The Great Debate UK
– 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.
The government talks about winning the battle for “hearts and minds” in Helmand Province – apparently oblivious to the loaded history of that phrase. This was the mantra of those who wasted 50,000 American lives in a futile battle to impose democracy at the end of a gun barrel in Vietnam.
Napalm never won an election, and nobody can expect an Afghan to warm to the rule of law when he witnesses his people being locked up in Bagram Air Force Base every day — abused and held without trial for years in Guantanamo’s evil twin. Bagram already holds three times as many prisoners as the Cuban black hole, and $50 million is being spent on a new prison that will add another 1,100 cells.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
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:
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:
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.
A 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.
- 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.
-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.
- 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.
-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.
from The Great Debate:
The U.S. armed forces, the world's most powerful, outnumber the country's diplomatic service and its major aid agency by a ratio of more than 180:1, vastly higher than in other Western democracies. Military giant, diplomatic dwarf?