UK CT & COIN Features – 25 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.

Taliban factions may be using British forces to assassinate rival commanders
Kim Sengupta, The Independent

The missile strike took place just after midnight, nine miles north of Musa Qala in Helmand. Abdul Rasaq and three of his senior lieutenants had been picked out in the middle of a field. They were already dead as the Nato warplanes that had carried out the precision attack roared away.

Rasaq, also known as Mullah Sheikh, was the third insurgent leader killed in three weeks, while another had surrendered to authorities in Pakistan over the weekend. The past 18 months had also seen the deaths of three other commanders including Mullah Dadullah, who had led insurgent forces in Helmand.

The British and Americans have presented the assassinations as examples of how their policy of “decapitating” the enemy leadership is working. But according to security sources, there is also evidence that factions within the Taliban are using Western forces to eliminate rivals in a new version of the “Great Game” being played out in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The “hits” on the Taliban leadership have almost all been based on initial intelligence supplied from within the insurgency, although details of the movements of some senior insurgents have also been gleaned from intercepted telephone calls. Some of the information has come from the Afghan security service, NDS, and some from Pakistani officials, while the British have held secret talks with elements of the Taliban – despite official denials.

Ministers ‘duped by US’ over Guantanamo inmate’s torture claim
Robert Verkaik, The Independent

The Government faces accusations that it has been duped by the US military after Foreign Office officials claimed that a UK resident held for four years in Guantanamo Bay without contact with other prisoners was not being kept in solitary confinement.

A letter sent to lawyers representing Binyam Mohamed, the last Guantanamo inmate with the automatic right to British residency, also asserts that there is no evidence to support any of his accusations of torture.

But Mr Mohamed, who is expected to find out this weekend whether he will be tried for terrorism offences or released, claims to have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of his captors, including having his genitals cut with razor blades. He was flown to a Moroccan prison from the US Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in 2002, and two years later was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held in a single occupancy cell without contact with other inmates.

Irish border: looping frontier was terrorism’s great ally
David Sharrock, The Times

The Irish border is the UK’s only land frontier and one of the world’s least protected. Rambling and looping for 224 miles (360km), its topography made it for decades one of terrorism’s greatest allies. The Provisional IRA used it to such effect that the Government was eventually forced to blow up most of the crossing points and reinforce the remainder with army checkpoints. These, in turn, became highly desirable targets for terrorist attack. Although it was never necessary for citizens of Ireland and the UK to show their passports at the border, thanks to the Common Travel Area agreement worked out in 1923, soldiers and police on both sides often asked travellers for their documents during the Troubles. Experience shows that policing the border is a Herculean task. Bertie Ahern, the former Irish Prime Minister, claimed last year that 90 per cent of illegal immigrants entering the Republic did so via Northern Ireland.

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