A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
UK troops working as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southern Afghanistan have been taking part in a joint operation with US Marines aimed at disrupting Taliban activity in the volatile Garmsir area of Helmand province.
Troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade joined the Marines, from the US 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), as they pushed south of Garmsir where currently, but for a few border security police, neither ISAF nor the Afghan Security Forces have a presence. The purpose of the operation was to extend security authority further south towards the Pakistan border.
Although British framework operations are currently focused further north, in the areas of Lashkar Gar, Sangin, Gereshk and Musa Qaleh, the British Task Force has had an important role to play facilitating the move of the MEU down through the province.
This type of operation, known as a Forward Passage of Lines, is generally believed to be one of the most complex, involving as it does the initial movement of large amounts of men and equipment long distances across potentially hostile ground and then passage through the positions of the force already deployed on the ground, in this case C Company.
The government has been denied permission to challenge an order that it take an Iranian opposition group off a list of banned terror organisations.
The Court of Appeal ruled an appeals panel was right to order the removal of the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) from the blacklist.
The appeals panel had said the PMOI was not “concerned in terrorism” for the purposes of the 2000 Terrorism Act.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was very disappointed with the ruling.
British Court Reject Terrorist Label for Iranian Group
New York Times / AP
Britain’s Court of Appeal on Wednesday affirmed a lower court ruling that an Iranian resistance group should not be listed as a terrorist organization.
Three justices rejected a government appeal against a lower court ruling in November in favor of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, which is a member of the National Council of Resistance.
The People’s Mujahedeen is also regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
The Court of Appeal said there were no valid grounds for contending that the Proscribed Organizations Appeal Commission made errors of law in ordering the organization deleted from the list of terrorist organizations. It refused to allow the government to appeal its ruling.
Ali Safavi of the National Council of Resistance said, “This ends a seven-year legal battle and is a vindication of the resistance that has been waged against the regime in Iran. Now the U.K. government must shed the last remnant of this policy of appeasement.”
Terror suspects discussed telling wives
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph
Two members of an alleged terrorist cell planning to blow up transatlantic airliners discussed what to do if their wives found out about their plot, a court heard.
The conversation was recorded by MI5 as the pair allegedly discussed whether their wives and children would come with them on their suicide mission.
The conversation allegedly took place between Abdulla Ahmed Ali, one of the leaders of the plot, and Umar Islam on August 9 2006, the day they were arrested.
The two men were said to be making Islam’s “suicide video” in a flat in Forest Road, Walthamstow, East London, which the gang used as a bomb factory.
Gordon Brown under fire over terror detention plan
Laura Clout, The Telegraph
Gordon Brown faced fresh challenges at Westminster yesterday over Government plans to detain terrorist suspects for 42 days without charge.
The row over 42-day detention was stoked by a letter sent to all MPs by Police Minister Tony McNulty yesterday.
Opposition MPs said the wording of the letter suggested ministers were trying to politicise the police by asking the country’s most senior anti-terror officer to make the case for 42-day detention to Parliament.
Mr McNulty wrote that Bob Quick, Scotland Yard’s new head of anti-terrorism, would hold a briefing for MPs to outline the “operational practicalities which have led them [the police] to support the Government’s proposals for the reserve power”.
A group of Territorial Army soldiers from 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS) are currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where they are guarding the Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Amongst the group, who as TA soldiers serve the Army in their spare time, are a solicitor, a chef, an engineer, a fork-lift truck driver and even a part-time model.
While in Kabul though their daily tasks include ‘Sanger-bashing’
[lookout in the guard towers], manning the gates of the base, and conducting searches, internal security escorts and patrols. They also man the Quick Reaction Force meaning they have to be ready to react quickly to any incidents.
They undertake the various tasks on a four day rotation and for many the highlight is conducting vehicle and foot patrols in their area of responsibility. The vehicle checks allow them to interdict insurgent supplies on the patrols and meet local people.
Jameat Market opens in Basra
A newly constructed market has opened in the Jameat area of Basra City, another encouraging sign that the efforts of UK and other coalition troops working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, are beginning to bear fruit.
The al Jameat district was once one of the most notorious areas of Basra and until recently was still a stronghold of the Shia militias:
“I think it is a real sign of progress, the situation over the last six weeks has markedly improved,” said Col Walker. “For the Consul General to come down town is a really positive sign.”
As a further measure of the recent success of Operation Charge of the Knights and the confidence that has been restored to the streets of Basra, only a relatively small Iraqi Army and Police presence could be seen.
ID scheme hit for shifting cost to citizens
Jimmy Burns, The Financial Times
The Home Office on Tuesday faced claims of “creative accounting” as it pledged to cut nearly £1bn ($2bn) from the cost of the identity card scheme.
According to the latest official estimates, a broadening of the private sector role in the scheme to include involvement in biometric fingerprinting, as already promised by ministers, will contribute to savings of £975m by 2017, the date by which all citizens are expected to have an ID card.
But Edgar Whitley of the London School of Economics’ Identity Project said the decision to leave collection of biometric data to the open market risked compromising security and increasing the cost to the consumer.