Tag Archives: afghanistan

Clegg: senior Labour ex-ministers should give evidence to UK torture inquiry

Nick Clegg Q&A 12Last week came the revelations from the US Senate Intelligence Committee about the extent of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

It immediately promoted questions about what the then Labour Government knew about what was happening on the watch of its closest ally. Nick Clegg has called for senior ex-ministers to give evidence to Parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) on what they knew about torture conducted by UK or US intelligence agencies in Iraq or Afghanistan, as The Guardian reports:

The deputy prime minister said

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Afghanistan war is textbook for how to lose this kind of conflict

rally paddy 01Paddy has been writing in the Mirror about the Afghanistan war? Was it all worth it and could we, should we, have done things differently? What can we learn for the future?

First of all, Paddy writes, we did some good:

So has it all been for nothing?

No. There are children – and especially girls – going to school in Afghanistan who wouldn’t be there if British troops had not risked their lives to give them the chance. Democracy, though frail, has taken root.

There is growing prosperity in some areas, markets in previous ghost towns, new roads that never existed and, perhaps most important of all, a knowledge of how things can be better, planted in people’s minds.

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Lord Eric Avebury writes…Polio and Terrorism

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO),has reduced the number paralysed by polio from 350,000 in 1988 to 405 in 2013, and the number of countries where the disease is endemic has been cut from 125 to just 3 –Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But progress has come to a grinding halt, with Pakistan reporting 174 new cases so far this year out of 193 worldwide.

The WHO says there is a high risk that this highly infectious disease will spread to other parts of the world, paralysing many of its victims.

Three quarters of all cases are reported from two lawless areas of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) and the misleadingly named Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In these provinces terrorists call the shots, intimidating and murdering those who don’t agree with their fundamentalist brand of Islam.

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LibLink: Sir Robert Smith – We must not turn our back on Afghanistan

At a workshop on child rights at French Cultural Centre, Kabul, AfghanistanSir Robert Smith, Lib Dem MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and Co-Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Afghanistan, has written this week about the need for Britain, as our direct military involvement comes to an end, to ensure we keep our promise to maintain support for a developing Afghanistan.

… the attacks of September the 11th brought home the fact that what happened in that far away country made a difference back here.

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Lord (Eric) Avebury writes…Pakistan’s Army stands firm against the Taliban

The Pakistan Army’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) has condemned Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan’s statement in which he called former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Chief Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr.

In fact, Mehsud was a mass murderer, motivated by implacable religious hatred, and his killing by a US drone on November 1 was fully deserved. Under his leadership the TTP slaughtered Pakistani soldiers and civilians, men women and children indiscriminately. He targeted Shia Muslims, of whom 700 have been killed so far this year.

The objective of the TTP is to overthrow the state of Pakistan and to replace it with …

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Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown win the argument on Afghan interpreters

The BBC reports:

Up to 600 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops are to be given the right to live in the UK, government sources have confirmed.

The plan marks a climbdown from ministers who had decided they should not get the same UK resettlement rights as interpreters in the Iraq conflict.

Afghan interpreters who worked on the front line for a year or more will initially be offered a five-year visa.

This is something, as we reported 3 weeks ago, that Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown have been arguing for.

Earlier this week, Paddy Ashdown said that it was Downing Street …

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: Let us not leave Afghanistan with this final gesture of betrayal and dishonour

Paddy Ashdown has written a hard-hitting article for the Yorkshire Post in which he implores the Government to give Afghan interpreters who have helped UK troops the right to come to the UK.

The interpreters and their families live under threat from the Taliban:

These men are different from our troops in this sense: our troops can be sure that their families are home, secure and safe, in Britain, whereas they cannot.

Their families live, day in and day out, threatened by mortal threat from the Taliban in Afghan society.

Our troops come home every six or nine months, whereas they do not. They

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Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown say that Afghan interpreters should have the right to live in the UK

Almost exactly four years ago, Nick Clegg, as an opposition party leader, led a debate in Parliament in which the Labour Government was defeated on its plans to restrict the rights of Gurkhas to settle in the UK. David Cameron was keen to get himself into the photos with Joanna Lumley at the time.

