The former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith writes for today's Times about the relative importance of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's his first comment on the war on terror since his two year focus on writing a report for the Conservative Party on social justice.
IDS correctly identifies that it is primarily in Iraq that we will defeat al-Qaeda or that al-Qaeda will defeat us:
"The problems in Iraq are great but the rewards for success are also huge. Al-Qaeda has thrown everything into Iraq and to show it can be beaten would send shockwaves around the world. A democratic Iraq is a challenge to the violent ideology of militant Islam, and would stabilise the whole region in a way Afghanistan cannot. After all the superhuman effort over the past few years, a precipitate British withdrawal, which has its roots in our appallingly underfunded and undermanned army, makes no sense."
The headline of The Times' article - 'Don't leave Iraq: quit Afghanistan instead' - is somewhat misleading. Mr Duncan Smith is not advocating that the west gives up in Afghanistan but that France, Germany and other NATO states that supported the overthrow of the Taliban regime should do much more there:
"France and Germany supported the Afghan war and, given our commitment in Iraq, their forces should now be deployed in Helmand province, not ours. Yet they won’t do their bit. The British Government should have been raising merry hell with them every time our ministers meet, telling them their failure to face up to their responsibilities is shameful. Yet little seems to happen."
Writing for the International Herald Tribune, Bernard Jenkin MP, Tory defence spokesman at the time Britain supported the invasion of Iraq, warns that an early British withdrawal of troops will lead to "more bloodshed in Iraq, dismay among many Arab states and a less "special relationship" between No. 10 and the White House in the future."