Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ex-envoy attacks Afghan strategy

Francesc Vendrell interviewed on the BBC’s HARDtalk

The West has no coherent strategy for victory in Afghanistan, according to the former EU envoy Francesc Vendrell.

Mr Vendrell told BBC TV’s HARDtalk programme the Afghan plan needed an overhaul – but this was not possible under the current US administration.

Mr Vendrell, who left office in August, lamented “many mistakes” made in Afghanistan and called for fast action against corruption rife in the country.

The US is set to announce a modest boost to its Afghan troop contingent.

US President George W Bush is expected to reveal plans for a “quiet surge” in troop levels in Afghanistan, coinciding with the withdrawal of some 8,000 US troops from Iraq.

Impossible to change

Mr Vendrell was asked on HARDtalk if the West had a coherent strategy to bring peace to Afghanistan.

“No,” was his reply. “Because for as long as the Bush administration is in office it is impossible to change the Bush administration’s approach to Afghanistan.

“They don’t want to see any changes because they still hope to present Afghanistan as a success story,” Mr Vendrell said.

“We will need to wait, not for very long, for a new administration to be established and at that point we need to reveal our strategy, not only a US strategy but the overall strategy, because clearly what we are doing so far is not going to lead to success.”

Mr Vendrell, a veteran Spanish diplomat, left the EU post in Afghanistan at the end of August.

“I don’t leave with a sense of failure,” he said.

“But I do leave with a sense of regret that we made so many mistakes. I don’t believe the situation will lead to failure but we have got to do a hell of a lot to get things right.”

Mr Vendrell added his voice to the criticism of civilian deaths in Afghanistan from aerial bombings. “It is doing us an enormous amount of harm with the public,” he warned.

“In 2002, we were being welcomed almost as liberators by the Afghans. Now we are being seen as a necessary evil, perhaps something that they need to put up with because our departure would probably mean a civil war, but these kinds of actions completely undermine the efforts to win hearts and minds.”

Mr Vendrell’s successor as EU envoy to Afghanistan is the Italian diplomat, Ettore Francesco Sequi.