UK CT & COIN Features – 21 April 2008

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A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.

New anti-terrorism rules ‘allow US to spy on British motorists’
Toby Helm and Christopher Hope, The Telegraph

Routine journeys carried out by millions of British motorists can be monitored by authorities in the United States and other enforcement agencies across the world under anti-terrorism rules introduced discreetly by Jacqui Smith.

The discovery that images of cars captured on road-side cameras, and “personal data” derived from them, including number plates, can be sent overseas, has angered MPs and civil liberties groups concerned by the increasing use of “Big Brother” surveillance tactics.

Yesterday, politicians and civil liberties groups accused the Home Secretary of keeping the plans to export pictures secret from Parliament when she announced last year that British anti-terrorism police could access “real time” images from cameras used in the running of London’s congestion charge.

‘UK supports talks with Pak militants’
Press TV

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says his country supports the new Pakistani government’s plans to negotiate with ‘militants’.

Miliband made the remarks during a visit to Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday which was made to hold talks with new Pakistani leaders.

“Our position is very clear. We should negotiate with those who are willing to negotiate. We should reconcile with those who are willing to reconcile,” said Miliband, who also was expected to meet with newly elected Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and President Pervez Musharraf during his two-day visit.

Paras tread warily in Helmand province as they learn the skills of ‘going lethal’
Michael Evans, The Times

The British sniper lay on the rooftop of a compound within sight and range of about 20 Taleban armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades in a dugout, and waited for the order to “go lethal”. He had already fired warning shots but the rounds from his long-range 338 rifle had failed to scare them from their bunker.

Overhead, a lone Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), not much more than a polystyrene model plane but with a fancy camera on board sending pictures back to the commander, detected that the Taleban were preparing for a fight.

They had the advantage of being in a well-defended position, and the British troops of D Company 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment had to cross open ground to get within shooting range of their bunker.

The sniper received his order and three minutes later he got his man. “One down, one down!” – a corporal shouted. Another mortar blast with a smoke round burst near the enemy bunker. It was launched to confuse the Taleban, encouraging them to believe that a full-scale British attack was about to take place. However, the aim of the operation was not to “go kinetic” and flush out the enemy from their southern frontline position across the fertile valley from the isolated British camp at Kajaki, but to familiarise the newly arrived Paras with the terrain near their mountain base and to upset the Taleban early on a Sunday morning.

The Kosovo effect
Robert Skidelsky, The Guardian

Kosovo’s recent unilateral declaration of independence brought back memories. I publicly opposed Nato’s attack on Serbia – carried out in the name of protecting the Kosovans from Serb atrocities – in March 1999. At that time, I was a member of the opposition front bench in the House of Lords. The then Conservative leader, William Hague, immediately expelled me to the back benches. Thus ended my (minor) political career. Ever since, I have wondered whether I was right or wrong.

I opposed military intervention for two reasons. Firstly, I argued that while it might do local good, it would damage the rules of international relations as they were then understood. The UN charter was designed to prevent the use of force across national lines except for self-defence and enforcement measures ordered by the security council. Human rights, democracy, and self-determination are not acceptable legal grounds for waging war.

Secondly, I argued that while there might be occasions when, regardless of international law, human rights abuses are so severe that one is morally obliged to act, Kosovo was not such a case. I considered the “imminent humanitarian disaster” that the intervention was ostensibly aimed at preventing, to be largely an invention. I further argued that non-military means to resolve the humanitarian issue in Kosovo were far from being exhausted, and that the failed Rambouillet negotiation with Serbia in February-March 1999 was, in Henry Kissinger’s words, “merely an excuse to start the bombing”.

Non-stop combat stops Harrier pilots landing on carriers
Thomas Harding, The Telegraph

Britain’s aircraft carrier force is facing major difficulties in training pilots, with less than half of fliers qualified to land on the vessels, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Some pilots who have been flying almost non-stop combat missions in Afghanistan have not landed on a carrier in three years. Only 19 Harrier officers out of a force of 48 have passed the extremely challenging test of a night-time landing on deck.

And almost a quarter of Joint Force Harrier, made up of RAF and Royal Navy pilots, has never landed on an aircraft carrier because of the relentless pace of operations in Afghanistan.

Teenage terror suspect hoped for world peace
Richard Savill and David Thomas, The Telegraph

The teenage British Muslim convert arrested on suspicion of terrorism after a bomb was found at his home was a pupil at two leading independent schools, it has emerged.

Andrew Ibrahim, 19, studied at Colston’s school, Bristol, whose former pupils include the England rugby internationals Olly Barkley and Shane Geraghty.

While at the £9,000-a-year school he was regarded as “bright but inconspicuous” and wrote a poem, praised in the school magazine, in which he told of his desire for world peace.

Mr Ibrahim, whose father is a consultant pathologist, later attended Downside School near Bath, a private Catholic boarding school run by monks, whose alumni include the writer Auberon Waugh.

MPs to rebel over 42-day terror detention limit
Robert Winnett, The Telegraph

More than 50 Labour MPs are preparing to block Home Office plans to detain terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, a leaked list compiled by government whips revealed yesterday.

The document shows that 10 former ministers are among the 50 MPs who have informed whips that they will not be voting in line with the Government.

Another 44 Labour MPs are recorded as undecided. With a Parliamentary majority of 66, Gordon Brown could now face an embarrassing defeat over the plans.

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