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British Special Envoy To Afghanistan, Pakistan Taking 'Extended Leave'

Sherard Cowper-Coles
Britain has announced that its special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan is taking an "extended leave" of absence from the post -- amid reports that the diplomat has disagreed with U.S. and NATO officials over strategy to counter Taliban insurgents.

The British Foreign Office said Sherard Cowper-Coles, who was appointed to the job only last year, would be taking some time off until the fall.

The Foreign Office declined to say what he would be doing or why he was taking an extended break at this point in the conflict.

The leave of absence was announced on June 21 as Britain recorded its 300th death in the 9-year-old war, and around a month before an international conference is due to be held in Kabul.

Britain's "Guardian" newspaper has reported that Cowper-Coles had clashed with U.S. and NATO officials over his belief that the military-focused counterinsurgency effort is headed for failure and that priority should be put on talks with Taliban insurgents.

The Foreign Office said Cowper-Coles would be replaced, on a temporary basis, by Karen Pierce, the Foreign Office director for South Asia and Afghanistan.

compiled from agency reports