Miliband warns against Afghanistan ‘vacuum’

By Alex Stevenson

David Miliband has called for a “clear political strategy” to match military efforts in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary gave a speech to the Nato parliamentary assembly in Edinburgh this morning as concerns about the struggle against the Taliban continued to escalate. So far this year coalition fatalities stand at 472.

While Mr Miliband acknowledged the military effort is necessary in the short-term for maintaining security, he argued the adoption of wider political goals is needed to provide the Afghan government with the capabilities it needs before troop withdrawals are made possible.

“I – as much as anyone else – want to bring our troops back home to safety. But we cannot leave a vacuum which the Taliban will quickly fill,” he said.

“This is not a war without end. But success must be based on aligning our military and civilian resources behind a clear political strategy.”

Mr Miliband’s proposed strategy has three elements. Ordinary Afghans, only five per cent of whom want the Taliban to return to power, should be reassured and ‘mobilised’ to resist the insurgents.

The multifaceted Taliban should be divided, by “reintegrating and reconciling those in search of money, status or power”. And a “new relationship” should be fostered between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

“This is what the British government is determined to promote,” the foreign secretary concluded.

His comments came after prime minister Gordon Brown’s speech on Afghanistan yesterday evening, when he told the lord mayor’s banquet that talks in the new year should include discussions over the timing for a British withdrawal.