British Conservative’s Rift on Afghanistan

The British Defense Secretary Liam Fox has said the British troops should withdraw as soon as possible. Is it a Conservative u-turn after a two-minded coalition government was formed with Liberal Democrats? When Prime Minister David Cameron visited British troops in Afghanistan prior to his election, in 2009, he said withdrawal of British troop by next year is unlikely. He had said deadlines are useless unless the real time come when withdrawal would not cost a heavy price and Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Conservatives in the debate prior to election were with the most attractive promises about Afghanistan. Once Mr. Cameron had said there should not be talk of artificial timelines, but the withdrawal of troops should be linked with success and completion of objective.

David Cameron in his last speech in the conference of Conservative party before elections had said if his party, Conservative, won the elections, they would get Britain more involved in Afghanistan so that the situation do not get worst. But Fox’s statement is confusing. Is there a rift in the Conservative administration about Afghanistan? It was apparent when Secretary for International Development Mitchell was talking of focusing development and aid as a crucial objective, but Fox said “We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country.”

The war cabinet promised by David Cameron is already making confusing statements out of nothing. The top British officials in their first visit of Afghanistan are with a clear rift. How long will a different-minded coalition Govt. work in London if the majority party’s top leaders are with unclear minds on their top foreign policy priority? This was the situation during election campaign. Despite Afghanistan being a hot issue for Britons, the war on terror was less discussed in debates and election campaign policy speeches. In the formal media statement of party policy on major issues, all the three parties, Labor, Conservative and Liberal Democrat, had focused a section of their priority to Afghanistan, but it was not discussed in public debates before election. One of the reasons behind the decline of Labor Party’s popularity was the war in Afghanistan. However, among all the three major parties, Mr. Cameron’s Conservative party was offering a more focused perspective on Afghanistan. It was therefore, many Afghans who participated in the UK election from Afghanistan, thorough Vote UK campaign, voted for Conservatives. Even the Afghan diaspora, who live in a considerable number in UK, were more supportive to Conservative party.

Mr. Cameron had said the first and gravest responsibility after he comes to Government would be Afghanistan, and the British soldiers here. He also promised of a “war cabinet” on the first day of his government. But in the first Afghanistan visit, we saw how differently the members of this “war cabinet” think.


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