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Cablegate: Paddy Ashdown On Way Forward in Afghanistan

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2019
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR MOPS AF UK PK
SUBJECT: PADDY ASHDOWN ON WAY FORWARD IN AFGHANISTAN

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5. (C//NF) Ashdown argued that one of the initial mistakes made in Afghanistan was to impose the Western model of centralized government on a society that has been dominated by tribes for over a thousand years. If we want to be successful, he said, we need to work within the existing social context and support a more decentralized approach. Ashdown added that building up the local and regional structures would have the added benefit of weakening Karzai's personal control, enhancing the government,s international legitimacy. Winning Public Support at Home and on the Ground

6. (C//NF) Noting the low levels of support for the war in Afghanistan among the British public, Ashdown argued that if HMG wants to win public support it needs to do a better job of making the case -- convincing the public this is important and demonstrating on the ground the ability to turn the situation around. The British public has not had to deal with such large numbers of casualties in recent history. That said, Ashdown argued, they are ¬ squeamish8 and will &be in for the long haul8 once the case is properly made.

7. (C//NF) Perhaps as important as finding a new message at home is the challenge of finding a new message on the ground, Ashdown said. &Making the world safe for democracy,8 simply does not resonate well in Afghanistan; it is far too Western-centric. Ashdown argued that, if we want to win over the Afghan public, the international community will have to come up with a message that Afghans can support. Liberal Democrats Support in Afghanistan

8. (C//NF) Comment: Ashdown assured us that, if President Obama,s Afghanistan strategy addresses some of these concerns, the U.S. can count on Liberal Democratic support. While he did not say it, however, the implication was that any plan that did not directly address these concerns would call his party,s support into question. This fits with LONDON 00002581 002.2 OF 002 ////////ZFR CANCEL THIS MESSAGE. MESSAGE WILL BE RESENT WITH NEW MRN././//////////////////// party leader Nick Clegg,s November 13 Times op-ed (ref A), in which Clegg implied he would struggle to support a plan that did not meet the very high bar that he believes Obama needs to set. Liberal Democrats currently hold 63 seats in Parliament (out of 646) and the latest polls show their support at 19 percent. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX
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