UK CT & COIN Features – 8 July 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.

Former MI5 chief opposes 42-day detention
Andrew Woodcock, The Independent

The former head of MI5 added her voice today to opposition to Government plans for 42-day pre-charge detention for terror suspects.

Baroness Manningham-Buller told the House of Lords that she did not believe the proposal to extend from the current 28-day limit was “in any way workable”.

Her comments came as peers debated the Counter-Terrorism Bill, which scraped through the Commons by nine votes last month.

Lady Manningham-Buller is the latest in a string of high-profile figures from the security and legal establishment to come out against the 42-day plan, following former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith and Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald.

Her successor as director general of MI5 Jonathan Evans took the rare step last month of issuing a public statement to say that the Security Service was standing aside from the debate over 42 days, as it was not an appropriate body to advise the Government on detention limits.

Also:

Former MI5 head speaks out against 42-day detention
Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian

Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 chief, savages 42-day detention plan
James Kirkup, The Telegraph

Russians reflect on Afghan conflict
James Rodgers, BBC

Between 1979 and 1989 thousands of Soviet soldiers died in Afghanistan fighting the US-backed mujahideen. But 110 British soldiers have been killed in the country since 2001 as fighting rages with the Taleban. So what do Russian veterans think of Afghanistan and the current Nato campaign?

….

Today, Russian veterans of the Afghan war still have little good to say of their experience. They look at the presence of British and other Nato troops there with an air of grim recognition.

“When the troops went into Afghanistan, a lot of our veterans said: ‘It’s a shame they’ve gone in. People are going to get killed. People understand they haven’t just gone for a stroll,'” says Franz Klintsevich, who heads the Russian Union of Afghan Veterans.

He was 28 when he went to fight in Afghanistan – still “a little boy”, as he describes it now. He sees the current conflict as one of young men pitted against veterans whose skills were forged fighting the Soviets.

“Today the British troops, these young lads, are fighting 40-year-old blokes who were 14 or 17 in our time,” he says. “Experienced, knowing, fighters.”

‘Russian state killed former spy Alexander Litvinenko’
Duncan Gardham, The Telegraph

The Russian state was behind the killing of the former secret agent Alexander Litvinenko, a senior official has disclosed in private.

“We very strongly believe the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement, there are very strong indications that it was a state action,” the senior security official told the BBC.

Marina Litvinenko, the widow of the murdered agent, has been pressing for official recognition that the use of radioactive polonium 210 must have been state-sanctioned.

To date the Government has remained silent on the responsibility for the killing merely requesting the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard who is the main suspect in the case.

Israel bans British group over ‘links to Hamas’
Sheera Frenkel, The Times

Israel has banned the British Interpal organisation from continuing its operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, claiming it has financial links to Hamas.

Interpal, also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, was designed in 1994 with the stated aim of alleviating the needs of Palestinians in a number of countries including Israel, Jordan and Lebanon.

Since 1996, however, it has faced questions from Israel and the US about its funding network and alleged connections to the Islamists. In 1997, it was labelled an “unlawful organisation” by Israel and as a “specifically designated global terrorist” grouping by America in 2003.

The group has not replied to Israel’s decision today, which comes about after an investigation into its finances, although it has strongly denied wrongdoing in past cases.

‘Hero’ base gets thumbs up in Helmand
MoD

The first Afghan National Army (ANA) designed, built, manned and patrolled Forward Operating Base (FOB) has received a seal of approval from the British Forces team that mentored them and from the local people it has been built to help protect.

FOB ‘Attal’, which means ‘hero’ in Pashto, is the first of its kind in Helmand and demonstrates the Afghan National Army’s will, and capability, to take on responsibility for their own security in the province. It is named after the Afghan National Army’s Helmand-based 3/205 Hero Brigade and joins Patrol Bases ‘Viking’ near Sangin, ‘West’ near Musa Qaleh and ‘Barakzai’ near Gereshk as being Afghan National Army-operated.

All of these Patrol Bases were built by British engineers and then handed over to the Afghans. However FOB Attal is the first Afghan National Army-led project and is also the largest FOB manned by ANA troops.

When the base was completed in early June, after initial rejection from the local community as a result of Taliban intimidation, the local ANA commander conducted a series of intensive patrols to assure the villagers of their security in recent weeks. For fear of losing their influence over the population, the Taliban threatened to cut the water supply to the villagers’ farms. In the face of this threat, locals grouped together and rejected them, requesting a reconciliation Shura with the ANA commander.

MPs query MoD spending estimates
Stephen Fidler, The Financial Times

The Ministry of Defence has been delivering out-of-date and inaccurate estimates of spending on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report from MPs.

The Commons defence select committee said it was “concerned about the robustness of forecasts and estimates we are offered”.

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