Robert Fisk: ‘Abu Henry’ and the mysterious silence

Robert Fisk: ‘Abu Henry’ and the mysterious silence

I guess that’s what diplomacy is all about, persuading here, pleading there

Published: 30 June 2007

“Abu Henry” says we may have to remain in Afghanistan for decades to protect Afghans from the Taliban. Our ambassador in Kabul – Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, KCMG, LVO, to be precise – apparently sees no contradiction in this extraordinary prediction.

The Taliban are themselves mostly Afghans, and the idea that the British Army is in Afghanistan to protect the locals from each other is a truly colonial proposition. It’s what we said about the Northern Irish in 1969. Anyway, I thought we destroyed the Taliban in 2001. Wasn’t that the idea at the time? Isn’t that what Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, our new man in the Middle East – who will grace us with his first visit next month – said back then?

Abu Henry – and I am indebted to one of the Saudi government’s house magazines for telling me that this is how he “is affectionately called by his Saudi friends” – left Riyadh in some haste, a “surprise” as he put it, since he expected to spend another year there. And presumably, he has not been able to take the Cowper-Coles family’s pet falcons – Nour and Alwaleed – with him to Kabul. But before he left, Abu Henry had some warm praise for the notoriously third-rate intelligence services in the kingdom. “I’ve been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was (sic) a serious terrorist threat,” he announced. “They’ve shrunk the pool of support for terrorism…”