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Anger at £7bn cost of war

London Telegraph | November 20, 2006
Toby Helm and Brendan Carlin

Tony Blair faced accusations last night that he is wasting nearly £7 billion of taxpayers' money on a failing war on terror after announcing massive sums of British aid to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the last three days, the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, have trumpeted special funding to the three countries totalling £844 million.

This is in addition to the estimated £5 billion cost to British taxpayers of the Iraq war so far, and the £1 billion spent to date on the British deployment in Afghanistan.

The funding announcements came just days after Mr Blair admitted in an interview with al-Jazeera, the English language Arabic television channel, that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a "disaster".

No 10 officials have since dismissed the response as a slip of the tongue. But yesterday Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state, said military victory in Iraq was no longer possible.

Mr Kissinger told BBC1's Sunday AM: "If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible."

advertisementHe cautioned against rapid withdrawal of allied troops and called for an international conference to resolve the crisis. Iran would have to be included in the negotiations over the future of Iraq, he said.

Mr Blair, on a visit to Pakistan yesterday to discuss anti-terror policy with President Pervez Musharraf, more than doubled assistance to the country from £236 million over the next three years to £480 million.

The extra money will go mainly towards encouraging moderate Muslim education in the network of Madrassa religious schools, which are blamed for turning many young people to extremism.

Mr Blair will today highlight the fact that £500 million is being pumped by Britain into the redevelopment of Afghanistan. Mr Brown, on his first visit to Iraq at the weekend, announced £100 million worth of reconstruction aid.

The Government was attacked last night by the Tories and Liberal Democrats and by its own MPs over the cost of its strategy.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem leader, accused the Prime Minister of having poured away billions of pounds. "Money that might have been spent on assisting the poorest countries has been squandered in illegal military action against Iraq," he told The Daily Telegraph.

David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister's decision to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the religious schools in Pakistan. "He does not seem to have grasped the fact that these people are not motivated by money. They are motivated by extremist religious ideology," he said.

John McDonnell, the Left-wing MP challenging for the Labour leadership, said: "It's a disgraceful waste of resources killing people when at the same time, we are facing an NHS budget crisis.

No amount of money here on in will assist in resolving the situation." However, Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, said it was in the interests of the West to see Pakistani children well educated, because they were then less likely to be seduced by the appeals of extremists.

After talks with Mr Blair in Lahore, Gen Musharraf called for a further "massive inflow" of development aid on the scale of the post-war aid to Europe to rebuild the south east of Afghanistan, the centre of the Taliban insurgency.

He said the battle against the Taliban could not be won "with military action alone" but required a more balanced political approach, and more money for development and reconstruction.

In an apparent criticism of the British strategy so far, he added: "We [the Pakistanis] are the only ones who are trying to implement the whole strategy which means military, political and also reconstruction. More action is needed on the Afghan side because the war will be won on the Afghan side."

Gen Musharraf angrily rejected claims that Pakistan was failing to prevent militants crossing the border into Afghanistan to join the insurgency. "We are doing all we can. We are against terrorism, we are against extremism, we are against Talibanisation," he said.

Mr Blair's official spokesman insisted that Britain had always adopted a "twin-track" approach to Afghanistan, pursuing security alongside reconstruction.

Government sources said the money for Afghanistan and Iraq was from funds put aside in the budget for international development. The £500 million for Afghanistan had been pledged previously but was now "being delivered".

 

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