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Britain`s Afghan envoy takes extended leave

Britain`s special envoy to Afghanistan has taken "extended leave," officials said, amid reports that he clashed with NATO & US officials over strategy to tackle the Taliban.

London: Britain`s special envoy to
Afghanistan has taken "extended leave," officials has said,
amid reports that he clashed with NATO and US officials over
strategy to tackle the Taliban insurgency.

Sherard Cowper-Coles has stepped down from his role just
a month before a crucial international conference in the
Afghan capital Kabul, which will be attended by US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

"He`s on extended leave and he is returning in the
autumn," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman in London, without
making clear what role he would be coming back to later in the

New Foreign Secretary William Hague is to review the post
of special envoy to Afghanistan, the BBC reported, citing a
Foreign Office source, but added the foreign minister had not
sacked the envoy and had wanted him to remain.

Cowper-Coles was appointed to the role, which also covers
Pakistan, in February 2009 after serving as ambassador to

The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday that there were
serious disagreements in recent months between Cowper-Coles
and officials from military alliance NATO, which is leading
international troops in the country, and the US.

He was convinced the military-focused counter-insurgency
effort was headed for failure and wanted talks with Taliban
insurgents to be a priority, said the paper.

The special representative role will be filled on a
temporary basis by Karen Pierce, Foreign Office director for
Afghanistan and South Asia, reports said.

The senior British diplomat`s departure came ahead of a
major conference on July 20 in Kabul, where a host of senior
foreign officials will join Clinton and the UN secretary

The event follows a London meeting on Afghanistan in
January that pledged international support for Afghan
President Hamid Karzai`s plans to reintegrate moderate Taliban
fighters who renounce violence.

The news of Cowper-Coles`s departure emerged on the same
day Britain announced its 300th death in Afghanistan since
operations began there in 2001, amid mounting opposition here
to the nine-year campaign.


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