Paddy Ashdown

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‘What is happening in the Middle East, like it or not, is the wholesale rewriting of the Sykes-Picot borders of 1916.’ Illustration by Satoshi Kambayashi

Three years ago, when the world obsessed about President Assad, some of us warned that Syria was only one frontline in a wider sectarian war between Sunni and Shia; that the spread of militant jihadism among the Sunni community, funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was a preparation for this. And that before long this movement, like the 30 years’ religious war of 17th-century Europe, would threaten to engulf the entire Muslim world.

This is the true context in which the Isis terror in the Middle East must be seen. It is why we need to understand that, though the world watches Iraq today, just as it did Syria yesterday, the actual war being fought is a regional one, with potential to spread across Islam worldwide.…  Seguir leyendo »

David Omand, writing in yesterday's Guardian, says we shouldn't be surprised to discover our intelligence services are working with the Americans, and that it's a good thing they are. He is right. But that does not mean we should allow a friendly power (even our most friendly one) to intrude on our citizens' privacy in ways they would not permit with their own.

He says this is all OK because it's only computers processing our data and humans will only see what they program computers to show them. But who writes the programs? He says we can be reassured because our governments are operating under the rule of law.…  Seguir leyendo »

We politicians stand accused by The Times of failing to grasp the nettle on defence, of tacitly agreeing to avoid the issue in the run-up to the general election. The issues are so complex that there is a temptation to sweep them under the carpet. But national security should be at the heart of any government’s strategy, and judgments on the fitness of politicians to govern should include a judgment of how well they will protect the people. So let’s start the debate now.

There is a political consensus on the need for a defence review. What I think we need is something much broader.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taleban’s favourite phrase in recent months has been: “The elephant is down, now all we have to do is slay it.”

The best thing about this week’s Obama speech was that they now know the elephant is not down; it is engaging the fight with renewed strength, determination and vigour. The Taleban are now under real pressure in northern Pakistan and, with the right resources, the right leadership and the right military strategy on the ground, we now have a chance to begin to turn the military tide in Afghanistan.

So is this enough for success (however limited your definition)?…  Seguir leyendo »

The clamour is growing for us to withdraw from Afghanistan. And the tragic loss of five British soldiers at the hands of one of those we are supposed to be fighting alongside will make that clamour louder.

There is a real chance we will lose this struggle in the bars and front rooms of Britain before we lose it in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan — particularly as we have a Government that has completely failed both to make a cogent case for this war or to convince us that it has a strategy worthy of the sacrifices being made.…  Seguir leyendo »

The crucial question on Afghanistan today is not whether this war is important. It is. It is not whether the consequences of failure are serious. They are. It is a much more brutal question: can we win? And the answer is no. Unless we change both our current policies and our present attitudes, failure is inevitable.

The reasons are manifold. The international community continues to lack a united strategy with clear priorities. Nato is all over the place. President Obama's plan is taking too long to be applied. British soldiers are fighting the war at full capacity, but their government is not.…  Seguir leyendo »

These are challenging times. As government tries to deal with the fallout from the global financial crisis, the tightest fiscal conditions for decades and the collapse of trust in politicians and politics, the last thing it wants to hear is warnings of growing threats to our national security. But hear them it must, and act on them.

The global recession is likely to worsen the international security environment considerably. It is already making many weak and poor states weaker and, as both 9/11 and recent events in North Korea have shown, the consequences flowing from weak, fragile and pariah states are now a greater potential threat to national and international security than the actions of strong, competitive ones.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dear Richard, [Hoolbrooke]

I'm glad that President Obama chose you as his special envoy in Afghanistan. For I know that you are passionate about the country and have all the skills, experience and muscle to turn things round before it is too late.

It's not going to be easy, of course. But you know that. The talk here is of a troop surge with the new President asking Europe for more troops and to share more of the fighting. Quite right. We are trying to win in Afghanistan with one twenty-fifth of the troops and one fiftieth of the aid per head than in Bosnia.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 1 May 2003, several hours after George Bush's fateful appearance under the Mission Accomplished banner, Donald Rumsfeld stated in Kabul: "If one looks at Afghanistan and even Iraq today, it's very clear that we are and have been in a stabilisation operation mode for some time. We clearly have moved from major combat activity to ... stabilisation and reconstruction activities. The bulk of the country today is permissive, it's secure."

Recent reports suggest otherwise, with concern being increasingly expressed by senior US military and civilian leaders that we are on a losing path in Afghanistan, while in Iraq we have fought a war of "unintended consequences" which may only have strengthened our enemies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Exteriores (ECFR) y ex consejero del Ministerio Antidrogas del Gobierno afgano. Traducción de Jesús Cuéllar Menezo.

La muerte de dos soldados españoles el domingo 9 de noviembre a causa de un ataque insurgente en Afganistán ha vuelto a poner sobre el tapete la participación española en la misión de la OTAN en territorio afgano y, con ella, la viabilidad del esfuerzo que lleva a cabo la comunidad internacional para reconstruir ese país asolado por las guerras.

En momentos como éste, dicha empresa, a la que diversos países han dedicado hasta ahora siete años, puede antojarse bastante vana y de sombrías perspectivas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Almost exactly 13 years ago, American leadership brought an end to Bosnia's three-and-a-half-year war through the Dayton peace agreement. Today the country is in real danger of collapse. As in 1995, resolve and transatlantic unity are needed if we are not to sleepwalk into another crisis.

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, once the darling of the international community (and especially Washington) for his opposition to the nationalist Serb Democratic party, has adopted that party's agenda without being tainted by their genocidal baggage. His long-term policy seems clear: to place his Serb entity, Republika Srpska, in a position to secede if the opportunity arises.…  Seguir leyendo »