should be risked,” he added.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister David Cameron to bring forward the 2014 deadline for bringing home British troops following a series of insider attacks.
Ashdown said it was “crystal clear that we have lost in Afghanistan”, adding the only achievement was in driving out Al-Qaeda.
However, the former soldier argued the failure had been political, not military.
Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in September he was considering bringing some British troops back from Afghanistan earlier than expected.
“I think that the message I am getting clearly from the military is that it might be possible to draw down further troops in 2013,” Hammond said in an interview at Camp Bastion in Helmand province. Separately, US government added a top Taleban commander to its list of suspected drug trafficking “Kingpins” on Thursday in the first such designation of a leader of the Afghan insurgency.
The move underscores concerns that Taleban commanders may be playing a growing role in heroin production, seeing the trade as a lucrative revenue stream to fund their campaign after most foreign troops have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The US Treasury said it had put Mullah Naim Barich on the Kingpin list, which bans US citizens from doing business with him and freezes any assets he may hold in the United States, for trafficking drugs from the southern Helmand province — the center of Afghanistan’s heroin industry.
“Today’s action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taleban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.
Barich is the Taleban’s “shadow governor” of Helmand, a term used by insurgents in their campaign to establish parallel administrations in territory they control.
The Kingpin designation puts the Taleban fighter on a par with notorious drug lords from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.
Although the listing is unlikely, by itself, to derail Barich’s activities, it may signal a growing belief in parts of the administration that the US should take a more robust approach to Afghanistan’s nexus of traffickers and insurgents.
For years, Western officials have debated the extent to which the Taleban has profited from the drug trade primarily by taxing the harvesting and shipment of opium, the crop used to make heroin, or by dabbling in running the industry directly.

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