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Miliband Presses Political Strategy for Afghans, Insurgency

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband tells Gwen Ifill that the Afghan war requires more of a political solution to win, in addition to a military one.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    And we are joined now by Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Thank you for joining us.

  • DAVID MILIBAND:

    It's good to be with you.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    If it is true — and it is, of course — that July was the bloodiest month for British forces in Afghanistan in seven years, what do you say to the British people who clearly are losing their enthusiasm for this war?

  • DAVID MILIBAND:

    We say that this mission is in Britain's national security interest. After all, nearly three-quarters of the terrorist plots that have been either taken place or foiled against the U.K. have their links into the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    And our clear mission there is to help Afghans provide the security to defend their own country. At the moment, they can't do that on their own. That's why British and other coalition forces are there.

    And I think that we also have to show British people, but also Americans and others around the world, that there is a political strategy allied to the military strategy that's taking place in the way that your correspondent has described.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    I want you to talk about that some more, because that was the whole topic of your speech yesterday at NATO. When you say "political strategy," that sounds different to American ears. That sounds like if there's horse trading going on. When you say — but you mean it differently.

  • DAVID MILIBAND:

    I mean three things above all, and they go to the heart of how we fight an insurgency. A counterinsurgency is not prosecuted in the way that a conventional war is prosecuted.

    We need a political strategy on three fronts, first for the Afghan population whose tacit support can give cover to an insurgency. It can mean people not informing on the placing of improvised explosive devices. So we need a political strategy for the Afghan population about governance and development.

    Second, we need a political strategy for the insurgency, because most of the people who are fighting against British and American and other forces are not ideologues committed to the global jihad. Some are; their leaders are. But most of the so-called Taliban insurgency are actually people who are rented or in fear of their lives. We need to make sure that they can come within the Afghan constitution.

    And thirdly…

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It sounds like — I'm sorry. Go ahead.

  • DAVID MILIBAND:

    … sorry, thirdly, we just need to understand that Afghanistan has been the chessboard for other countries for a very long time, especially its neighbors, and we need a political strategy for the neighbors of Afghanistan, above all Pakistan, if we are to stabilize the country, which after all was the incubator of terrorism that struck with such deadly effect in the United States in September 2001.

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