A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
British troops in Afghanistan have delivered a “shattering blow” to the Taleban by killing one of its senior leaders, the Ministry of Defence says.
Abdul Rasaq, also known as Mullah Sheikh, died in a missile strike about 10 miles north of Musa Qala in Helmand province just after midnight on Sunday.
He is believed to be responsible for leading insurgents around Musa Qala.
Mullah Sheikh is the third senior Taleban leader to be killed in just over three weeks, the MoD said.
The most senior Taleban leader in the province, Mullah Rahim, gave himself up in Pakistan just hours before Mullah Sheikh’s death.
A British soldier has died and two others have been wounded in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said. The soldiers, serving with the Parachute Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, came under fire while on patrol.
The soldier who died was with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the Parachute Regiment. The injuries of the other two soldiers are not thought to be life threatening. Their next of kin have been informed.
His death, on Tuesday night, takes the number of British military casualties in the country to 111.
Brown signals end of military role in Iraq
George Parker, Financial Times
British troops could begin their long-awaited withdrawal from Iraq early next year after Gordon Brown on Tuesday predicted “a fundamental change of mission” in the first months of 2009.
Mr Brown’s statement to MPs signals what he hopes will be the end of Britain’s military involvement in Iraq, and could clear the way for combat troops to come home well before an expected general election in 2010.
The prime minister steered clear of setting out a precise timetable for withdrawing the 4,100 troops at Basra air base, but he stressed that the army had almost completed its tasks in southern Iraq.
Britain Plans Pullout of Most of Its Iraq Force
John F. Burns, New York Times
Brown signals Iraq troops withdrawal
Deborah Summers and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian
Troops must stay in Iraq ‘to train its forces’
Andrew Grice, The Independent
British troops to pull out of Iraq next year
Philip Webster, Deborah Haynes and Tim Reid, The Times
Basra – here’s the good news story
Maj-Gen Barney White-Spunner, The Times
There is an interesting piece of graffiti on a bridge near Basra. A fleeing militiaman has scrawled “We’ll be back”; underneath an Iraqi soldier has scribbled in reply “And we’ll be waiting for you”.
The Shia militias, the Jaish al- Mahdi, who controlled large parts of Basra until March this year, has now gone and instead the city is firmly under the grip of Iraq’s new security forces, in whom the coalition has invested so much training. They re-established control in April, in an operation romantically named “The Charge of the Knights”, systematically clearing the city with British and American support, confiscating illegal weapons and arresting the violent gangs whose combination of criminality and vicious extremism was making life a misery for so many of Basra’s people.
Around the city the posters of religious leaders are being replaced with billboards advertising cars and mobile phones and photographs of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is rightly credited with being the driving force behind the army’s crackdown. You see the symbol of The Charge of the Knights everywhere, a black horse carrying the flag of Iraq trampling the gangsters underfoot.
This improvement in security has made Basrawis more confident of their future than at any time since 2003. A recent poll showed that only 8 per cent now regard security as their main concern; 80 per cent have confidence in the Iraqi security forces to protect them. Women are free to walk the streets uncovered and to wear Western dress should they so choose.
Remote-controlled RAF Reaper targets the Taleban
Anthony Loyd, The Times
It is the way that the men suddenly scuttle the second before they die that sticks in the mind. What do they hear? The sudden roar of rocket presumably, fired from an invisible unmanned machine 25,000ft (7,600m) above them that captures the flaring, explosive moment of death in granulated infra-red video footage.
Reaper, the RAF’s latest high-tech acquisition for the insurgency in Afghanistan, piloted by US operators back in distant Nevada: smart technology, futuristic, remote, impressive even, but as the name suggests, it still kills.
“We fly, operate and fight the aircraft at a height where people on the ground won’t know we’re there: it’s a very quiet aeroplane,” explained one of the two RAF personnel responsible for arming, launching and recovering British Reapers from Kandahar airbase.
“It is remote-controlled warfare, a term we hate but that’s very much the truth.”
Purchased from the US the two unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) have been used by British Forces in Afghanistan since September.
Primarily a night-time reconnaissance asset, each is nevertheless equipped with Hellfire missiles and 500lb laser-guided bombs, the same payload as an F16. Unlike jets however, which may only be on call for ground troops for half an hour at a time, Reaper cruises the sky in twelve-hour shifts.
Terrorist threat to airports over lax staff security
Richard Edwards, The Telegraph
Airports are at increasing risk from an “internal terror attack” because of lax security arrangements, according to an official report. It is feared that hundreds of foreigners are being allowed to work in high security parts of Britain’s airports without passing proper criminal record checks.
Despite warnings that terrorists have tried to place sleepers in jobs “airside” in terminals, no attempt has been made to check whether foreign workers have committed any offences abroad.
A Government-commissioned report today urged for foreign criminal record checks to be made compulsory for airport workers to combat the threat to security. But it called only for new staff to be checked and not those already in post.
The paper, written by former civil servant Stephen Boys Smith, warned that the greatest threat of terrorism in future may be from “internal attack” and added that the “threat is varied and unpredictable.” It said that “long term systemic changes” are needed to combat the threat from within.
Terror suspect college pupil banned from taking chemistry and biology
Chris Irvine, The Telegraph
Mr Justice Silber, sitting at London’s High Court, ruled the Iraqi national, known as AE for legal reasons, had taken part in terrorist activities and knowledge from such courses could be used to make explosives.
However, AE said his purpose for studying the courses was to continue his medical studies.
The judge dismissed AE’s appeal against Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s decision last September refusing to permit him to undertake the AS-level courses in the 2008-9 academic year at a regional college.
He had acted on the basis that the Home Secretary had reasonable grounds to believe AE had received terrorist training and had taken part in terrorist activities.
Mr Justice Silber said: “The use by a terrorist of the practical experience learnt on those courses to produce explosives or pathogens could lead to a substantial loss of lives.
“It requires relatively small amounts of either to cause loss of life and damage to property. It will be recollected that the bombs which caused so much loss of life on 7 July 2005 were created by individuals in their own homes.
“There is no suggestion that AE was involved with those events but they show how much damage can be caused by such bombs by people who have the expertise and confidence to produce dangerous items.”