Ashdown set to become super-envoy to Afghanistan

by Stephen Tall on December 5, 2007

So says The Guardian:

Gordon Brown and President George Bush are expected in the next week to bring some badly needed coordination to aid and military effort in Afghanistan by appointing Lord Ashdown as super-envoy to the country. Brown is set to make the announcement to MPs before the Commons rises for Christmas in what is seen as a statement of his foreign policy approach to the fight against terrorism. …

Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, is being asked to coordinate the roles of the UN and Nato for the first time, and is likely to pursue a political settlement that requires some resolution between the government of Hamid Karzai and the less extreme elements of the Taliban. Ashdown is known to be gloomy about the prospect of success in Afghanistan unless there is far greater cohesion between aid agencies, armies and foreign governments. Previously a successful UN envoy to Bosnia between 2002 and 2006, he has pointed out that Afghanistan is receiving a 20th of the military effort and a 50th of the aid money that was put into Bosnia. …

Ashdown’s appointment also suggests that Britain and the US are likely to take a more emollient stance towards a political settlement. Ashdown has said he believes the west needs to scale back its political ambitions to establish a western-style democracy in the country. Ashdown has been a strong opponent of the proposed US policy of aerial spraying of poppy crops. Opium production has reached record levels, flooding the western market with heroin and leaving Afghan farmers dependent on warlords and the Taliban for income.