The Great Debate UK

Brown must create Afghanistan war cabinet

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richard-kemp2- Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and the author of Attack State Red, an account of British military operations in Afghanistan published by Penguin. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Disillusionment with the inability of the Kabul administration to govern fairly or to significantly reduce violence played a role in the reportedly low turnout at the polls in Helmand.

It is critical that this changes if we are to avoid another Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Army, well trained and equipped, lost heart once the U.S. withdrew, collapsing at the first push, partly because their corrupt and ineffective administration was not worth fighting for.

That an election was held at all in Afghanistan’s most violent province is an achievement. But despite a major operation to drive out the Taliban, the insurgents deterred large numbers of voters. This illustrates just how steep a mountain NATO has to climb. But it does not mean we cannot prevail against them in Helmand.

A Bagram betrayal

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clivestaffordsmith– Clive Stafford Smith is the director of Reprieve, the UK legal action charity that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners. The opinions expressed are his own. -

As the British death toll climbed above 200 in Afghanistan this week, it became clearer that the politicians were betraying the soldiers who they were sending to fight and die.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Why focusing on Afghanistan’s opium makes the opium problem worse

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Joshua Foust is an American military analyst. He blogs about Central Asia and Afghanistan at Registan.net . Reuters is not responsible for the content - the views are the author’s alone.

It would be an understatement to call opium cultivation in Afghanistan America's headache. The issue of illegal drug cultivation and smuggling has vexed policymakers for three decades, and led to a multi-billion dollar campaign to combat the phenomenon.

from UK News:

Do UK troops in Afghanistan have the right back up?

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Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth came under criticism on Monday over a shortage of military equipment in Afghanistan, where 15 British soldiers have been killed in the past two weeks.

The deaths highlight the shortage of helicopters, especially Chinooks, which can carry large numbers of troops and equipment over long distances, say the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

from UK News:

Is Britain paying too high a price in Afghanistan?

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The death toll among British troops in Afghanistan is rising fast.  The soldier who died on Tuesday was the seventh to die in the last week and the 176th since the war began.

Last Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe became the highest ranking British soldier to die in the conflict in Afghanistan when he was killed in Helmand. British commanders are quoted as saying things are going to get worse before they get better.

from FaithWorld:

Poll: Pakistanis against Taliban, disagree over sharia views

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swat-talibanA new poll shows public opinion in Pakistan has turned sharply against the Taliban and other Islamist militants, even though they still do not trust the United States and President Barack Obama. Reporting on the poll, our Asia specialist in Washington, Paul Eckert, said the WorldPublicOpinion.org poll, conducted in May as Pakistan's army fought the Taliban in the Swat Valley, found that 81 percent saw the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda as a critical threat to the country, a jump from 34 percent in a similar poll in late 2007. Read Eckert's report here. (Photo: Pakistani Taliban in Swat, 2 Nov 2007/Sherin Zada Kanju)

The poll shows a wide divergence between Pakistani public opinion and the views of the Taliban on the implementation of sharia, a religious issue sometimes cited to help explain earlier tolerance of the militants. Some 80 percent of the respondents said sharia permits education for girls, one of the first services the Taliban close down when they gain control of an area. And 75 percent said sharia allows women to work, which the Taliban do not.

Bagram: Where the future of Guantanamo meets its tortuous past

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Moazzam Begg- Moazzam Begg is Director for the British organisation, Cageprisoners. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Little seems to have changed regarding the treatment of prisoners held at the U.S. military-run Bagram prison since I was there (2002-2004). The recent study conducted by the BBC shows allegations of sleep deprivation, stress positions, beatings, degrading treatment, religious and racial abuse have gone unabated. On a personal level though, I can’t help wonder if British intelligence services are still involved.

When is the wrong vehicle the right vehicle?

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Patrick Hennessey-Patrick Hennessey is the author of “The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.” The opinions expressed are his own.-

In the same week in which Major Sean Birchall became the 169th British service person to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001 (and perhaps more significantly, as is often unmentioned, the 164th serviceperson to die since the British moved into Helmand Province only three years ago), four families announced that they were planning to sue the Ministry of Defence over the deaths of loved ones in the lightly armoured “Snatch” Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From afar, G8 seeks a handle on Afghanistan

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Luke Baker- Luke Baker is a political and general news correspondent at Reuters. -

The mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan are far removed from the elegant charms of Trieste in northern Italy, but there will be a link between the two this weekend.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet in the Italian city on the Adriatic on Thursday for three days of talks, with the state of play in Afghanistan, as well as developments in Iran and the Middle East, front and centre of their agenda.

Bagram lesser known – but more evil – twin of Guantanamo

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clara_gutteridge-Clara Gutteridge is renditions investigator at Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The big surprise in Tuesday’s revelations of prisoner abuse at Bagram is how long these stories have taken to reach the international media, given the scale of the problem.

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