Lib Dems warn of ‘last chance’ for Afghanistan

By staff

The Liberal Democrats have warned today that unless the UK changes its policy in Afghanistan, “failure is inevitable”.

In a joint letter to The Guardian, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and former leader Paddy Ashdown, said “we lack a political plan that works. And it is far from clear that the military plan is working.”

“It is not yet lost in Afghanistan. Not quite. We are in the territory of the last chance,” the two Lib Dem leaders said.

They also criticised the leadership of the prime minister for failing to galvanise the British public behind the campaign: “We all know our prime minister will never be Henry V at Agincourt; his chief means of persuasion is not charisma, but volcanic grumpiness.

“Nevertheless, he must find better means to tell us what this war is for, if he is to reverse the alarming erosion in public support.

“You cannot win a war on half-horsepower. The prime minister needs to make it clear that this struggle is now the nation’s first priority and we will strain every sinew to win it,” the Lib Dem leaders said.

Mr Clegg and Mr Ashdown also criticised the government for continuing to pump aid money into India when it could be helping to strengthen economic stability in Afghanistan.

However, the Lib Dem leaders also acknowledged that the failings were international, saying there was an “absence of any clear international strategy”, with each country involved in the campaign working only on its own specific patrol area as the British are in Helmand.

Mr Ashdown is himself a former marine and international diplomat. It was rumoured last year that he was a candidate for UN representative to Afghanistan.

The joint letter comes on the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth.