20 November, 2006

Blair in Afghanistan.

Tony Blair is in Afghanistan, where he has been holding talks with President Karzai and visiting British troops in Helmand. The media are giving conflicting messages of what Blair said. The BBC has a report and video, which interprets Blair's remarks as, "British troops will remain in Afghanistan until their job is done". The Guardian has a different emphasis: although the prime minister said the fight against the Taliban was a "generation-long struggle", he did not expect British troops to remain that long. The Times merely reports a continuing commitment. It sounds like classical Blair ambiguity and we shall have to wait for the press conference transcript to see what he actually said. Downing Street can be lethargic about updating its website, so do not expect anything today.

Update 21.22.06
The transcript of Blair's press conference with President Karzai is here.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on Blair's visit to the troops at Camp Bastion but notes cryptically that:
Mr Blair thanked the troops but there was no mention of when they might come home. British officials privately estimate that forces will be in the country for 10 to 15 years.
That appears to be a figure plucked out of thin air. The press, as evidenced above, seems to take the government line, that it is simply a matter of keeping British troops in Afghanistan until the Taliban is defeated. However, the reality of Afghan politics is much more complex. In fact, much will depend on how the national jirga works out, an issue to which I will return later today.

No comments: