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Time to cut back on drug war, urges MP

PUBLISHED: 16:54 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 16 August 2010

AN MP who helped compile a highly critical report of the Afghanistan mission said a large part of the UK s eight-year struggle has been a waste of effort and money . Orpington MP John Horam said that, unless the government takes heed of recommendations

AN MP who helped compile a highly critical report of the Afghanistan mission said a large part of the UK's eight-year struggle has been a "waste of effort and money".

Orpington MP John Horam said that, unless the government takes heed of recommendations laid out in the damning 321-page dossier, it is bound to fail in its attempts to secure the war-torn country.

The report, published last Sunday by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, made up of 14 all-party MPs, says the UK's efforts have been badly coordinated and have submitted to "mission creep" by attempting to achieve too much.

Our resources are being stretched too far and we should step down from our leading role in fighting narcotics and concentrate on security, it recommends.

Mr Horam said: "We need to focus on helping our troops. We have too much on our plate. We have not improved the drugs situation, we have not cracked it. There are still huge areas of poppy fields and 90 per cent of heroin still comes from Afghanistan.

"A lot of the last eight years has been a waste of effort and money because it was so poorly coordinated. A lot has gone wrong. We found out that there are only two soldiers and nobody in the government who can speak Pashto, the local language. How are you supposed to help people if you can't speak to them? It's awful."

The MP criticised Foreign Secretary David Miliband for advocating discussions with the Taliban, saying it was still too soon to negotiate. He said a political settlement such as that in Northern Ireland would not be possible until the militia were on the back foot.

He added it could be another 10 or 20 years before Afghanistan was stabilised and conceded it would be difficult to keep the support of the British public for that long.

He said: "People are asking why we are there? We are there to stop them from bombing London. While we are fighting them there they can't attack us here. But people will only go along with that while it looks like we are succeeding."

But with July being Britain's bloodiest month in the struggle so far, losing 22 troops, the MP accepted that we do not appear to be winning. He added: "But we did expect to see an increase in casualties because we are really fighting them now. It is too early to say what these latest efforts will yield. We will have to wait and see if it is a spike. We need more troops and we need better equipment. Afghanistan is a more difficult mission than Iraq. It is going to take a long time.

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