A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
Cost of Iraq operations rises by half
James Kirkup, The Telegraph
The cost of Britain’s military operations in Iraq rose by half after ministers missed their timetable for withdrawing troops, the Ministry of Defence has said. It had forecast the cost of operations in Iraq during 2007/08 would be £955 million. But in fact the final cost was £1.449 billion, the MoD told the House of Commons Defence Committee.
The admission comes as Gordon Brown prepares to tell MPs that British troop numbers in Iraq are unlikely to fall in the immediate future.
7/7 London terrorist bombings: Thousands gather to mark anniversary
Rupert Neate, The Telegraph
Commuters stood shoulder to shoulder with survivors and victims’ families to pay their respects to the dead. London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tessa Jowell, the Minister for London, laid flowers outside the station at 8.50am, precisely the time the first bomb went off. Mr Johnson placed a memorial card which read: “We honour the memory of those who died on 7/7 2005, we salute the courage of those who were injured and our thoughts and prayers are with all victims and their families.”
Ms Jowell said: “People have shown great courage in the progress they have made in moving forward with their lives since the atrocities of three years ago.
The streets around King’s Cross, from where the four suicide bombers set off on their terror campaign, were crammed as commuters stopped to pay their respects.
Survivors remember July 7 London bombings, three years on
Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Survivors of 7/7, one in ten is still waiting for compensation
David Thomas, The Telegraph
Mother of July 7 bombing victim calls for inquiry
Terri Judd, The Independent
Three years on, victims remember 7/7
Life of July 7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer celebrated by family in Pakistan
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph
Family members of one of the July 7 bombers have celebrated the anniversary of his death with a service in a mosque in Pakistan, sparking outrage from relatives of the dead. Villagers at Chak 477 in the Punjab offered prayers for Shehzad Tanweer, who killed seven people and injured 171 when he blew himself up on a Circle line train near Aldgate.
One resident said Tanweer was described as a “shahid” or martyr at the gathering, the third held to remember death of the suicide bomber. Police were sent in case of disturbance as Tanweer’s uncle Tahir Pervez, who lives locally, distributed salted rice, a custom to remember the dead.
One villager, Muhammad Asghar, said: “Dozens of people recited the Koran at a small mosque in the village for eternal rest of Tanweer followed by distribution of salted rice by Tanweer’s maternal uncle among the people.”
Mr Pervez and other relatives later visited Tanweer’s grave, which has one of the largest headstones in the cemetery of the nearby town of Samundari to “offer prayers for the departed soul,” Mr Asghar added.
There is no suggestion that any of Tanweer’s British family members were present.
Essential assets at risk from terrorism
Stephen Fidler, The Financial Times
The risks posed by employees linked to terrorist groups have been inadequately addressed by companies managing Britain’s infrastructure, according to government officials.
The risk of disruption to elements of Britain’s critical national infrastructure remains an important official concern two years after the attacks on London’s transport network that killed 52 commuters.
Ministers have just endorsed a new way of assessing the infrastructure assets that are most important to the economy, following criticism last year that the existing approach to risk assessment was unsatisfactory.
The government has identified nine industry sectors, including telecommunications, energy and finance, as critical to the national infrastructure.
The new method of risk assessment follows criticism last year of the old method from Admiral Lord West, who was last year appointed parliamentary undersecretary of state for security and counter-terrorism. He told a conference last week that the new approach to terrorism risk assessment had been agreed.
The new assessment rates on a scale of one to five – with category five the most important – the impact of the loss of an asset on life, on the economy and on essential services. Companies are advised to deal with vulnerabilities if their assets fall into category three or above.
The old method concentrated on physical locations, called economic key points. The new one makes clear that physical sites, such as bank branches, or institutions are often less important than systems, such as financial computer networks.
42 day detention will be ‘recruiting sergeant for al-Qaida’, says peer
Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian
Many police chiefs are opposed to the government’s plans for 42-day pre-charge detention, a former chief inspector of constabulary said today.
Crossbench peer Lord Dear said that the government’s plans, which were approved last month by MPs by a majority of just nine, would prove “a recruiting sergeant in the field for al-Qaida”.
The peer issued a statement in advance of tomorrow’s debate on the counter-terrorism bill in the House of Lords. It will be the first time peers have debated the 42-day proposal and, although the Lords will not vote tomorrow, the debate will give some indication of how much opposition there is among peers to the government’s plans.
