Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 09:10 UK

Ashdown warning over Afghanistan

British troops in Afghanistan
There are 47,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan

The Nato-led alliance is "getting pretty close" to losing control of Afghanistan, Lord Ashdown, the former UN envoy to Bosnia has warned.

The peer, who was blocked from being UN envoy to Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai, says it will take more than extra troops to quell the fighting.

He spoke as Gordon Brown flies to Romania for Nato's biggest summit.

"I'm not saying for a moment that we have lost... I'm saying that we're getting pretty close to it," he said.

During the Bucharest summit, Mr Brown and US President George Bush are set to call for more of the 26 Nato members to send combat troops and provide additional support in the battle against the Taleban.

International strategy needed

Lord Ashdown, who stepped down as Lib Dem leader in 1999, said alongside more troops, Afghanistan needs a stable government.

"While more troops are definitely necessary, they are not sufficient," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

If we don't create the government, the Taleban simply come back ... you have to do both of them together
Lord Ashdown

"What we really need here, alongside more troops and more people prepared to carry the burden, is a clear international strategy which is unified and which has a political aim.

"You can defeat the enemy militarily on the battlefield, but what you have to do is win the political battle.

"And if you don't do the second of those, there's not much point doing the first."

Lord Ashdown said he did not believe it was possible to defeat the Taleban "unless you can also create a stable government in Kabul and an effective state in Afghanistan".

"And we are a long way from achieving that," he said.

Main aims

"If we don't create the government, the Taleban simply come back ... you have to do both of them together."

He added: "I'm not saying for a moment that we have lost in Afghanistan, I am, however, saying that we are getting pretty close to it and unless we begin to turn this thing round with a political strategy that can be supported by the military action, more troops that we are calling for in Bucharest may help in the short term, but won't help us in the long."

Lord Ashdown said he had listed three aims for the job of UN special envoy to Afghanistan, before Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide was selected to carry it out.

These included establishing security for the nation, not just militarily, but on the home front, with a secure water supply and secure government on the ground.

He also believed it was necessary to establish the rule of law and increase the capacity to govern Afghanistan by building governmental institutions.

He said if these three aims were adopted, the soldiers in Afghanistan "become part of the plan" rather than having the problem dumped on them with all the sacrifices and risks that entails.

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