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Britain Names New Envoy For Afghanistan, Pakistan

LONDON (Reuters) -- Britain has named a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, following the approach of U.S. President Barack Obama in dealing with two countries seen as vital to global counterterrorism efforts.

The United States and Britain, which has the second biggest foreign military contingent in Afghanistan, have spoken for months of the need for a broader regional strategy to deal with interlinked problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband named Sherard Cowper-Coles, currently British ambassador to Afghanistan, as his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, a new post, the Foreign Office said.

"The purpose of the appointment is to reinforce the U.K.'s strategic engagement both with Afghanistan and Pakistan," a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

He said Cowper-Coles would work closely with Richard Holbrooke, whom Obama named last month as U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with other international partners "to help support both the Afghan and Pakistani governments."

Much Tougher Than Iraq

Holbrooke said on February 8 that bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan would be much tougher than in Iraq. The United States has waged war against Taliban insurgents there since soon after the Septemeber 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Obama is expected to approve up to 17,000 more combat troops for Afghanistan and exert pressure on America's European allies to contribute more troops to counter the growing insurgency.

Both the United States and Britain have launched reviews of their strategy in Afghanistan. U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones said at the weekend Munich Security Conference that poor international coordination and failure to take a regional approach to rebuilding Afghanistan had prevented allies from succeeding there.

The United States and Afghanistan say Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants operate from sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan on the Afghan border, using the semi-autonomous tribal lands to orchestrate attacks in both countries and to plot operations in the West.

Cowper-Coles will return to London in March to start his new job. His successor as ambassador will be announced later.