Four years on, and Clegg and Cameron have opposing views on whether Afghan interpreters who helped our soldiers in that country should be allowed to settle here. Today’s Times (£) reports that the Prime Minister, along with Theresa May and Philip Hammond are against allowing …

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LibLink… Paddy Ashdown: It’s not a fight against “us”, it’s Islam vs Islam

Mali rebel - License Some rights reserved by MagharebiaIn an article in today’s Times, Paddy Ashdown concedes that David Cameron is probably right that the so-called War on Terror (a term Paddy dislikes) will go on for another decade. Paddy argues that we need to recognise that the way western countries have been operating doesn’t work. What is needed now is to recognise that the fight is between different factions of Islam. It should be our job to help out moderate governments where we can.

He outlined why the “invasions, main battle armies and occupation” of

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LibLink: Paddy – withdraw British troops from Afghanistan now

Writing in today’s Times (£), Paddy Ashdown says that Afghanistan is ‘not worth the life of one more soldier':

The war in Afghanistan is lost and not worth the life of one more British soldier, Paddy Ashdown writes in The Times today. In a stark assessment of the 11-year campaign that has cost 438 British lives, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon urges Britain to pull out its troops as quickly as “decently” possible. The intervention comes as David

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LibLink: Ming Campbell – Afghanistan: We have to see it through till 2014

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Ming Campbell has taken to the pages of the Independent to set out his views on British troop involvement in Afghanistan, and the need to be realistic about the speed at which British troops can be withdrawn from Helmand. Here’s an excerpt:

It is naive to suggest that, even if we began today, we could be out by Christmas. Withdrawal of nearly 10,000 troops and their equipment is not achieved by waving a wand. During any withdrawal, forces are at their most vulnerable. What additional protection measures would be required? What equipment would we be able

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Opinion: the undignified spectacle at the G8

Imagine the scene. It’s a dirty whitewashed three-storey government building in the capital city, surrounded by high walls with US helicopters parked around. Inside sit several US generals and two Europeans, in the dusty heat. The war they are there to discuss is secretly assumed to go on for 25 years. They all know they cannot win it despite superior air power and unlimited cash. They had all given it their best shot with use of terrible weapons. Neighbouring countries have been mercilessly bombed, and ushering in governments very unfriendly to the US and the West.

It was time to find …

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Opinion: Support for emerging democracies – we’ll do it our way

Speaking at the recent Munich Security Conference, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said “Americans and Europeans must send a clear and common message to despots that they must respect the rights of their people….America and Europe stand shoulder to shoulder.”

However, the UK role in encouraging emerging democracies must be determined through a process of working closer with the EU and by identifying limited areas in which tangible gains can be made through shared resources. That is to say that we do what we can with our European partners to achieve the best results within our areas of influence. Continually …

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Michael Moore MP’s Westminster Notes – Scotland better off in Union

Every week, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore writes a column for local newspapers in his constituency. These are the highlights of the last two editions. 

Afghanistan

 The loss of six young soldiers in Afghanistan last week shocked and saddened the whole country and was a grave reminder of the huge sacrifice made by our armed forces in one of the most dangerous places in the world. The work of our men and women in Afghanistan is absolutely vital for the security of the UK and the freedom of the Afghan people and the deaths of these young men remind us …

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PMQs: Lest we forget

A different Prime Minister’s Questions review this week. Often, the Prime Minister prefaces his first answer with a tribute to fallen service personnel. I have mentioned these tributes a few times in the course of these write-ups over the last (nearly) two years.

It seems appropriate to devote the whole of this week’s review solely to those who have died fighting for us, as we pass the milestone of 400 troops killed in Afghanistan with a particularly bloody incident.

