The Corner

British Minister Trashes the Special Relationship

Sadiq Khan MP, the U.K.’s “Cohesion Minister,” has called on the British government to distance itself from recent U.S. drone strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban positions on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

His comments, reported in the Observer over the weekend are an extraordinary outburst against Britain’s closest ally by a British government official, but have surprisingly not been officially rebutted yet by the Brown government.

Khan, who had just returned from a fact-finding trip to universities in Pakistan, declared:

I listened to the anger and pain over the challenges that young people growing up in Pakistan face, including the anger and frustration over US drone attacks.

The anger and frustration at the drone attacks was huge. The view they [the students] had was that the UK was somehow responsible for this. They haven’t understood this was purely a US matter. They lumped us together with the US, which to me is a poison. It demonstrates to me we have a big problem.

Khan also urged Britain to distance itself from American foreign policy in the region, in order to win over ‘hearts and minds.’

Because of things that happened in 2003, there is an uphill battle. We need better to explain that there has been a distinct change in UK foreign policy.

For example, this month the last troops will come home from Iraq: that’s very different from the US. The drone attacks are US, not UK; our development policy doesn’t have the strings that come with US aid.

As a British government minister Khan should be defending the U.S.-British led war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, rather than speaking out against the tactics being used to win it. His job is to advance British policy, not to appease Islamist opinion. Khan’s disgraceful remarks are an affront to British and American forces fighting in Afghanistan, and deserve to be disowned by his own government. 

— Nile Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.

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