What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

British citizens of note WRT Afghanistan

Wanting to do just some arbitrarily randomised, lazy research on the potential role of individuals in affecting political outcomes in conflict zones, I decided to assemble a non-comprehensive list of British citizens of note lately with regards to Afghanistan.
Some basic, useful information is that there are numerous such individuals. Perhaps it would be more difficult to assemble here a similar list of Dutch or Danish citizens of note. Bias is present in such an assessment - one has to reckon with the distortion of the dominant English-language media. Great Britain is also pulling a lot of weight in Afghanistan, so for that reason, too, more individuals of note could be expected from their part, in any case. And so on.
Anyway, here's a list of people and some people-photos to make this supposedly absent-minded exercise more entertaining.
Paddy Ashdown: He didn't make it to Afghanistan, but he was meant to make it there real hard, by the UK and Western decision-makers in general. It seems like he would have been every up for deploying to Kabul, and did not say no to a request by UN Sec-Gen. Ban Ki-Moon to do so. (Logical) speculation was that he would have played the role of a real heavyweight, effectively representing not just the UN, but also the EU and NATO, as an influential British/European politician (also, formerly, a "viceroy" of the Balkans). Versus Karzai, for example. Well, that was the main concern for the Afghan Prez, anyway. So Ashdown didn't make it in the end. He stepped back in January, 2008. The B-man for the job, the Norwegian Kai Ede, sent to Kabul in March, felt the need to threaten with things like this: "I'm not Paddy Ashdown, but don't under-estimate me."

Mervyn Patterson: He was formerly a UNAMA official, before he was expulsed from Afghanistan in December, 2008 2007, together with another British citizen an Irish citizen, Michael Semple, who himself was there in Kabul as a deputy EU representative. They weren't welcome to stay any more, after they had reportedly been involved in making a rather pragmatic deal with local Taliban commander Abdul Salaam (to win him over from the insurgent side), in the Musa Qala area, in Helmand. Whether that is true or not, and whether the Afghan government was upset really over the Musa Qala deal or not, are valid questions to ask (for example, Karzai is not exactly against the idea of talking to insurgents in general, at this point). Patterson and Semple's case was certainly a well-timed possibility for the Afghan government to demonstrate its sovereignty, in the context of the Ashdown affair - see above.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles: He is Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan. He said some rather pessimistic-sounding things about the host country - if it is true what Le Canard Enchaîné reported in October. That is: what was leaked to them somehow. Information supposedly revealing the contents of a confidential cable sent to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, summing up notes taken by someone at a meeting between Ambassador Cowper-Coles and the deputy French ambassador, Francois Fitou, in September, 2008, in Kabul. Ambassador Cowper-Coles is thus claimed to have said that "American strategy is destined to fail," and to have warned that increasing troop levels would serve only to "identify us even more clearly as an occupying force and multiply the number of targets". And then he is claimed to have added: "The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime which would collapse without them. In doing so, they are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis." His conclusion is reported to have been that Afghanistan should be "governed by an acceptable dictator."

Brigadier Carleton-Smith: As a commander of the British 16 Air Assault Brigade, which has completed a tour of Afghanistan by autumn, 2008, seemingly contributed to the wave of pessimistic comments himself. He said, on October 5, 2008: "We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army. We may well leave with there still being a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency." He actually didn't say that the war in Afghanistan was doomed from a Western perspective. But since he noted that there is a need to talk to the Taliban, many papers quoted him in articles also mentioning Ambassador Cowper-Coles' comments. See for instance here.

Daniel James: The man on the left, by the name of Daniel James, is accused of having spied for Iran. He is a British citizen, with a very British-sounding name, but in fact he was born in Iran, and got to the position he was in (interpreter for General David Richards, the British commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan), at the time when he was arrested in December, 2006, since he spoke fluent Persian. He was an interpreter and he is alleged to have interpreted as his task to forward some sensitive e-mails and the like. He is said to have sent coded e-mails and to have made phone calls to the Iranian military attaché, Colonel Mohammad Hossein Heydari. His case was heard at a London court on October 13, adding to the gloomy UK picture of what's going on in Afghanistan, at a moment when there already was much gloomy chatter.

Max Hastings: The influential British multi-intellectual, Max Hastings, historian, journalist, editor, war correspondent and many other appreciable things, Max Hastings, wrote this piece for the Guardian's Comment is free. Just on October 13. A random and violent speech-act, aptly dealt with here, at Ghosts of Alexander. Hastings wrote of prospects in Afghanistan: "The highest aspiration must be for controlled warlordism, not conventional democracy. A civil war may prove an essential preliminary before some crude equilibrium between factions can be achieved. If this sounds a wretched prognosis, it is hard to find informed westerners with higher expectations."

Rashid Rauf: A suspected British Islamist militant, Rashid Rauf was killed in Pakistan in November, 2008, in one of those US air strikes usually killing Al-Qaida number-threes and the like. He wasn't a specific target of the drone-executed assassination, but he did end up killed. He was wanted in connection with the 2006 trans-Atlantic plot. An American cross-border strike against a British cross-border-insurgent in Pakistan was certainly of interest for the British public.

Kim Howells: I wrote of him just yesterday. He was a minister (by FO denomination), responsible for a long while for the Afghanistan brief at the British Foreign Office. And he also said some rather pessimistic-sounding things about Afghanistan, and some rather negative things about Hamed Karzai.

Which makes me realise that this post of mine wasn't so random in fact. It looks just like an ideal follow-up (or follow-back) in a way. Common themes: UK dislike of Hamed Karzai, heart-of-darkness pessimism, random unfortunate and inconsiderate acts and speech-acts etc. Altogether, it's something like a cascade (the way James Rosenau conceived of it).

Meanwhile, for some interesting flavour, some Iranian and Pakistani immigration was/is added to the mix, to make this selection of British citizens of note with regards to (and not necessarily in) Afghanistan more interesting.

Ok, that's it from me, for today, for an analysis.


Anonymous said...

Michael Semple is in fact an Irish citizen.

Péter MARTON said...

I wasn't sure of that, since some sources refer to him as "Irish-born," while others just talk about two British officials expulsed.

Péter MARTON said...

Aha! I had some time to look around, and I found this Guardian piece:
They have a correction posted there:
"In the article below we wrongly described Michael Semple, one of the western officials expelled from Afghanistan last December, as a British aid worker. He is an Irish national. He previously worked as an adviser to the British high commission in Islamabad, not the British embassy in Kabul. This has been corrected. He would also like to make clear that Mervyn Patterson, who was also expelled, was not involved in the reconciliation initiative that proved controversial."