by Ray Fleming
IT is comforting to know that notwithstanding the democratisation of its diplomatic service Britain still has ambassadors with names like Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.

He is in the news because as Ambassador to Afghanistan he has been accused of making a very negative assessment of the prospects for US, British and other foreign forces based there.

He is believed to have said that “the current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption and the Government has lost all trust.” The source of that and other equally startling quotations was France's deputy Ambassador in Kabul, Francois Fitou, who reported a conversation with Sir Sherard to Paris where its contents somehow found their way to the investigative magazine Le Canard Enchaine.

In London theForeign Office confirmed that a meeting had taken place between Sir Sherard and M.
Fitou but dismissed the report of it as a “gross distortion”. Perhaps.
But a wide spectrum of non-official informed opinion on Afghanistan supports the Ambassador's view of the situation there even it does not necessarily agree with his reported opinion that the only solution is the installation of “an acceptable dictator” within five or ten years.

That sounds like a counsel of despair -- yet with the Taleban resurgent, President Karzai distrusted by his own people, neighbouring Pakistan in disarray and the civil and military actitivities of Nato and US forces poorly co-ordinated and motivated, it must be difficult even for an Ambassador to be optimistic.