Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles 53,(pronounced 'Cooper-Coles') arrived in Kabul to start work as Ambassador to Afghanistan on 15th May 2007. He is one of those fiercely intelligent FCO polymaths , the first Arab speaker to become Ambassador to Israel ( where he travelled round to local consternation in a black London taxi) and has been inserted everywhere to sort out various trouble spots on the British post colonial agenda.
The former Viceroy of India Lord Curzon founded the embassy in Kabul in the 1920s declaring its ambassador should be the best housed man in Asia. The original embassy building was burnt down by a mob after it was handed over to Pakistan in 1994.The current Embassy is in smaller, newer and better protected premises today, built in the grounds of the hospital adjacent to the old embassy which were re-opened at the end of November 2001.
The FCO have encouraged the idea of staff publishing blogs, which are variously entertaining and instructive and Sherard (Abu Henry to his many Arab friends) took to it, he tells us, with gusto. (Flickr photostream here) His posting dated 25 October 2007 when he accompanied President Karzai to the UK provides one of those incidental insights that (in this case) confirm vague reports of Karzai being the President of Kabulistan ;
Thanks to the generosity and imagination of The Prince of Wales, we were able to make it a visit of two halves. A first part spent with Prince Charles near Balmoral, with just Mr Karzai's Private Secretary in attendance. The Prince of Wales took Mr Karzai on a wonderful walk - his favourite recreation, but one which he can't indulge too much these days, except for his daily walk round the presidential palace grounds in Kabul.Paradoxically on November 2nd he posted his "The End of the Blog" which ended "This is the best job I have ever had. But it is also the most difficult. The blog has helped me, and I hope you, put it in a bit of perspective. Over now to the next Ambassador...."
Which is odd because the Kabul Embassy website shows he is still the Ambassador and he was interviewed as such on the BBC4 "Today" programme by Edward Stourton in January .
Of course , a difficult man to pin down is old Arab hand Abu Henry. For it was he who took the time to have 3 lengthy chats in London with Robert Wardle, director of the Serious Fraud Office, about the BAE fraud enquiry. Wardle told the Financial Times (FT) that "the matter was difficult and really I found it very helpful to have, as it were, the ambassador flesh out the position. It helped my understanding of the risks and very much helped me to make my decision to discontinue the investigation".
Wardle was told by the urbane, courteous Ambassador that "the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation, potentially depriving London of access to vital surveillance of terror suspects during the haj pilgrimage to Mecca... The ambassador had even suggested (that) persisting with the SFO probe could endanger lives in Britain". According to a person "closely involved in the events", said the FT "didn't overelaborate, but he spelt out in very clear terms, in specifics, what he believed the consequences would be ... including that people could die". Two days later, the bribery investigation was scrapped.
You can read more of the sordid details of the pressures on Wardle which , "ended with a long letter - marked "secret and personal" - from Tony Blair to Wardle which finally forced the SFO to cave in, coupled with a series of threats relayed by the then British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sherard Cowper-Coles " Guradian .A cover-up laid bare: court hears how SFO inquiry was halted - David Leigh and Rob Evans Feb 15th 2008
On February 10, 2008 Kristin Melsom a Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman announced that Norway had closed its embassy in Kabul because of ``terror threats,'' a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. The nature of the threats were not explained or how long the Emassy would remain closed.
This came one week after a four-man suicide squad breached security at Kabul's luxury Serena Hotel, killing eight people, including a Norwegian journalist working for the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet , the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere was also there. Norway have some 500 troops deployed as part of the NATO/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces in Northern Afghanistan.
Norway recently confirmed it would send more troops to the NATO force in Afghanistan starting next month.
Iraqi Kurd Mullah Krekar, who founded the al-Qaida-linked extremist group Ansar al-Islam, is a refugee in Norway, despite being declared a threat to national security in 2005 and ordered deported, he has not yet been expelled.