Whatever our views of the right or the wrongs of our involvements overseas, I think most people agree that our service personnel do …

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LibLink: Ashdown – This 11-year exercise in self-delusion must end

Paddy Ashdown has an opinion piece on Afghanistan in The Times today (£) in which he says:

We have repeatedly deluded ourselves about “successes” that never existed and thus took so long recognising that a victor’s peace was beyond our reach that we wasted the best opportunities for a negotiated one. We failed to understand that in these wars it is politics, not weapons, that counts most. Even if you win on the battlefield, you lose if you lose politically; which we have, painfully

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Nick Harvey MP writes: A hard look at defence spending

Today the Commons defence committee published a report criticising the MOD for decisions taken in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).  The report claims that recent defence budget reductions will leave our Armed Forces unable to execute the operations the Government sets for them post-2015.  
 
I disagree.
 
It is true that the MOD is reducing numbers of service personnel across the Army, Navy and Air Force and indeed the MOD has altered the equipment programme, which led to the deletion of Nimrod and Harrier.  But these tough decisions were necessary in order to address the black hole in the …

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Resignation of Afghan central banker puts Western governments on the spot

The resignation and flight to the US of Abdul Qadeer Fitrat, chairman of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, has been accompanied by a wide-ranging set of allegations from him about corruption being behind the near collapse of Kabul Bank. That it itself is not a surprise, as corruption was already widely suspected, but he has also claimed that corruption investigations had been deliberately blocked and that he feared for his own personal safety.

It is credible that he would have detailed knowledge of such matters, though Abdul Qadeer Fitrat …

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LibLink: Nick Clegg, the New Statesman interview and crying

The latest edition of the New Statesman has an interview with Nick Clegg, which has mostly garnered attention for the shock news that Nick Clegg is a human being and has been known to cry to music:

He is besotted by his “three lovely boys” and is most proud “by a long shot” of the family life he has created with Miriam. They manage to lead a relatively normal life, “not in a bunker in Westminster”, and he tries to pick his children up from school and put them to bed at night at least two or three times a week.

He

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LibLink… Paddy Ashdown: Defence cuts? Why, they’ve barely started

In today’s Times (£) Paddy Ashdown argues that the Ministry of Defence is “no longer fit for purpose.”

Ashdown says that the current government are not making enough progress with addressing the Ministry’s problems: the large annual deficit, bureaucratic blunders and project overruns and puts them down to a lack of political direction.

Here’s an excerpt:

The dust is now settling on the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published last October. And what it reveals is that the deeply painful cuts already announced are not going to be enough to balance the books. There will have to be more — there may

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PMQs: The Pillsbury Doughboy takes on Motherhood and Apple pie – and loses

For the second time in three weeks, a LibDem asked the first question at Prime Minister’s Question time. Bob Russell asked, first of all, for the PM to list his engagements for the day. As usual, there was the same response as there has been for virtually every week since Noah was in short trousers. “This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others and, in addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.” Same question, same answer, every blinking week. It is hard not to have a mite of sympathy with …

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Inside the Danger Zones: Paul Moorcraft on thirty years of war reporting

Paul Moorcraft’s account of his several decades touring the world’s violent trouble-spots as a journalist and some-time government representative entertains as well as informs. From Rhodesia in the 1970s through to his contemplation of pioneering a niche market in blind observers for African elections in 2010, Moorcraft’s account reflects plenty of the swagger of many war correspondents but with enough self-mockery to make the account illuminating and interesting rather than a macho display. Even the clichés about drinking and womanising journalists, which he seems to have often fulfilled to the maximum, are full of his own failings.

The result is a portrait of not only the countries he visited but also the breed that makes up war correspondents, with their bravery, their bravado and their desire to get the story and the footage even at great personal risk. The motivation for such story getting may often be as much ego as public service, but in the end the public benefits from people willing to take remarkable risks with their personal safety in the name of journalism.

