Posted 04 December 2009 by Nigel Sheinwald
After much speculation and spilling of newspaper ink, the President set out on Tuesday his conclusions on General McChrystal’s review. He presented a comprehensive and compelling strategy for Afghanistan around which America’s allies can unite.
But have they? No one can disagree that the challenge in Afghanistan is profoundly difficult; and the cost in blood and treasure is high. There is no shortage of pundits – on both sides of the Atlantic – ready to decry the effort, dismissing it as doomed to fail. Public opinion in many of the 43 nations that make up to the international coalition – including in the UK and US – is divided and uncertain. And governments cannot but recognise the domestic political controversies this generates.
That’s the context in which NATO Foreign Ministers met in Brussels today to discuss the Alliance’s response to the US troop lift. The British Government has worked hard to persuade our partners to follow the UK’s lead and increase their military commitment. So how did we do? “Solidarity in action” was how NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described the outcome of discussions. NATO countries have pledged at least 7000 extra troops, with the Secretary General confident of “more to come”. The London Conference, planned for next month, will be important in generating further effort, especially from some of those larger NATO countries which have yet to declare their hand. So I think there is much to be satisfied about. What today’s meeting underlined, I think, is that the partnership between Europe and the United States remains a critical one for the both parties, and for international security more broadly.
The joint-effort in Afghanistan says something profound about the UK-US relationship too. I was talking about this on Wednesday with Andrea Mitchell on her lunchtime MSNBC show. For some time, Britain has been the second largest troop contributor, after the US. Over the last six months we have increased our troop levels in Afghanistan by some 1,200. With our special forces, this means the UK has over 10,000 troops deployed in the country.
But it’s not just about numbers – the quality and capability of the UK’s armed forces are second to none. They have been engaged in some of the toughest fighting in the south, alongside our Afghan partner and our US, Danish and Estonian allies. It is true that we’ve paid a heavy price for this effort – 99 deaths this year – but the British government’s commitment to Afghanistan has never wavered. Because, like the President, the Prime Minister sees clearly that our efforts in Afghanistan – and our support for Pakistan – are critical for the protection of our own national security.
04 December 2009
Posted 30 October 2009 by Nigel Sheinwald
I have been asked to contribute opinions to a series of questions on the Washington Post's website about climate change. You can find my first answer here, explaining why the UK believes nuclear power should be part of the energy mix in order to meet the twin challenges of energy security and climate change.
30 October 2009
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Posted 07 May 2009 by Nigel Sheinwald
The Embassy opens its doors this Saturday as part of EU Open House day - where the embassies of EU members in Washington, DC welcome the public.
These open houses are about more than seeing embassies. Although we are quite proud of our Embassy, this open house is mostly an opportunity to showcase the UK to the American public.
In keeping with one of the top priorities of the UK government, there will be a green theme to our open house. Visitors will have a chance to tour the Residence Gardens, learn how to green their homes and check out the new electric Mini Cooper. We'll also exchange plastic grocery bags with reusable, environmentally friendly bags.
I hope visitors will leave knowing that the UK is a leader on green action.
But equally I hope that they will enjoy a day of British culture and food. The Washington British School will provide entertainment and there will also be traditional British food and whisky available.
In true British fashion, we'll be doing all this rain or shine.
07 May 2009