Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 17:23 UK

Davis in 'Vietnam 1968' warning

David Davis
Mr Davis has been on a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan

Ex-shadow home secretary David Davis has called for an Iraq-style troop "surge" in Afghanistan to prevent the country turning into "Vietnam 1968".

He said NATO's strategy had failed and was now "risking the lives and livelihoods" of ordinary people there.

The Tory MP, who visited Afghanistan last month, also warned of rampant government and police corruption.

And he urged Western governments to end their unconditional support for Hamid Karzai's administration.

Mr Davis, who quit the Tory front bench to fight a by-election on civil liberties, said Afghanistan was one of the causes on which he would be campaigning from the backbenches, in what he called his "political afterlife".

The former SAS man said NATO troops had abandoned their initial tactics of gaining and holding ground and were now pegged back in heavily fortified compounds, with no control over the roads and the surrounding territory.

'Uniformed criminals'

British forces are now being killed in Afghanistan at a faster rate than during the invasion of Iraq.

This year has been the bloodiest so far in Afghanistan for the NATO and US missions since the Taleban was removed from government in 2001, with senior defence officials in the UK admitting the Taleban are proving "more resilient" than expected.

Speaking at a lunch for journalists in Westminster, Mr Davis said the Afghan army was too small to cope with the demands placed on it and the police were "to a large extent uniformed criminals".

Support for the Taleban was increasing among the population, who in some cases were turning to ad-hoc Taleban courts to settle their disputes.

He urged the West to take Hamid Karzai's government "by the scruff of the neck and sort out the justice system and stop running the country for the benefit of 20 very rich families".

Continuing with the current counter-insurgency strategy would eventually hand victory to the Taleban, while pulling out would lead to civil war and instability across the region, he argued.

'Vietnam 1968'

He called for a troop surge of the type carried out in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the incoming US Commander of Centcom in charge of a wide area including all US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And with President Karzai facing an election, which he was not guaranteed to win, an incoming US president would have a six month window to take action.

"If we handle it well it will be like Iraq 2004, if we handle it badly it will be like Vietnam 1968," said the former shadow home secretary.

Mr Davis also hit back at claims he has thrown away his career - and chance to influence the debate on issues such as Afghanistan - by returning to the backbenches.

His victory in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election, which he fought in protest at government plans to extend detention of terror suspects to a maximum of 42 days, had ensured the issue was now off the political agenda for good, even in the event of another terrorist atrocity, he claimed.

He refused to be drawn on whether his former shadow cabinet colleague George Osborne had shown poor judgement over his meetings with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, saying he knew as much as journalists about the issue.

He said more questions needed to be asked about Lord Mandelson's presence on the billionaire's yacht.

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