Envoy uses Roses fight to explain conflict

MODERN Afghanistan resembles Yorkshire during the Wars of the Roses, the former British Ambassador to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan has told an audience of Yorkshire business leaders.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles said the conflict in Afghanistan was essentially a tribal war on a grand scale, which needed a political solution.

Sir Sherard, who was the Foreign Secretary's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009 to 2010, made the comments at the Variety Club Yorkshire Business Awards, which are supported by the Yorkshire Post and executive search firm Hitchenor Wakeford. The dinner, which attracted about 400 guests, was held at the Queens Hotel in Leeds yesterday.

In his speech, Sir Sherard said there were similarities between modern Afghanistan and the north of England during the Wars of the Roses, a dynastic conflict which involved the houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th century.

He said we had extremely competent military officers, but added: "I can't unfortunately always say the same about the politicians who are directing them.

"I said to this Cabinet Minister, 'You might want to ask the chief of the defence staff why we need the Tornado in Afghanistan.'

"He said to me, 'Sherard I don't know the difference between a tornado and a torpedo."

After delivering the speech, Sir Sherard, told the Yorkshire Post: "In the end, there's got to be a fair settlement, as there was between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and a settlement that everybody recognises is ultimately fair. What I see in Yorkshire people is that tough independence, that deep sense of patriotism, that resentment of outsiders. You see that in the Afghan tribes.

"In Afghanistan, it (a peaceful settlement) is not going to be imposed by people from outside. It's got to be a settlement that's worked out among them."

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff, who also spoke at the awards, said he agreed with Sir Sherard's analysis: "The solution must be a political solution. The military can hold the playing field on which the politicians..and the others can operate."