Is Brown's Afghanistan strategy too broad?
In my first War and Peace blog, I looked at the question of whether Britain really knew what it wanted to achieve in Afghanistan and how it might attain its aims. Today, Number 10 has set out its strategy, and added Pakistan in for good measure too.
Pretty much all authorities agree that the problem of militant Islamic insurgency in those two countries is intimately linked, and of course the US has already rolled out its new policy for the region, or Af-Pak in Obama administration shorthand. This linkage makes strategic sense but is far more difficult politically for Britain than for the US.
British policy makers are aware of the sensitivities of the large Pakistani diaspora community in this country and of their home government. There's some language in the new British document that talks about the differences between the Afghanistan and its neighbour but that's unlikely to soothe a government already angry about the arrest and release of Pakistani students accused of plotting terrorism in the UK.
The other issue, crudely, is that Pakistan needs the US far more than it needs UK help. The Obama plan promised $1.5bn a year in aid for the next five years - Britain's contribution is far more modest.
So the first point about the UK's new strategy is that it grasps the Pakistani nettle - which according to one's perspective is either a recognition of obvious connections both with the security of the UK and with what goes on in Afghanistan, or is a risky step, changing the basis of an already difficult relationship into one that is subtly more adversarial.
The next salient feature of the UK's strategy is that it commits this country to "reducing the insurgencies on both sides of the Afghanistan and Pakistan border to a level that poses no significant threat to progress in either country".
This is a big mission - fighting guerrillas in one of the toughest battlegrounds on Earth.
Some might argue this is what we have obviously been doing anyway. But that's not how it started.
Back in April 2006, John Reid, then defence secretary, wrote to me and some other journalists, saying "our mission is firmly centred on the reconstruction effort and UK forces are there to protect this progress... our forces will defend themselves if attacked".
We are nailing national colours to the mast with a counter-insurgency - but many British soldiers and officials are worried by the possibility that a large part of the rebellion in Helmand, for example, is itself a local reaction to the dangerous presence of foreign troops rather than something directed by "al Qaeda head office".
There's plenty of other detail in the paper, for example about building up the capacity of the Afghan government. The Brits also deserve some credit for putting more flesh on the bones of a counter narcotics plan than President Obama did. But ultimately it isn't really clear whether Britain is prepared to shut down the opium farmers of Helmand, thereby swelling the ranks of Nato's enemies.
Britain's strategy is "comprehensive" alright. But is it defining broader aims than even the US would, only with the UK's lesser resources?