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British Lawmakers Critical of UK's Role in Afghanistan

A powerful cross-party parliamentary committee has strongly criticized the British government for its handling of the war in Afghanistan.

In blunt terms, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report says Britain's military mission in Afghanistan has failed to deliver what it promised, because troops are being asked to do too many different tasks.

Committee chairman Michael Gapes says mission goals have become less clear over the years.

"There was, after 2001, a change of approach, a form of mission creep, whereby we took on far more priorities than simply security and removing al-Qaeda and the Taliban as their host," Gapes said. "And, we ended up being involved in state-building and counter-narcotics and human rights and nation development, which actually took the focus away from the main priority."

Commenting on the report, former head of the British army General Michael Jackson says he believes the committee is trying to stress that there is room for improvement.

"What the committee is saying, I think, is that the way in which the job is being done needs some improvement," Jackson said. "It is a complex task, and it involves far more than just the military. We have got to bring it all together and integrate it, not only in Britain but internationally as well."

Defending the government's approach to Afghanistan, Armed forces minister Bill Rammell says confronting the Taliban in Afghanistan keeps the streets of Britain safer.

"If you go back to 2001, there were huge numbers of terrorists, under Taliban control, being trained in terrorist training camps to target this country and others," Rammell said. "And, I have no doubt that, were we to withdraw tomorrow, then that threat would be returned, and it would increase. And, that is why this campaign is so important."

But that view is out of step with many in war-weary Britain. Fifty-two percent of those recently polled by the Independent newspaper support an immediate pull-out of British troops from Afghanistan. And nearly three-out-of-five believe the war against the insurgency cannot be won with military power.