UK CT & COIN Features – 21 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.

Browne casts doubt on Nato’s long-term future
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

The defence secretary, Des Browne, yesterday questioned the long-term viability of Nato, saying it was not providing the forces or capabilities needed to maintain its credibility as a military alliance.

In a remarkably strong attack on Nato’s failings by a British defence secretary, he said there was “far too big a mismatch between our aspirations and what we actually deliver”. In a thinly-disguised reference to the reluctance of some Nato countries to deploy troops or military equipment to Afghanistan, he said: “I sometimes wonder whether the concept of improving usability in Nato is not embraced with much warmth by some allies. Indeed, in some quarters it is an exercise conducted through gritted teeth.”

Addressing an international security conference in Rome, Browne told fellow defence ministers that Nato was “not getting the forces or capabilities it needs in order to maintain its credibility in carrying out the full range of missions for which it was designed. As a consequence, there are concerns as to its longer term viability.”

Domestic opposition prevents German troops from taking on the Taliban, and Spanish and Italian soldiers in Afghanistan are restricted to non-combat roles. France only recently deployed combat troops to the south-east of the country.

Afghanistan: British troops shooting themselves in the foot over Taliban fight
Thomas Harding, The Telegraph

It’s been a good fortnight for the Taliban. Nine British soldiers dead in 10 days, hundreds of imprisoned fighters set free in a daring jailbreak and the floundering Afghan government struggling to convince the population that the security they long for is close at hand.

They will be happy, too, that they have probably made the British commander regret telling me three weeks ago that the insurgency wason the verge of defeat.

Power in Afghanistan is all about posture and perception. The Taliban swept through the country in 1996, barely firing a shot, because local warlords saw that the future was with the black turban and did not want to be left behind. What will be the perception now?

Ex-BNP activist ‘recruiting prisoners to join al-Qa’ida’
Nigel Morris, The Independent

A former British National Party activist who converted to Islam in a maximum-security jail is being held in isolation on suspicion of trying to recruit fellow prisoners to terrorist groups.

Stephen Jones has been confined to a segregation unit in Whitemoor prison, Cambridgeshire, for three weeks while the intelligence services investigate his alleged links to al-Qa’ida.

It is thought to be the first time a prisoner has been put in isolation because of fears he was attempting to radicalise other inmates. The authorities were also said to be concerned about his safety. Two other Muslim prisoners are thought to be in the same unit.

Fears have been growing that extremist groups are using prisons as a fertile recruiting ground. Britain is believed to have more prisoners with terrorist sympathies than any other European country.

Calm in Basra May Offer A Guide for Iraqi Security
Sudarsan Raghavan, The Washington Post

The Iraqi army soldiers walked with confidence into this city’s notorious Five Miles neighborhood. Shiite militiamen once greeted them with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Now, smiling children waved, and a nearby market pulsed with energy. “Nobody before was able to get in here,” said Col. Bilal al-Dayni, surveying the battle-scarred landscape.

For Dayni, a barrel-chested former officer in Saddam Hussein’s military, the scene was a vindication. The Americans disbanded Hussein’s army after the 2003 invasion. Under British administration, Basra fell into the grip of zealots and gunmen. But nearly three months after the Iraqi government launched an offensive to reinstall authority, about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers control Basra, providing a glimpse of what might happen when the bulk of U.S. troops depart Iraq.

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