Tags: stewart | US | withdraw | Iraq

UK's Rory Stewart: U.S. Should Withdraw from Iraq Now

Sunday, 14 March 2010 06:45 PM

Rory Stewart, a Conservative candidate for parliament in Britain, said in an interview with Newsmax.TV that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq but maintain a long-term, albeit smaller, presence in Afghanistan.

He was deputy governor of Maysan province in Iraq when it was under U.S. and British control. He also was a diplomat in Montenegro.

Stewart wrote a best-selling book about his Iraq experience titled “The Prince of the Marshes.” He walked across Afghanistan and wrote a book about that too. He also walked across Pakistan, Iran, India and Nepal.

Editor's Note: See Rory Stewart talk about the situation in Iraq below

Stewart now runs the Turquoise Mountain foundation, a British charity that assists Afghanistan.

As for the U.S. and its NATO allies, “In the case of Iraq, I favor withdrawal,” he said.

“In Afghanistan, I favor a light long-term international presence.”

On the Afghan front, Stewart thinks President Obama made the wrong decision in adding troops. But rather than looking back, we should think about the next five to 10 years, he says.

“We’re in a very dangerous situation where we tend to be black and white,” Stewart said. “We think we either increase troops or we need to get out. Afghanistan needs neither of those.”

Instead it needs a few troops for a long period, he says.

Sustaining more than 100,000 NATO troops won’t work in Afghanistan and won’t be accepted domestically in the U.S. and Europe.

“We need to think about beginning to draw down without rushing to the exit,” Stewart said.

A positive factor is that the Taliban is much weaker than when it took over the country in 1995, he says. “They discredited themselves in government,” he pointed out.

“They had a very ignorant, stupid, brutal form of government. Most Afghans in the center and north of the country hate them.”

If the U.S. withdraws, then, the Taliban would be unlikely to take over. And even if the Taliban was able to increase its presence in the south and east, it would be very unlikely to work again with Al Qaeda, Stewart says.

“It’s important to have a distinction between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”

Still, total withdrawal would be dangerous, Stewart says. It would risk civil war between the Taliban and other groups.

Ultimately, the Taliban will have to be part of negotiations, he says. “Certainly what would emerge from that would not resemble some Jeffersonian democracy. In the end, though, a political negotiation is necessary.”

As for Iraq, it has a lot of advantages over Afghanistan – more wealth, largely through oil, a more educated populace and more developed institutions. “You’d be more optimistic about Iraq,” Stewart said.

The recent elections there were exciting, Stewart says. But it’s not clear the next government will act democratically – protecting minority rights and maintaining security.

“We have to see over the next month how things settle down, and whether Iraq can get a coalition government,” he said.

A civil war remains a possibility.

“Iraq is in a difficult situation. It’s fragile, unstable in the way that many states in the Mideast are,” Stewart said.

“But America has many responsibilities and interests in world, and I would say it’s a rational decision now to leave Iraq.”

On his home front, Stewart said the Tories “should be focused on reducing the deficit, reducing regulation and bringing back some common sense,” Stewart said.

He says the euro’s difficulties vindicate Britain’s decision not to join the single European currency. “The strains and stress being felt in the euro zone are ones that we’re lucky to be able to avoid.”

For example, Britain can let its currency fall to stimulate the economy in a way that Greece can’t thanks to being part of the euro.

As for Stewart’s charity, the Turquoise Mountain foundation, it’s working on development of the old center city of Kabul. It’s setting up a health clinic and has opened schools.

The charity is training local crafts men and women in woodwork, calligraphy and ceramics. Then the foundation sells the wares and brings that money back to restore the city.

“We have tried to bring water supply, sewerage [management] and repair historic buildings.”

The foundation has 550 people at work, 95 percent of them Afghans. It’s working with small businesses and the community.

“The idea is we end up with a more prosperous community in the center of the old city of Kabul who can sustain and support themselves.”

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Sunday, 14 March 2010 06:45 PM
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