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"Mr Cameron has insisted that not another single British soldier will be deployed to Afghanistan on his watch"

By Tim Montgomerie

38406_141350162561262_111263798903232_309414_5047407_nMr Cameron upset Israel yesterday. His "undiplomacy" offends Pakistan today. Pakistan's neighbour, Afghanistan, is often said to be the government's top foreign policy priority. But what is the policy?

It hasn't been said formally but the attitude of the Coalition to Afghanistan is clear: It wants out and soon. The Cameroons opposed General Petraeus' successful surge of troops into Iraq and their hearts are not in the other of what they regard as "Blair's wars". Although defence will be spared the axe this year, Cameron will cut deep into Britain's already overstretched armed forces next year and those cuts will have to be extra deep because he is protecting welfare payments like the Winter Fuel Allowance that go to people who don't need them.

The Telegraph's Con Coughlin has written about Britain's looming retreat in this week's Spectator. And retreat it is. However much Mr Cameron may want to commercialise foreign policy a failure to leave Afghanistan in reasonable order will seriously undermine Britain's standing in the world. We lost in southern Iraq and despite the heroism of our troops we are losing in Afghanistan too. Even Harriet Harman understands this and warned the PM against setting a withdrawal timetable.

Coughlin's piece is not yet online but I've posted three key extracts below:

"In turning his back on Afghanistan, Cameron appears blithely unconcerned about the impact that such an abject act of capitulation will have on Britain’s standing as a world power, as well as the implications the defeat will have for future defence of the entire Western alliance."

"When he was still in opposition, Mr Cameron scored many political points at the expense of the Labour government by his repeated claims that the British military operation was undermanned and under-resourced. There was consequently an expectation in Whitehall that if the Conservatives won power, there would be a ‘mini-surge’ in manpower and equipment. Instead, Mr Cameron has insisted that not another single British soldier will be deployed to Afghanistan on his watch."

"For all the stage-managed bonhomie of Mr Cameron’s summit with Mr Obama, there is unease with Mr Obama’s ability to demonstrate effective leadership on the world stage. ‘There is a growing awareness that we are dealing with a weak American president who is failing to demonstrate effective leadership on a whole range of issues,’ one of Mr Cameron’s senior security advisors recently confided to me. ‘On Iran, on Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinians, the perception is growing that there is a dangerous lack of leadership coming from the White House."

> The timing of the withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of the questions in this month's ConservativeHome survey.


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