A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
General Sir Richard Dannatt: British troops should be trained as nation-builders
James Kirkup, The Telegraph
British soldiers should be trained to rebuild war-torn countries and not just fight conflicts, Britain’s top soldier is expected to say. Military training should be broadened so that service personnel spend time working for local councils to learn how to establish democratic governments in developing countries. General Sir Richard Dannatt will say.
Sir Richard, the Chief of the General Staff, will use a Westminster speech to propose a shake-up of the way the Army trains its personnel and runs its operations, to put more focus on reconstruction and development work.
His suggestion comes amid concern in Whitehall about the way the British military mission in Afghanistan is fitting into the wider Western effort to develop that country’s government and economy.
British generals insist they are making progress in the military battle against the Taliban, but doubts remain about how effective Western development work is. Only a fraction of the billions of pounds spent on development in Afghanistan ever reaches local projects, officials say.
Dispatches from the battle for the Afghan soul
Magnus Linklater, The Times
Peering through the narrow slit of an army observation post may not be the best way to decide what on earth the British are doing in Afghanistan – but it is a start. Grand statements about reclaiming democracy and rebuilding the national economy are forgotten as we peer round a little arc of ground, with a wadi at the far end, and the Taleban almost certainly beyond it.
Four weeks earlier, Major Neil Den-McKay and his company of Argylls had cleared the ditches with rifles and fixed bayonets, driving the Taleban out. As we look out over the ground gained, I see no sign of the enemy. But how far have they gone? What exactly has been achieved? And when will they be back?
In essence, that is the Afghan challenge; and, for better or worse, it is one that we are landed with for years to come.
You do it, the Americans say, by spending huge amounts on schools and clinics, on proper tarred roads, on rebuilding ruined infrastructure – by buying loyalty. US military units come armed not just with guns but with hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be spent right away on local projects. I watch a small group of village elders in Garmsir listen to the promises, their eyes expressionless. They seem interested only in security – relief from war, the breathing space to open up their markets again.
The British approach relies less on money and more on talk. Louise Perrotta, the “stabilisation adviser” in Garmsir, thinks it important to get “inside the heads” of villagers, and to try to understand things from their point of view. Their thought processes do not always conform to Western concepts – they are more “elliptical”. They want to know how long they will be protected from the Taleban, and whether their borders are secure. Since the Marines are pulling out of Garmsir in September, it is a valid question.
British Defence Secretary Reaffirms Transatlantic Solidarity in Afghanistan
Richard Weitz, Eurasianet
British Secretary of State for Defense Des Browne expressed guarded optimism about Afghanistan’s democratization process during a recent speech in Washington, DC. At the same time, Browne cautioned that the conflict-ravaged nation will take at least a generation to rebuild.
“The nature and complexity of the challenge there is greater even than the nature and complexity of the challenge in … Iraq,” Browne said during a July 10 address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He was in the US capital to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-US Mutual Defense Agreement, as well as to hold consultations with senior American defense officials.
Browne voiced hope that a “virtuous circle” of increasing military security and economic-political improvements was taking shape in Afghanistan. In his view, the International Security Assurance Force (ISAF), of which Britain is the second-highest troop contributor after the United States, is establishing the basis for economic development and a strengthening of the Afghan government’s political authority. The economic and political progress, in turn, is helping consolidate the coalition’s military successes.
“It is vital for the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan, something of which I know no American audience will ever need persuading,” he said.
UK offers Nigeria help to train security forces
Alex Barker, The Financial Times
Gordon Brown has offered Nigeria help to train security forces in its main oil producing region in an effort to stabilise oil markets by tackling a multi-billion pound criminal racket.
The prime minister promised to support the establishment of a maritime training centre for forces operating in the Niger Delta after meeting Umaru Yar’Adua, the president of Nigeria, in London. Mr Brown said it would form part of a crackdown on “lawlessness and corruption” in the energy rich region and make oil installations less vulnerable to looting.
An insurrection in the Niger Delta has reduced Nigerian oil output by about a quarter and concerns at deteriorating security have contributed to soaring world energy prices. Mr Brown said production could be increased by more than 1m barrels a day in the region if a long-term peace settlement could be reached.
