Britain and Afghanistan fell out in spectacular fashion yesterday after President Karzai accused his British allies of bungling the military operation in Helmand and setting back prospects for the area by 18 months.
Mr Karzai, Britain's key ally in Afghanistan, had little praise for the efforts of the 7,800 British troops deployed in his country. Most are in the restless southern Helmand province, where Britain has invested billions of pounds in trying to defeat the Taleban, bolster central government authority and begin reconstruction.
But Mr Karzai said that they had failed in the task, particularly the initial military mission launched nearly two years ago by 16 Air Assault Brigade -- a unit that is returning for its second tour this year.
"There was one part of the country where we suffered after the arrival of the British forces," Mr Karzai told a group of journalists at the Davos Economic Forum. "Before that we were fully in charge of Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, 'Your governor is no good'. I said 'All right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces?'. Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taleban came."