UK CT & COIN Features – 23 June 2008


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

Terror police charge second man

Detectives investigating an alleged terror plot have charged a second teenager under the Terrorism Act. Hashi Ahmed Omer, 18, from Bristol, has been charged with failing to disclose information and will appear on Tuesday before Westminster Magistrates, London.

He was arrested on 16 June and his home was searched by police as part of an investigation into another local man, 19-year-old Andrew Ibrahim. Mr Ibrahim is accused of plotting to commit acts of terrorism.

Britain to get 3,000-strong border force to fight terrorism and illegal immigration
Richard Edwards and Christopher Hope, The Telegraph

A new 3,000-strong police force dedicated to securing the UK’s borders has been unveiled in policing plans announced by the Home Secretary.

Jacqui Smith said that senior officers had proposed a single force, run by its own chief constable, which will include uniformed officers on patrol and Special Branch to fight terrorism.

It signals a harder approach to illegal immigration, which has surged in the past decade and has stretched police forces tacking gun crime, drug and people trafficking across Britain.

The force will protect Britain’s 71 international and major regional airports, 10,500 miles of coastline and 27 major sea ports.

Miss Smith, responding to a report from the independent reviewer of UK terrorism legislation, also revealed that a new police fortress will be created in London for holding terror suspects.

The purpose built set of cells and custody suites will be established in the next three years and comes after a report from Lord Carlile criticised Paddington Green, Britain’s highest security police station, as being “unfit for the purpose”.

A nation as yet unbuilt
Peter Preston, The Guardian

Francis Fukuyama posed the basic Afghan dilemma as the supposed triumph of western invasion began to fall apart. Afghanistan has never been “modern”, he observed, chillingly. “Under the monarchy that existed until the beginning of its political troubles in the 1970s, it largely remained a tribal confederation with minimal state penetration outside Kabul”. And the subsequent years “of communist misrule and civil war eliminated everything that was left” of that feeble entity. History wasn’t dead, in short; Afghans were dead.

And now, many killing fields later, we can put that even more starkly. Afghanistan isn’t a “failed” state, because Afghanistan has never been a successful one. Afghanistan is a crossroads, a traffic island, a war zone, a drug den, an exotic doormat, and an eternal victim.

But it is not, in any coherent sense, a nation. We cannot see peace, harmony and freedom “restored” there, because such concepts have no roots in its essentially medieval past, or present. Afghanistan has always been a disaster waiting to happen, again and again.

Brown’s first year: security and defence
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

As he prepared to move into 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown went out of his way to present himself as a robust defender of national security. “At no point should any serious decision-maker be soft or posture on security matters and refuse to acknowledge the new world we are in,” he said in a keynote speech early last year. His language since he became prime minister has reflected that sentiment. However, his decisions, or lack of them, have not done so.

He appointed Lord West of Spithead, the former first sea lord, minister with special responsibility for security, though very little has been heard from him recently. He persuaded a reluctant Whitehall to draw up a national security strategy, the first by a British government.

He has increased the counter-terrorism budget, with money for MI5, MI6, GCHQ, and the Metropolitan police due to increase from £1bn to £3.5bn a year by 2011. However, he has not begun to solve the problems left by his predecessor, Tony Blair.

Further success for Basra security operation

Operation Charge of the Knights, a joint operation involving UK soldiers and the Iraqi Army which aims to restore order and improve security in Basra, is making further progress.

The Iraqi Army continues to demonstrate its commitment to improving the security situation in the city, carrying out a number of Vehicle Check Points in recent days.

Inspections were carried out on a number of vehicles which were going in and out of the city. In addition, numerous house searches were carried out, leading to multiple arrests of suspected militants. 140 rounds of 150mm High Explosive shells were also found in one area of Basra.

Operation Charge of the Knights, which began in March, is now into its 14th phase. The operation has been one of the key drivers in bringing peace and stability to the streets of Basra in recent months. Elements of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Service, with their US and UK Military Transition Teams (MiTTs), can now be seen working in the city.

The MiTTs are working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces and local contractors as pavements are replaced, sewers cleared and rubbish removed from the streets.

A less than generous spirit
Nicola Cutcher, The Guardian

Many Iraqis have risked their lives and their families’ lives by “collaborating” with the British. Last October David Miliband announced a government policy policy to aid the interpreters, translators and other local staff who have worked on Britain’s behalf in Iraq. The aid’s eligibility criteria included problematic conditions that belied its less than generous spirit. Nonetheless, it was a start and the press and the public welcomed it.

Anyone who had worked for the British in Iraq continuously for at least 12 months was eligible to claim asylum or a financial package. If they had been working after the August 8 2007, they qualified for “direct access” to the UK. If their work had ceased before this date then they would be eligible through the “gateway” scheme. This involves travelling to a third country, such as Jordan or Syria, and applying for refugee status through the UNHCR.

The British have employed thousands of Iraqi civilians and the government has received at least 1,138 applications for aid from current and former staff since October. Less than half of these people have been determined eligible for assistance. Many applications could not fulfill the criteria of 12 months continuous service because translators worked intermittently accompanying different military tours of duty. These employment gaps disqualify them for aid.

Of the 503 Iraqis found “eligible” for assistance, how many have entered the country to date? Just three, including an interpreter. They arrived with their wives and children in April, and that has been the full realisation of Miliband’s great promise to date. It must be said that more Iraqis are opting for the financial package than asylum. British officials say this shows what a happier prospect Iraq is for people now. Perhaps. Or perhaps Iraqis have noticed that only three men have actually achieved asylum and don’t fancy their own chances. They’re taking the money as a guaranteed option.


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