UK CT & COIN Features – 12 June 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.

Failed bomber’s wife guilty of staying silent about terror plot
Matthew Taylor, The Guardian

The wife of failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman failed to tell police about his plans to bomb London’s transport system, putting hundreds of lives at risk, a jury concluded yesterday.

Yeshi Girma, 32, knew of her husband’s plot to bring “carnage and mass murder” to tube passengers on July 21 2005, and could have stopped the botched attack, the Old Bailey heard. Instead the mother-of-three failed to alert the authorities and helped her husband escape when the attack went wrong. Osman, and fellow bombers Yassin Omar, Ramzi Mohamed and Muktar Ibrahim, were convicted of conspiracy to murder at Woolwich crown court last year. Plotters Manfo Asiedu and Adel Yahya pleaded guilty to related charges.

The Guardian

Yesterday Max Hill QC, prosecuting, said that just over half an hour after his failed attack at Shepherd’s Bush tube station Osman phoned his wife, who helped him flee to Brighton. He later took a Eurostar train to Paris and travelled on to Rome, where he was arrested.

The court heard Girma became aware of her husband’s radicalisation as early as May 2004 when he took their young son to a training camp in Cumbria, also attended by the three other bombers and Yahya.

Also:

Bomb plotter’s wife jailed for 15 years
The Guardian

Secret al-Qaida report found on London train
Richard Norton-Taylor and Vikram Dodd, The Guardian

Highly classified intelligence documents relating to two of the most sensitive issues involving Britain’s security interests – al-Qaida in Pakistan and the situation in Iraq – have been found on a train near London, it was disclosed last night.

The documents, including one marked Top Secret, are believed to be detailed and up-to-date assessments by Whitehall’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

They were found on Tuesday and handed to the BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who reported the loss. The BBC said the documents were left on the train by a senior intelligence officer.

Also:

UK security official suspended over lost file
Financial Times / Reuters

Security breaches don’t get much worse than this
Crispin Black, The Guardian

Secret files left on train spark Whitehall probe
Sean Rayment, Richard Edwards, Christopher Hope, The Telegraph

Secret files lost after ‘clear breach’ of rules
The Independent

Secret files left on train were taken without authorisation
Jill Sherman, The Times

Brown wins critical vote on 42-day detention
George Parker, Jim Pickard and Jimmy Burns, The Financial Times

Gordon Brown has won a knife-edge Commons vote to extend pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 42 days, amid furious Tory claims that he had bought the decisive support of nine Northern Ireland Unionist MPs.

Mr Brown survived a rebellion by 36 Labour MPs to win a Commons majority of nine for the government’s highly contentious terror bill, averting a defeat which would have dealt another heavy blow to his premiership.

Amid rowdy Commons scenes on Wednesday night, opposition MPs pointed accusingly at the nine-strong Democratic Unionist Party, claiming their support had been secured in backroom deals to secure more money for Northern Ireland – a claim denied by Downing St.

Mr Brown’s team were less concerned at the manner of the victory than its longer-term significance.

For months the 42-day vote had hung over the prime minister and its result was uncertain until the last minute. Even as MPs filed in to the division lobbies at 6pm on Wednesday Mr Brown’s aides were drafting a statement in the event of a defeat, which still seemed possible in spite of a day of arm-twisting and personal pleading by the prime minister.

Also:

42-day terror law faces ‘very rough ride’ in Lords
Philippe Naughton, The Times

We have to be prepared for the worst, warns Jacqui Smith
Ben Russell, The Independent

Editorial: A shaming victory for the counter-terrorism bill
The Guardian

Liberty, security and an anxiety over lost rights
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian

A power that may turn routine
Alan Travis, The Guardian

This risks strangling freedom without any security gain
Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian

Two paratroopers killed in Afghanistan ambush
Thomas Harding, The Telegraph

The Parachute Regiment has suffered its biggest loss in a week since the Falklands War after two soldiers were killed during an ambush in Afghanistan.

The number of paratroopers killed in action in the last four days now stands at five dead after a suicide bomber killed three on Sunday.

In an operation to flush out the Taliban and reassure the local population around the town of Sangin the Paras were ambushed by the insurgents from close range. A third soldier was seriously wounded.

The dream of Afghan democracy is dead
Anatol Lieven, The Financial Times

In public, defeat in Afghanistan is unthinkable for western governments. In private, for many it already seems inevitable – at least if the western definition of “victory” remains the vastly overblown goals set since the overthrow of the Taliban, within any timeframe that is likely to be acceptable to western electorates.

In recent meetings involving Nato officials I have been struck by the combination of public acknowledgement that, to achieve real and stable progress in Afghanistan, western forces will probably have to remain there for a generation at least, and deep private scepticism that western publics will stay the course for anything like that long. Indeed, most plans have the hopeless aim of producing clear results within three years, for fear that otherwise Canada will not prolong its presence beyond 2011 and the whole Nato effort will begin to unravel.

Similarly, public statements of faith in Afghan democracy are coupled with private expressions of near-despair when it comes to hopes of improving Hamid Karzai’s administration. Many western officials admit privately that any real hopes of creating a democratic Afghanistan are now dead. “If we could get a moderately civilised and effective military dictatorship, we’d be very lucky indeed,” was the grim comment of one senior officer.

Every statement by western leaders such as Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, that this is a struggle for Afghan democracy makes it more difficult to change course. The west has already spent so long talking up Mr Karzai’s democratic credentials that – absurdly – we now feel that we cannot overrule him even when he vetoes vitally important western policies.

A war that badly needs a definition of victory
Philip Stephens, The Financial Times

The question that western donors to Afghanistan might have asked themselves at this week’s Paris conference was an obvious one: why are we there? In the event it was easier to write the cheques. Winning in Afghanistan is perhaps the most consistent mantra of western security policy. As long, that is, as no one defines what is meant by winning.

President Hamid Karzai knows what he wants: another $50bn (€32bn, £26bn) in foreign development assistance to create something resembling a modern state. He will not get that much, not least because it is beyond the capacity of his government to spend it honestly. The money, though, will keep flowing. The west sees no other choice.

Afghanistan is the good war – a conflict fought in self-defence and one, unlike Iraq, blessed from the outset by the international community. No dodgy intelligence here. Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for the coming US presidential election promising to pull out US troops from Iraq. He wants a bigger effort in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama is not alone. I have given up counting how often in recent months I have heard politicians and policymakers, leftwing and rightwing, Americans and Europeans, say the west cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan. I am still unsure as to what constitutes winning. So, I think, are they.

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