British Envoy: Prepare Public for “Acceptable Dictator” in Afghanistan

Investigative French weekly magazine La Canard Enchaîné has obtained a leaked copy of a coded diplomatic message from French diplomat Jean-François Fitou. The message, sent on September 2nd, gives an account of a previous meeting with British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles and comments made by the ambassador regarding the situation in the troubled nation.

Sir Sherard is reported as saying “the current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust.” He also cautioned that an increase in NATO forces would be counterproductive, as “the military presence is part of the problem, not the solution,” and the addition of more troops would “identify us even more clearly as an occupying force.”

In Sir Sherard’s opinion the only realistic way to maintain control over Afghanistan over the next decade would be for it to be turned over to an “acceptable dictator.” The ambassador also said NATO countries “should think of preparing our public opinion” for that outcome.

The British Foreign Office claims that the comments were taken “out of context,” and that they “are not in any way an accurate representation of the government’s approach.” French officials appeared to confirm the authenticity of the document, saying they were deeply embarrassed by the leak, warning it might put French troops in danger, and saying that it has started an investigation regarding the leak.

In the month plus since the ambassador made these comments, there has been little news out of Afghanistan which would seem to dispute his estimate that the situation is getting worse. Indeed, the Pentagon has conceded that the present strategy is not succeeding, United Nations Special Envoy Kai Eide has also described the situation as “worse than it was three months ago,” and a classified National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan reportedly paints the situation as grim.

And while Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen insists he is convinced the war is still winnable, General David McKiernan says that an Iraq-style surge is not the answer in the seven year long war. He did, however, stress the need for more troops “as quickly as possible.” President Bush has already accepted a Pentagon recommendation to keep troop levels in Afghanistan unchanged through the new year, though both major party candidates to succeed him have expressed support for an increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of