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Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan: We’re doomed

FILE; BILAL QABALAN/AFP/Getty Images Britain’s outspoken ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has gotten himself into some hot water over comments made in a meeting with France’s Amb. François Fitou. A memo about the meeting from Fitou to President Nicolas Sarkozy has been leaked to the press: According to Mr Fitou, Sir Sherard told him ...

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FILE; BILAL QABALAN/AFP/Getty Images

Britain's outspoken ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has gotten himself into some hot water over comments made in a meeting with France's Amb. François Fitou. A memo about the meeting from Fitou to President Nicolas Sarkozy has been leaked to the press:

According to Mr Fitou, Sir Sherard told him on September 2 that the Nato-led military operation was making things worse. "The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime which would collapse without them ... They are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis, which will probably be dramatic," the Ambassador was quoted as saying.

FILE; BILAL QABALAN/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s outspoken ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has gotten himself into some hot water over comments made in a meeting with France’s Amb. François Fitou. A memo about the meeting from Fitou to President Nicolas Sarkozy has been leaked to the press:

According to Mr Fitou, Sir Sherard told him on September 2 that the Nato-led military operation was making things worse. “The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime which would collapse without them … They are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis, which will probably be dramatic,” the Ambassador was quoted as saying.

Britain had no alternative to supporting the United States in Afghanistan, “but we should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one,” he was quoted as saying. “In the short term we should dissuade the American presidential candidates from getting more bogged down in Afghanistan … The American strategy is doomed to fail.”

Cowper-Coles went on to state that an “acceptable dictator” was probably the best that the world could hope for in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office denies that the memo is accurate, though Sir Sherard does have something of a reputation for going off his talking points. For a while, he was also maintaining one of the Internet’s best diplo-blogs. I interviewed Cowper-Coles about the blog for FP‘s Seven Questions a year ago. The ambassador sounded quite a bit more optimistic about the coalition’s progress and the Karzai government during that conversation.

If Cowper-Coles did make the comments, I certainly understand why his bosses in the FO might be ticked off. But as others have noted, his tendency to say things that others might not want to hear is both refreshing and needed when Western politicians have pretended for far too long that it was possible to just muddle through in Afghanistan.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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