Monday, April 27, 2009
Gordon Brown has visited Kabul to finalise what he calls a new approach to dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan - which he will unveil to Parliament on Wednesday.
It involves handing over Afghanistan, province by province, to Afghan control. A similar approach worked in Iraq.
Britain is helping train more Afghan police and the size of the army there will virtually double by the end of 2011.
The Prime Minister visited Helmand province for breakfast with British troops and a meeting with tribal elders.
With elections due here in August, Britain is providing £15m to help ensure those polls are free and fair.
At Camp Bastion, the Prime Minister's message to troops was upbeat.
He told them two thirds of Afghanistan is "relatively safe" and things are improving.
But there is a problem: what Gordon Brown is calling the "crucible of terror" - the ungovernable border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This is the stronghold of al Qaeda and of the Taliban, 60 miles from the Pakistan capital Islamabad.
Mr Brown said 25 to 30 million people were living in a "breeding ground for terrorists" between the two countries.
Future peace in Afghanistan will appear to depend on the military defeat of the Taliban and its allies in neighbouring Pakistan.
The Americans call it AF-PAK, a term Mr Brown does not like.
He insisted they are two distinct countries with two very different sets of problems.
But to solve the crisis in one, Afghanistan now depends on dealing with the problems of the other, Pakistan.
Hence the new approach to dealing with both countries simultaneously.
The Prime Minister said: "There is a crucible of terrorism in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Our approach to these countries is different, but must be complementary. Our strategy for dealing with this breeding ground for terrorism will mean more security on the streets of Britain."