British Forces in Afghanistan have killed their second senior Taliban leader in a little over two weeks, striking a critical blow to the insurgency’s command and control capabilities in Helmand.
Bishmullah was a senior key facilitator and logistician responsible for the Northern Helmand region. He is believed to have commanded numerous fighters and was identified by Task Force Helmand as a key player in the insurgency, and criminality, before the strike.
He was killed in a firefight in Now Zad in the early hours of Saturday, 12 July 2008, just 15 days after Sadiqullah, another senior Taliban facilitator was killed in an Apache missile strike.
Bishmullah’s death will reduce the Taliban’s ability to conduct operations against coalition forces, and in particular, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, while also denting the Taliban leadership structure, which had recently been instructed to reorganise and improve. It will also decrease their ability to disrupt the rule of law being extended across Helmand by the Afghan Government.
This latest success demonstrates that British Forces in Helmand are effectively carry out intelligence-led operations against the Taliban leadership in the area. The operation was mounted as part of NATO’s ongoing campaign against the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.
Britain can offer Barack Obama advice on Iraq
Adrian Hamilton, The Independent
With Obama’s visit to Europe (and Iraq and Afghanistan) next week, there’s been the inevitable discussion of America’s relationship with Europe: who is now it’s favourite ally and what would an Obama presidency mean for Britain’s hallowed “special relationship”?
Instead of worrying about what Obama will say to us (which won’t be much beyond clichés), we should be thinking about what we can say to him. That’s what he most needs after all. Chancellor Angela Merkel can offer him her views on relations with Russia and the future of the EU. Nicolas Sarkozy will fill him with visions of what France can do and how pro-American its President now is. Silvio Berlusconi will not doubt just try and smother him in praise and gifts.
But Britain – for all the current suggestions that we have become less important than Germany as a European ally – can offer advice on what concerns Obama most in this election: what to do about Iraq, the war, as Obama put it this week, that “distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize.”
Promotion of clients and stooges will get us nowhere
Seumas Milne, The Guardian
If the aim is to reduce the terror threat and boost integration, boycotts of mainstream Muslim events are no help at all.
The political knives are out for Shahid Malik, Britain’s first Muslim minister. For years poor Malik has bent over backwards to toe the New Labour line and be the epitome of an acceptable, moderate Muslim. But Malik also knows his own community and, when a ministerial edict went out to boycott the largest Islamic cultural and political event ever staged in Britain, he balked. By any reckoning, he argued, the IslamExpo extravaganza, which attracted 50,000 people over the weekend, was a mainstream gathering and an important opportunity to win hearts and minds. Only when his departmental boss, the international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, cracked the whip did Malik relent.
Now he is paying the price in time-honoured style. First, he was taken to task in the Times by Dean Godson, research director of the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange, which was last year found to have relied on faked evidence for an inflammatory report into extremism in British mosques. Then, as if by magic, a knocking story appeared, complete with a withering comment from a “Whitehall source” about Malik’s “seriously poor judgment”, detailing the minister’s failure to realise that a peace meeting he was due to address with his department’s knowledge was linked to the Moonie cult.
Chakrabarti attacks Asian MPs over support for 42-day detention
Paul Owen, The Guardian
Shami Chakrabarti has hit out at Sadiq Khan and eight other Asian Labour MPs over their decision to vote in favour of the government’s 42-day detention plan.
In an interview to be published in tomorrow’s Eastern Eye, the director of Liberty says of Khan, a government whip who ran the human rights organisation for three years before becoming an MP: “He continues to mention Liberty on his website and as part of his history. It’s disappointing because of his legal and human rights background … I was more disappointed because he was a civil rights lawyer who once held these values than because he was Asian or a Muslim. But I wasn’t surprised; he is a junior whip. For every Sadiq Khan there was a Diane Abbott and a Frank Dobson who shone.”
She added: “Young Asian kids are looking for leadership, politicians who can make a difference … It is a failure of leadership. They didn’t show courage, in particular those who changed their mind at the last minute over [the issue of awarding detained suspects] compensation.”
The government’s counter-terrorism bill, which would allow police to detain terrorism suspects for up to 42 days without charging them, passed in the Commons by nine votes last month. It must now be approved by the House of Lords, and was roundly criticised there in debates earlier this month.