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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Sunday, 12 October 2008 10:59 UK

Britain faces 'disaster' in Afghanistan

On Sunday 12 October Andrew Marr interviewed David Davis MP - Conservative

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Senior Conservative David Davis reports back on his fact-finding trip there.

David Davis MP - Conservative
David Davis MP - Conservative

ANDREW MARR: David Davis astonished Westminster earlier this year when he resigned as Shadow Home Secretary and forced a by-election more or less against himself to demonstrate the depth of his opposition to the government's plans for 42 day detention without charge.

Now a backbencher, he has the freedom to pursue his campaign on civil liberties and other interests; and he's just back from a trip to Afghanistan where he met British soldiers flying in Helmand and he's here now - unscathed, I'm glad to say. David Davis, thank you for coming in.

DAVID DAVIS: My pleasure.

ANDREW MARR: Before we get onto Afghanistan...


ANDREW MARR: ...42 days, huge opposition building up in the House of Lords. Are you beginning to think it's dead?

DAVID DAVIS: I think it will be dead. We've got a debate this Monday on it. I think we'll hear again from the past Head of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, and we'll hear opposition from all parties against it, and I think it'll be walloped.

I think it'll be thrown out by a huge majority. And what's happened now is that the, is the electoral dynamics of it have changed. It was something which was profitable for the government to pursue.

They thought that by having 42 days and us opposing it, they'd make us look weak and them look strong. That was when 70% supported it. Now it's about 30% support it. It doesn't look like it's profitable. It looks like it's a bad idea and their own party probably won't support them in a Parliament Act. So I think it's probably over.

ANDREW MARR: And you don't, you don't feel kind of some regret about fighting that by-election as a result?

DAVID DAVIS: No, absolutely not. I mean I would regret if we, if it still got through. But I think you know I contributed - it wasn't just me - but I contributed to getting rid of it.

ANDREW MARR: Okay. Now Afghanistan. Give us the headlines.

DAVID DAVIS: Well the headline is if we don't change our strategy, I think we're facing a disaster in the longer run.


DAVID DAVIS: Yeah. I talked to a lot of Afghans as well as to British soldiers, as well as the senior officers - Afghans in government, Afghans against government. And, firstly, the Afghans think we're losing.

That's the sort of first point. You know whether we are or not, that's what they think. Secondly, we are effectively defending a government which is weak, corrupt and ineffective. I mean apart from its warlord allies, it doesn't extend a rifle shot beyond Kabul in terms of its power.

And many of the ministers, governors and so on have become multi-millionaires whilst public servants, I mean which the ordinary Afghan who lives on less than, oh I don't know, a hundred dollars a month at most just views with hatred. And on the ground, you know where we are in Helmand, for example, the Afghan National Police, who we support - you know we're sort of there to back up - well, bluntly, more than half of them are drug addicts, a significant majority of them are corrupt.

They are known principally for stopping Afghans on the road and taking money off them, for robbing them, even occasionally for rape and kidnap.

Now all those things mean you've got a sort of banditry in uniform. So I'm afraid the truth is that we are not on, we are not seen by the ordinary Afghan as the liberators that we really are.

ANDREW MARR: Our troops doing a very brave, difficult job...

DAVID DAVIS: They are.

ANDREW MARR: ...losing a lot of people, they must be seeing all of this as well?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I think they are...

ANDREW MARR: What do they think?

DAVID DAVIS: I mean, look, I mean let's understand something.

We get tactical victory after tactical victory on the back of the courage and the sacrifice of our troops. 32 died in this, in this last 6 month period. For the last couple of months, we've now got more allied deaths in Afghanistan than we have in Iraq.

As it were it's passed one another, going in different directions. And yes, of course, a number of British Army officers have resigned, very quietly in many cases, after coming back because I think they've seen what we see. And you saw...

ANDREW MARR: So there is some kind of demoralisation or disillusion running through the Armed Forces?

DAVID DAVIS: Well I don't... No, I don't think... I wouldn't quite put it that strongly. I mean the ordinary soldier, you know he's not thinking about the grand strategy.

He's thinking about defending the five district centres that we have. Aand doing a great job of it. Let's not kid ourselves - we have very, very good soldiers. I mean we might argue about their equipment and so on, but they're good soldiers.

ANDREW MARR: But what we're arguing about I suppose, above all, is the strategy?


ANDREW MARR: Now from what you're saying it sounds like an un-winnable war?

DAVID DAVIS: No, it's not un-winnable. I don't think that is the case. I think we've got some, we've got some openings coming up. Firstly, first and foremost we'll have a new American President.

Now whoever it is, they'll have a clean slate. Their first briefing from the National Intelligence Estimate - a little bit of which leaked in the last couple of days - will be that they're on a spiral of decline as it now stands. They will probably argue - I don't know the detail of this - they will probably argue for a surge a bit like they had in...

ANDREW MARR: Yes, would that work, do you think?

DAVID DAVIS: Well in conjunction with other things. A military surge by itself wouldn't work, I don't think.

They've got David Petraeus coming into overall command who run the past surge. Very, very clever, sort of soldier scholar guy. Now I think that they've got to do, they've got to do that to give themselves some entrenched position.

They've then also got to do something about the Karzai government. They've got to read the riot act to Karzai. You know we are putting in billions every month. That's not for free...


DAVID DAVIS: ...and they've also got to do something about on the ground - about providing justice and support for the ordinary Afghan.

ANDREW MARR: What about talking to the Taliban?

DAVID DAVIS: Well the Taliban are not one person or not one type of person.


DAVID DAVIS: You've got Al Qaeda who are never going to talk to you and the foreign fighters. You've got the absolute black turban fundamentalist who will execute, behead people, who will burn down girls schools and so on.

You've also got the Narcoterrorists who are in there as well - the sort of people who are making vast sums of money inside by coalition with them. But you've also got there as well people who are really just anti-government. They're not really pro-Taliban. They've joined up with them because they're the only alternative. And they're often there because of real, real resentment over real things the government's done wrong.

You know if you've had a member of your family raped or you've been robbed or you've been denied justice in some way, then I'm afraid you know the only alternative in town is the Taliban. You've got this sort of basically competing set of protection rackets at the ground level.

ANDREW MARR: Yeah, okay.

DAVID DAVIS: You know and ordinary Afghans, I mean the most outstanding story we've picked up - and we've confirmed it from a couple of sources - was that ordinary Afghans will leave government areas to go to a Taliban area to get justice, to get a trial on the subject. Now...

ANDREW MARR: It's a dreadful indictment.

DAVID DAVIS: ...what sort of reflection is that?

ANDREW MARR: Absolutely. One final question, if I may, just on things back here.

As the world meltdown continues, the financial system, is this going to change the mood of politics in this country and does your party and your leader need to change direction a bit? DAVID DAVIS: Well I think it may change the mood of politics generally, but I think what it will be about is how we recover.

I think the normal Left-Right to some extent will, will take a back seat in this and the real issue when we come to the next election is who's got the recovery plan, who's got the way out of what will be, if we're not careful, I mean a very, very threatening economic situation.

ANDREW MARR: David Davis, for now thank you very much indeed.

DAVID DAVIS: Thank you.


Please note "The Andrew Marr Show" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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