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Opinion: for the want of a nail

Joining the traditional Nativity story of revelation followed by deliverance, this festive season we have been able to enjoy even more revealed truths about our world courtesy of Wikileaks, the Daily Telegraph and more or less any senior Army officer near a microphone.

Although there are moral and technical differences between these sources of information, they have each attempted to lift the veil to reveal the ‘truth’ behind the public face of diplomacy, coalition governance and military strategy. But have we liberals been consistent in our responses to these revelations?

With the diplomatic cables released through Wikileaks, there’s been a strong …

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Nick Harvey outlines the UK’s objectives in Afghanistan

Minister of State for the Armed Forces and Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey set out the government’s objectives in Afghanistan in a speech he gave during his visit to Denmark this week. He made clear the limits to what the government is now seeking to achieve:

We do not seek a perfect Afghanistan, but one able to maintain its own security and prevent the return of Al-Qaeda.

This is primarily a mission of national security.

We are neither colonisers nor occupiers.

We are there under United Nations Security Council endorsement and at the invitation of the Afghan Government.

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Camp Victory, Afghanistan

Over the weekend I went to see a screening of Camp Victory, Afghanistan. In short, if you get a chance – go see it.

What makes the film different from many others about Afghanistan post-2001 was illustrated by a comment from the director in a post-screening Q+A session. Carol Dysinger explained that, unlike many others making films of the conflicts in Afghanistan, she had first approach the Afghan government for permission to film rather than the US (or other) military forces.

It is the Afghan army that is at the centre of the film. The footage comes from five visits, each …

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How to defeat Al Qaeda

The cover of Bruce Riedel’s The Search for Al Qaeda shows a group of armed men working their way up a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley that stretches away to rolling hills. It captures the wonder and the tragedy of Afghanistan in one frame.

The book itself is similarly crisp, packing a wide-ranging history of Al Qaeda and its key figures into only 150 pages of moderate size print. It is penned by an ex-CIA man of thirty years service who was frequently closely involved with the figures and events painted in the book, but not so closely as to make the reader fear it is more a justification of his career than a fair account of events.

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It’s not a science journalism problem, it’s a journalism problem

Late last month, Martin Robbins wrote a fantastic spoof of science journalism for the Guardian’s website – This is a news website article about a scientific paper. In his subsequent commentary on the reaction to that spoof he wrote,

Science is all about process, context and community, but reporting concentrates on single people, projects and events … Hundreds of interesting things happen in science every week, and yet journalists from all over the media seem driven by a herd mentality that ensures only a handful of stories are covered. And they’re not even the most interesting stories in many

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In the long-run, it’s governments and not insurgents who win

One of the most commonly made comments about insurgencies such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq, and most famously Vietnam, is that in order to win the insurgents simply need to survive. It’s a piece of conventional wisdom challenged in a thoughtful piece in Foreign Affairs, based on looking at 89 insurgencies over the last fifty years:

Many have assumed that insurgents invariably win by simply holding out. This is incorrect. Historically, governments have won more often than insurgents in the long run. And even wars that seemed to be spiraling inexorably toward defeat, such as Colombia’s against the Revolutionary

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The flaw in war reporting from Afghanistan, or why Robert Peston should not be embedded in a McDonald’s for a fortnight

On Wednesday evening I went to a Frontline Club event titled Who is winning the media war in Afghanistan? and was reminded of the way what journalists call “the kinetic stuff” (that is soldiers and shooting to you and me) dominates mainstream TV footage. The set of clips shown to set the scene at the start of the event were all of the kinetic kind and although during the event some journalists made the point that other types of footage is also used – they also conceded that those other reports are not the ones which grab the public …

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Nick Clegg writes about his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan

In an email sent this afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has written about his trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Earlier this week this week I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan to see for myself the problems and challenges that those countries face. The coalition government is committed to playing our part to helping ensure that the region has a peaceful and prosperous future.

It was my second visit to our armed forces in Afghanistan, where I saw again the bravery and professionalism of our troops. Whilst the situation in the country is still difficult, I believe

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