Central & South Asia
Leaks show UK Afghan failure
US cables released by WikiLeaks reveal complaints by US diplomats and Afghan president about standard of UK troops.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2010 08:42 GMT
President Karzai said safety in Helmand had deteriorated under UK command [AFP]

US diplomats and Hamid, Karzai, the Afghan president, criticised the role of UK troops in Afghanistan as "not up" to standard, according to cables released by WikiLeaks.

In the US embassy memos published by the Guardian, a UK newspaper, on Friday, senior officials derided the forces' efforts in the southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban.

"We and Karzai agree the British are not up to the task of securing Helmand," US diplomats from the Kabul embassy said in a 2008 cable.

In a separate cable sent in February 2009, Karzai complains that UK forces had allowed law and order to breakdown in Helmand.


"When I first returned to Afghanistan, I had only 14 American soldiers with me," the cable quoted Karzai as having said.

"Helmand was safe for girls to go to school. Now ... British soldiers are in Helmand, and the people are not safe.

"We must stand on a higher moral platform than the bad guys."

General Dan McNeill, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan from 2007-2008, was reported to have said to a US drug-control officer in April 2007 that the British "had made a mess of things in Helmand, their tactics were wrong".

Gulab Mangal, Helmand's governor, was also quoted in a cable sent from the US embassy in Kabul as telling a US team led by Joe Biden, the vice-president, that US forces were needed urgently due to British security in the town of Sangin failing to extend even to the main bazaar.

"I do not have anything against them [the British] but they must leave their bases and engage with the people," Mangal said.

"Stop calling it the Sangin district and start calling it the Sangin base - all you have done here is built a military camp next to the city."

The UK has reacted to the leaked memos, stating that their troops had performed well and that safety in Sangin - which the US now maintains responsibility for - was improved by their presence.

"British forces did an excellent job in Sangin, delivering progress by increasing security and taking the fight to the insurgency," the UK's ministry of defence said in a a statement.

"Both Afghan leaders, including the governor of Sangin, and the US Marines have publicly recognised and paid tribute to the sacrifice and achievements of British forces in that area," a spokesman added.

Afghan graft

The cables also show that US staff were concerned of widespread corruption within the Afghan government, with one memo from October 2009 stating that Ahmed Zia Massoud, the then vice-president, had been found with $52m in a suitcase when stopped at Dubai airport.

Massoud has denied the claim.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, in Kabul, said that the documents showed US fears of corruption within the Afghan government and criticism of Karzai.

"Certainly there is criticism of some of the things he has done, like releasing some prisoners from jail ... said to be for tribal, political reasons.

"The cables show a progression of when Karzai has been in power from total confidence in him to now when they are deeply concerned."

Nato forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001, following a US invasion of the country to remove the Taliban, whom they accused of harbouring al-Qaeda operatives connected to the September 11 attacks, from power.

This year has been the most violent since the campaign began.

The UK has 10,000 troops in the country, now costing more than £5bn ($7.7bn) a year, of about 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The WikiLeaks website began releasing a trove of classified US diplomatic cableson Sunday, infuriating Washington, which called the leak an "attack on the international community".

Al Jazeera and agencies
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