The Afghan Problem

November 4, 2009

The tragic death of five British soldiers today has once again ignited the debate relating to the aim of the mission in Afghanistan on the same day Kim Howells MP, chairman of the intelligence and security committee and former minister advocating the removal of British troops.

As things stand I don’t support the idea of removing our troops as this would be a massive fillip to the Taliban and its allies and would lead to a surge in Taliban fighters coming into Afghanistan from the border region of Pakistan, once again destabilizing the country and undoing the work that has been carried out by allied troops to date. This would also quite simply be disastrous for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India not to mention the UK. The removal of allied troops would lead to the Taliban and its allies again setting up terrorists training camps specifically training would be terrorists to target the UK and the west which would mean once again taking some sort of military action to deal with these camps in the near future.

Having said that what is unclear is the strategy that we are currently employing in Afghanistan and what the clear goals of the current operation are. There is a great deal of ambiguity about the current operation and while keeping out the Taliban is the obvious aim, the Governments of the UK and US have allowed their initial strategy to drift to the extent that members of the public have no idea what is being done and when the end is likely to come for this operation or when the troops are likely to be pulled out. Alternatively, if the intention is to stay in Afghanistan for a period of say twenty years then this should be categorically stated so that the continued discussion which must be demoralizing for the troops and their families of whether we should pull our troops out each time we sustain casualties is avoided.

I hope that with an incoming Conservative Government there is a clearer strategy and a better explanation of the aims of the mission in Afghanistan.


More trouble in Pakistan

March 30, 2009

Further evidence of the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan as gunmen have seized a police academy in Lahore.

These attacks are becoming increasingly frequent and the Government of Pakistan must step up its security to an extremely high level to avoid giving the impression that it simply has no strategy to deal with the militants. This attack has similarities to the attacks in Mumbai and on the Sri Lankan cricket team and should be a concern for other countries such as the UK where terrorist could try and replicate the methods used by the terrorists in Pakistan.


Sri Lankan Team Attacked in Pakistan

March 3, 2009

The almost unbelievable attack on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore is further evidence of the perilous security situation in Pakistan. While it is too early to lay blame on a particular group, it seems that once again extremists determined to ensure that Pakistan descends into lawlessness giving them the opportunity to take control are to blame.


Torture Threatens Security

February 24, 2009

The return of Binyam Mohammed from Guantanamo has highlighted the futility of indefinite detention without trial and engaging in acts of torture to extract information. Here was a man picked up in Pakistan having gone to Afghanistan who did not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why he was there and who thereafter was accused of allegedly meeting and being involved with extremists.

Mr Mohammed’s travels and activities were suspicious but the fact that he was held without trial and tortured have ensured that his actions have become almost irrelevant. He has not been charged on his return as there was no chance of any conviction based on evidence obtained under torture. The US authorities in an almost blasé manner released him and we have a situation now where people are raising questions as to why an alleged extremist is allowed into this country. That question will never be satisfactorily answered as once a person is tortured and detained without trial, he simply cannot be charged and tried as there is no chance of having a fair.

If we assume that this man is dangerous as the US authorities have one for the past seven years, then security of this country has undoubtedly been compromised by the behaviour of US authorities, and if allegations are true by the complicity in torture of some UK intelligence personnel. If Mr Mohammed is innocent which I believe he is – if only on the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, then he has been treated in an appallingly shabby and abusive way which does nothing to enhance the democratic cause around the world – if democracies behave like dictatorial regimes when their security is threatened, then one can only imagine how dictators respond when they are threatened. And how can we lecture others on human rights abuses when we have cases like Mr Mohammed’s?

Guantanamo is a black mark on the free world and the sooner its inmates are tried fairly or released the sooner we can claim the moral high ground in the battle against extremism.


US Concerns in Swat

February 20, 2009

The US has tentatively responded to the imposition of Taleban rule in the Swat region which can be seen here. I suspect there’ll be a stronger response in due course once all the details are known.


Talebanisation of Pakistan

February 16, 2009

The Pakistani government has caved into the demands of the Pakistani Taleban (PT) and will allow Sharia Law as defined by the PT to be introduced and enforced in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan in return for the laying down of their arms by militants who have been fighting Government forces.

While Taleban interpreted Sharia Law has been in low level use in this region for many years, this is the first time the Government has given its approval and backing of its extension under the auspices of the PT and in particular Taleban hardliner Sufi Mohammed, formerly of Jamaat-e-Islami and head of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) and his son in law Maulana Fazlullah.

This is an enormously dangerous and backward step and is an acceptance that the Pakistani army has lost its battle in this region, and that the overspill from the battles in Afghanistan have had a direct impact on the decision making of the Pakistani Government. Sufi Mohammed it should be noted, arranged for thousands of his fighters to go to Afghanistan to fight coalition forces in 2001.

The Government’s decision is also evidence if any was needed that the current leadership of Pakistan simply does not have the stomach for a fight with extremists on the borders with Afghanistan and neither will they take preventative action to prevent supplies from reaching Taleban fighters in Afghanistan. It also gives the message to other groups in Pakistan, that if you fight hard and long enough, your goals will be realised.

If past actions are anything to go by, the education of all girls in the Swat region will be stopped as there are reports of 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls having already been shut down with ten schools for girls that tried to open after a 15 January 2009 deadline blown up by TNSM supporters. The TSNM will interpret Sharia Law how they see it – a severe and hardline version of Wahhabism, enforce and administer it, operate the courts themselves and carry out whatever punishment they deem is necessary. Pakistan has become a more dangerous and even more volatile country.