UK CT & COIN Features – 9 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.

Osama Bin Laden’s son calls for Britain to be wiped out on terror web film
Aislinn Simpson, The Telegraph

The son of terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden has appeared on a terrorist film on the internet calling for Britain and its allies to be wiped out. Hamza Bin Laden, 16, the youngest of the Saudi-born warlord’s 18 sons, is claimed to be the author of a poem featured on an extremist website to mark the third anniversary of the July 7 London bombings in which 52 people died.

Hamza Bin Laden in 2001

In it, the boy dubbed the Crown Prince of Terror, called for an acceleration in the “destruction” of America, Britain, France and Denmark, the latter singled out for the publishing by its largest selling broadsheet of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

“Oh God, reward the fighters hitting the infidels and defectors. Oh God, guide the youth of the Islamic nation and let them assist with the fighters’ plans,” he continued. “God, be pleased with those who want to go for jihad – and blind those who are watching and want to capture them. Grant victory to the Taliban over the gangs of infidels.”

The poem is thought to have been read out by Hamza himself, and is accompanied by a video clip featuring his father.

Scottish troops trying to keep the peace in Afghanistan
Magnus Linklater, The Times

The 30-strong patrol of US marines and Afghan National Police moves slowly through the Musa Qala bazaar, alert to any suspicious movements around them. This town in North Helmand may be held by coalition forces, but it is far from secure.

There has been a spate of kidnappings and persistent rumours that a suicide bomber has slipped into the town, so the patrol is on high alert. Curious eyes take in the presence of foreign reporters.

A little boy runs up to the soldiers, oblivious to the heavy armoury they are carrying, and grins cheekily. One of our group shouts out a “Salaam” and gets a friendly response.

In Afghan terms, this represents progress. Six months ago the bazaar was deserted, the population dispersed by the fierce bombardment that preceded the expulsion of the Taleban who controlled it. Today, as on any other day, as many as 2,000 people crowd in to the market to buy a surprisingly rich choice of fruit, vegetables and other groceries, piled high on wooden stalls under flapping canvas awnings.

….

No one doubts that this is the town the Taleban have to retake if they are to restore their credentials in Afghanistan. No one here believes that they will succeed. But what no one knows for certain is who will win the peace, or how it will be defined. Brigadier Andrew Mackay, the former commander of British forces, says that Musa Qala is a place that was “iconic for all the wrong reasons, and it’s now iconic for all the right reasons”. What he means is that Musa Qala is the test-bed for the British policy of “an Afghan solution for an Afghan problem”.

On present evidence, that solution remains a distant one. Beating the Taleban – if that can ever be finally done – is only a part of it. Winning over a suspicious and battle-weary population is another.

Troops to return to Afghanistan
BBC

Hundreds of marines based in Scotland are to be deployed to Afghanistan in the autumn. Personnel from 45 Commando, who operate out of RM Condor in Arbroath, will travel to the country in October.

It will be their third operational tour of Afghanistan in six years. The 700-strong unit was also involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 45 Commando returned from their last Afghanistan tour in April 2007 – they lost four men during that deployment.

The Royal Marines will replace 16 Air Assault Brigade in the latest troop rotation. Deployed alongside 45 Commando will be 42 Commando, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, the 1st Battalion The Rifles, and the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards.

UK troops still playing a vital role in Basra
MoD

UK troops have been instrumental in delivering much improved security and stability to Basra in recent months according to the UK’s most senior officer in southern Iraq. Major General Barney White-Spunner, the UK’s commanding officer in the region, was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today, Wednesday 9 July 2008. During the interview Maj Gen White-Spunner talked about the vital role UK troops continue to play in what he acknowledges are hugely challenging and often dangerous circumstances.

With Operation Charge of the Knights, an Iraqi-led initiative involving UK soldiers and the Iraqi Army which aims to restore order and improve security in Basra, now into its fourteenth phase the mood in Basra is increasingly optimistic. But Gen White-Spunner believes consolidating recent successes is vital for further progress:

“We’re here to consolidate security,” he said. “The battle of Basra has been won by the Iraqi security forces, and we’ve got to consolidate that. Although the militias have pretty well disappeared – the Governor of Basra himself said this morning that he thought the militias had gone for good – there are still violent extremists out there, those people whose aims have been frustrated by the Iraqi security forces and us.”

Former head of MI5 says 42-day detention plan is ‘unworkable’
Ben Russell, The Independent

Plans to hold terror suspects for up to 42 days are neither practical or principled, the former head of MI5 warned yesterday. Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, who stood down as the director general of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency last year, took the highly unusual step of using her maiden speech in the House of Lords to denounce the plans. It was the first time she had spoken on the subject.

“I don’t see on a practical basis, as well as a principled one, that these proposals are in any way workable,” she told peers.

The comments by Lady Manningham-Buller, an anti-terrorism specialist who led MI5 during the London Tube bombings three years ago, represent a serious blow to Gordon Brown’s anti-terror laws, which were forced through the Commons on the votes of Democratic Unionists (DUP) last month after a major rebellion by Labour MPs.

She told peers: “I have weighed up the balance between the right to life – the most important civil liberty – the fact that there is no such thing as complete security, and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties. Therefore, on a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days’ pre-charge detention. I do understand different views and that there are judgements honestly reached by others, and I respect these views.”

Also:

Impractical and wrong in principle: former MI5 chief’s verdict on Brown’s 42-day plan
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian

Boost for Davis as poll shows little public support for 42 days
Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian

Rush legislation, repent at leisure
Michael White, The Guardian

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