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Hillary Clinton rejects Wikileaks criticism of UK

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has rejected criticism of the British military in Afghanistan contained in the latest Wikileaks revelations.

The diplomatic cables said US officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai believed UK forces were not up to the task of securing Helmand province.

Mrs Clinton expressed "deep respect and admiration for the extraordinary efforts" of the British in Afghanistan.

She said the US greatly appreciated the UK's commitment in the country.

Mrs Clinton has told the BBC she spent a considerable amount of time reassuring world leaders about the conduct of American diplomacy, following the Wikileaks publication.

She said world leaders understood that diplomacy was a tough business and that it was important to continue speaking openly.

But leaders, she said, understood the cables were not US policy but a way for diplomats to share information.

She blamed the leaks on a data-sharing system between the US state and defence departments, which, she said, was now no longer used.

'Side by side'

Speaking to the BBC during a visit to Bahrain, Ms Clinton said: "We not only value, but we mourn the sacrifice of those brave young soldiers and civilians who have worked to try to stabilise Afghanistan, to deal with the threat of terrorism that confronts us all.

"I personally want to convey to the government and the people of the United Kingdom both our deep respect and admiration for the extraordinary efforts, and our regret if anything that was said by anyone to suggest the contrary."

Ms Clinton said she did not agree that British troops "were not up to the task".

She said: "We greatly appreciate the British commitment. We work side by side, from the highest levels of the military command to the trenches in Afghanistan.

"We've all made adjustments, that's not directed at anyone. If anyone were to ask who has made the most adjustments, it's the United States.

"Our military has tried to learn lessons, and I'm sure others as part of our 49-nation international force in Afghanistan have as well."

Ms Clinton said she could speak for the vast majority of Americans and the Obama administration - but not for "every opinion ever uttered by anyone connected with the American government for the last nine years".

'Excellent job'

The leaked US cables, published in the Guardian newspaper, contain harsh criticism of the UK military effort in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009.

In one cable, US general Dan McNeill was said to be "particularly dismayed by the British effort" in fighting the drugs trade in Afghanistan.

He is quoted as saying that British forces had "made a mess" of counter-narcotics operations in Helmand by employing the "wrong" tactics.

Criticism of the British military effort goes back to 2007 when Gen McNeill was in charge of Nato forces.

In another cable, the then Afghan Foreign Minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, expressed disappointment at the ordering of an extra 2,000 British soldiers to Helmand, saying: "They were not ready to fight as actively as American soldiers."

At a meeting with Senator John McCain in December 2008, President Karzai said he was relieved that US Marines were being sent to reinforce the British-led mission in Helmand and "related an anecdote in which a woman from Helmand asked him to 'take the British away and give us back the Americans'."

The Ministry of Defence has said British forces did an "excellent job" in Helmand.

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