Nearly 50 peers have put their names down to contribute, including Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, who will deliver her maiden speech on the bill.
The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to the 42-day plan and Gordon Brown only managed to win the vote in the Commons with the support of the Democratic Unionist party.
Given that Labour does not have a majority in the Lords, the 42-day proposal seems likely to be rejected, or at least heavily amended, before the bill returns to the Commons.
Former member of Islamist group barred from becoming solicitor
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian
A former member of a radical Islamist group who was an Amnesty prisoner of conscience and who now works for an anti-extremist Muslim thinktank has been refused permission to train as a lawyer. The decision was attacked yesterday as “McCarthyite” by a senior lawyer and human rights campaigner.
Maajid Nawaz, 30, from Essex, spent more than four years in jail in Egypt between 2002 and 2006 because of his then involvement with the radical organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. He had previously studied law and Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and had gone to Egypt, with his wife and young child, to study at Alexandria University. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned there and he and two other young men, later known as the Egypt Three, who were also active in the organisation were arrested and later jailed. He was tortured and held in solitary confinement during his time inside and became an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
His ideas changed gradually during his time in prison and he now dismisses Hizb ut-Tahrir as a “cult”. This year he became director and founding member of the Quilliam Foundation, a thinktank set up to combat Islamist extremism. He has also addressed the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) conference on tackling extremism. His former colleagues in Hizb ut-Tahrir regard him as a traitor, he said.
Involved at every level within the Iraqi Army’s 14th Infantry Division, British Military Transition Teams (MiTTs) have been instrumental in improving the security situation across Basrah Province.
Around a dozen British MiTTs are currently working in and around Basra City with different elements of the Iraqi’s 14th Division. The MiTTs, whose job is to mentor and support, are task-organised.
Each generally consists of around 20-30 British soldiers from a specific Army unit, such as the soldiers from B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment “The Poachers” who are working alongside their counterparts from Iraqi soldiers in 52nd Brigade, 14th Infantry Division.
Currently operating on the streets and in the rural areas around Basra, 50, 51 and 52 Brigades from 14th Division have all been trained by the British Army at Shaibah Logistics Base. It is the job of the MiTTs though to continue that support and training out on the ground.
Whether it be undertaking basic soldiering skills, conducting vehicle, house or personal searches, urban or rural patrols or specific operations, the British soldiers that make up a MiTT embedded with an Iraqi unit are able to monitor, advise and provide ongoing training for them.
No military solution in Afghanistan
Ken Gude, The Guardian
It appears there is only one kind of news coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan these days: bad news. Violence and casualties are up, military options are down and al-Qaida has moved into a new safe haven across the Pakistani border. Seven years is a long time to be fighting to be back at square one. Whether out of necessity or innovation, it is time that American and European strategy in the region lessen its reliance on military force as its primary instrument and pursue a more robust political and economic development programme that can enable Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach a more sustainable and secure future.
First, we must stop thinking of Afghanistan and Pakistan as two separate issues but rather as part of the same challenge. The porous and virtually ungoverned border is the locus of escalating tensions, but the root of the problems lie in Kabul and Islamabad. Trust between the two governments has always been low after the decades-long involvement of Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, with the Taliban, yet it has now plunged to new depths after the Afghan government accused the ISI of involvement in an April 2008 assassination attempt on Hamid Karzai. No long-term progress can be made, regardless of how much money is spent or how many troops are thrown into the breach, until the Afghani and Pakistani governments agree to work together to solve their common problems. Achieving such a political accord should be the priority of American and European diplomatic efforts that seem bogged down in the attempt to persuade other Nato countries to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Shifting attention to the tribal areas on both sides of the border, the faltering attempt to assert government influence has vacillated between a scheme of top-down security and state control to one of negotiated surrender. What is needed is a bottom-up economic development and political integration plan to draw the extremely poor and isolated tribal areas closer to mainstream Afghani and Pakistani society. Part of the Taliban’s appeal in these areas is certainly an ethnic and tribal bond that will never be erased. Yet it is also clear that the Taliban wields such influence through fear, intimidation, and a lack of real alternatives for young tribesmen. In this environment, a sporadic strong-handed presence from the central government does little to encourage young men to turn away from the Taliban. But the chance at a real future just might.