Five U.K. Soldiers Fragged at Afghan Police Base
Five U.K. soldiers were killed yesterday in a shooting at an Afghan police base in southern Helmand province, making this the deadliest year for British troops in more than two decades.
The soldiers are believed to have been shot by a “rogue” Afghan policeman who opened fire in a police compound in the Nad-e’Ali district. Six soldiers and two Afghan policemen were wounded in the incident. The gunman and a possible accomplice escaped and a search is under way.
Opposition Conservatives and former military officials accuse Brown of failing to provide enough helicopters and vehicles to defeat the Taliban.
Kim Howells' Statement
Professor Kim Howells (MP), has been serving as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, a Committee of Parliamentarians that oversees the work of Britain's intelligence and security agencies. Professor Howells writes that it's time to pull out of Afghanistan and spruce-up internal security in Britain:
I backed the war, but the chance looks squandered. Local agencies battling terrorism need the funds being spilt in Helmand.Keeping Afghanistan Safe from Democracy
For the best part of seven years the British public appeared to accept the argument that, if we didn't deploy our troops to fight al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, we might be forced to fight them on the streets of Britain. In recent months ... The public may be asking whether deploying large numbers of British forces to Afghanistan at great cost, in lives lost as well as in pounds sterling, is actually the most effective way of preventing Islamic terrorist murders in the UK ... like me, they are considering that there may be more effective alternatives to the deployment and wondering why there has been little discussion about them ....
Seven years of military involvement and civilian aid in Afghanistan have succeeded in subduing al-Qaida's activities in that country, but have not destroyed the organisation or its leader, Osama bin Laden. Nor have they succeeded in eliminating al-Qaida's protectors, the Taliban. There can be no guarantee that the next seven years will bring significantly greater success and, even if they do, it is salutary to remember that Afghanistan has never been the sole location of terrorist training camps.
If we accept that al-Qaida continues to pose a deadly threat to the UK, and if we know that it is capable of changing the locations of its bases and modifying its attack plans, we must accept that we have a duty to question the wisdom of prioritising, in terms of government spending on counter-terrorism, the deployment of our forces to Afghanistan. It is time to ask whether the fight against those who are intent on murdering British citizens might better be served by diverting into the work of the UK Border Agency and our police and intelligence services much of the additional finance and resources swallowed up by the costs of maintaining British forces in Afghanistan.
It would be better, in other words, to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate on using the money saved to secure our own borders, gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain, expand our intelligence operations abroad, co-operate with foreign intelligence services, and counter the propaganda of those who encourage terrorism.
Such a shift in focus would have the benefit of exposing far fewer British servicemen and women to the deadly threats of Taliban snipers and roadside bombs, but would also have momentous implications for UK foreign and defence policy ....
Life inside the UK would have to change. There would be more intrusive surveillance in certain communities, more police officers on the streets, more border officials at harbours and airports, more inspectors of vehicles and vessels entering the country, and a re-examination of arrangements that facilitate the "free movement" of people and products across our frontiers with the rest of the EU.
Some of these changes will generate great opposition, but many of them will be welcomed. If media reports are true, the British public is becoming increasingly hostile to the notion that any of our service personnel should be killed or wounded in support of difficult outcomes and flawed regimes in faraway countries.
.... Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, the highly respected British deputy commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said recently that the ideal number required to turn the tide in a country like Afghanistan, with its 28 million people, is around half a million .... I doubt whether the presence, even of another 40,000 American troops – brave and efficient though they are – will guarantee that the Taliban and their allies will no longer be able to terrorise and control significant stretches of countryside, rural communities and key roads. Recent attacks in Kabul and other centres suggest that the present balance of territorial control is at best likely to remain – or, more likely, to shift in favour of the Taliban.
Bin Laden, along with his admirers and followers, won't wait around for the future of Afghanistan to be resolved. Their preparation and training for terrorism hasn't stopped, and Britain has no choice but to continue to seek out his bombers and those of other terrorist organisations. Our police forces, intelligence and border agencies have mammoth tasks. Their budgets already are much larger than they were in the years prior to the attacks on New York and London in 2001 and 2005, but they will have to grow larger still if they are to prevent further atrocities, not least when the eyes of the world will be on London during the 2012 Olympics.
The public will want to know, of course, where the money to pay for all this will come from. It won't be easy but it is time to tell them that it will come from the savings that will accrue from not having to pay for the war in Afghanistan. Sooner rather than later a properly planned, phased withdrawal of our forces from Helmand province has to be announced. If it is an answer that serves, also, to focus the minds of those in the Kabul government who have shown such a poverty of leadership over the past seven years, then so much the better.
The most idiotic thing being said about America’s involvement in Afghanistan is that the best way to protect the 68,000 U.S. troops there now is by putting an additional 40,000 in harm’s way.
People who argue for that plan clearly have not read Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s report pushing for escalation. The general is as honest as he is wrong in laying out the purpose of this would-be expanded mission, which is to remold Afghanistan in a Western image by making U.S. troops far more vulnerable, rather than less so.
He is honest in arguing that American troops would have to be deployed throughout the rugged and otherwise inhospitable terrain of rural Afghanistan, entering intimately into the ways of local life so as to win the hearts and minds of a people who clearly wish we would not extend the favor. He is wrong in indicating, without providing any evidence to support the proposition, that this very costly and highly improbable quest to be the first foreign power to successfully model life in Afghanistan would be connected with defeating the al-Qaida terrorists.
.... Obama must know the truth of Matthew Hoh's words and should heed them before he marches down the disastrous path pursued by another Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson—who, we now know from his White House telephone tapes, sacrificed the youth of this country in a war that he always knew never made sense.