Britain’s four-year military stewardship of the troubled Helmand province has been scorned by President Hamid Karzai, top Afghan officials and the US commander of Nato troops, according to secret US diplomatic cables.
The dispatches expose a devastating contempt for the British failure to impose security and connect with ordinary Afghans.
The leaked US embassy cables covering Afghanistan also reveal:
• Widespread suspicion of high-level corruption in the Afghan government, with one cable detailing how the vice-president was carrying $52m in his suitcase when he was stopped at Dubai airport.
• Iran’s growing influence in Afghanistan as Tehran finances senior politicians and, the cables allege, trains Taliban militants.
• Anger among America’s allies when they discovered that the US military was charging a 15% handling fee on hundreds of millions of dollars being raised internationally to build up the Afghan army.
The criticism of the British operation in Helmand centres on its failure to establish security in Sangin – the town which has become totemic as the place that has claimed more British lives than any other in Afghanistan.