Governor Gulab Mangal has been in charge of the Helmand province in Afghanistan for a year now and has developed a formidable reputation both in the international domestic communities. His first achievement has been to survive in the precarious world of Afghan politics.
Unsurprisingly he came to our meeting, with a small group of Lib Dem Parliamentary Colleagues in the House of Commons, with a message. He was initially, uncharacteristically, restrained but with a bit of teasing he was blunt. “The people of Helmand expected more from the UK,” was the assessment. In line with Britain’s commitment to stabilising his country he wanted more troops, better cooperation with the Afghans and more development aid.
More controversially, he told us that he was concerned that the quality of some of the work of the British troops was not good enough. He cited Sangin in the north of Helmand where the combination of British and Afghan sources with Afghan police had been unable to secure more than 200 yards outside the base.
That’s strong criticism which the Defence Secretary must investigate urgently and take the necessary action to resolve.
I’m in favour of sending more troops combined with a greater effort to talk to soft Taliban and establishing a high level regional conference to engage all the neighbours in the region in seeking a solution. That must include China, Russia and Iran.