Australian Broadcasting Company – 2007-06-21 22:49:47
Britain to Stay Engaged in Afghanistan for ‘Decades’
(June 20, 2007) — Britain will need to stay involved in Afghanistan for “decades” to help restore stability, London’s ambassador in Kabul said Wednesday.
In an interview with BBC radio, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles put greater stress on Britain maintaining a “long-term development” presence rather than a military one.
“I wouldn’t say my picture is gloomy, I would say it’s realistic,” Cowper-Coles said. “It’s a marathon rather than a sprint. We should be thinking in terms of decades.”
“We’re standing up a country that is near the bottom of the world development index, a country that has suffered from 30 years of war, with an insurgency spreading across the Pashtun belt.”
He said Britain, with 5,200 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led force, was waging a winnable counter-insurgency war that resembled those it had fought before in Malaya and Northern Ireland.
He said the allied campaign was made easier because most Afghans oppose the Taliban, the radical Islamist movement that led the country until its overthrow in a US-led war in late 2001.
Although he regretted that Afghan civilians were killed by NATO forces, he said the allies were taking “sophisticated” precautions to warn villagers ahead of military action.
Citing Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human rights group, he said: “The Taliban kill five times as many as NATO do.”
“The great thing about the Taliban is that they haven’t been reading their chairman Mao. They don’t have popular support. They’re try to swim in a sea that doesn’t exist.”
Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse
UK to Send 1,400 Extra Troops to Afghanistan
(Feb 27, 2007) — Britain plans to deploy nearly 1,400 extra troops to southern Afghanistan, where NATO forces are bracing for a Taliban spring offensive. Defence Secretary Des Browne made the announcement of extra forces for Afghanistan less than a week after Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a cut of 1,600 troops serving in Iraq.
The extra forces, which Mr Browne says will take the total number of British troops in Afghanistan from 6,300 to 7,700, will mostly be deployed to the troubled Helmand province.
He has acknowledged that Britain is taking a greater share of the burden in front-line areas than other NATO allies, but says the Government has no alternative but to take responsibility.
“We must be realistic about how many nations have the ability to take on the tasks facing NATO in the south and the east,” he said. “But it is increasingly clear that at present, when it comes to the most demanding tasks in the more challenging parts of Afghanistan, only we and a small number of key allies are prepared to step forward.
“This is why we have decided to commit additional forces to Afghanistan. Put simply, the alternative is unacceptable and would place too great a risk on the progress we have made so far.”
Mr Browne says he will continue to lobby other NATO states to provide more troops as well.
Nearly 50 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the US-led war was launched in October 2001, many since last northern summer when Britain took over NATO command, spearheading a push into the volatile south.
According to the latest figures on the Ministry of Defence website, Britain has some 5,600 troops already in the country, including 4,300 in the south and 1,300 in the capital Kabul. A ministry spokeswoman said those figures dated from last November, and were already out of date.
Meanwhile, United States Vice-President Dick Cheney is in Afghanistan, where he is expected to have talks with President Hamid Karzai on curbing militancy. Mr Cheney’s visit follows a similar trip to neighbouring Pakistan.
In his talks with Mr Karzai, it is believed Mr Cheney will discuss the possibility of a spring offensive, which the Taliban have vowed they will launch soon.
A Pakistani statement, issued after his earlier talks with President Pervez Musharraf, said Mr Cheney had expressed serious concerns about intelligence reports of such an offensive by the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Sources also say Afghanistan will ask the US to put more pressure on Pakistan to stop militants entering Afghanistan from its territory. Pakistan denies allowing this.
US, Britain Back More Australian Troops in Afghanistan
(April 11, 2007) — The US has welcomed the increased Australian troop presence in Afghanistan. The US has welcomed the increased Australian troop presence in Afghanistan (Reuters: Australian Defence Force)
The acting head of counter-terrorism in the United States has described Australia’s joint efforts with Canadian and NATO forces in Afghanistan as vital.
Prime Minister John Howard has announced 300 extra troops will be deployed to the south of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. The acting coordinator for counter-terrorism in the United States, Frank Urbancic, told Lateline he welcomes the decision.
“We understand that this is a global war which we certainly can not wage ourselves and cannot wage alone,” he said. “Australia has been at the forefront of the battle for years and it’s a role we very much want to appreciate and want to acknowledge.”
He says Australia has played a vital role in Afghanistan in the past.
“The increase of the Australian role, the coordination with Canada, our working together, NATO’s presence is some thing that I think is of absolute vital [importance], a vital element of future success and it’s one we very much appreciate, it’s one we think is good and we thank the Australian people for it.”
Australia’s move has also been welcomed by Britain and NATO. The British Ministry of Defence clearly believes Australia’s increased commitment was a step forward.
A spokeswoman says getting it right there is vitally important and that the NATO-led troops cannot afford to fail. She says all the countries are there at the request of the Afghan Government.
Britain has repeated its claim that all NATO members must provide the resources needed to do the job. Total NATO troop numbers will now be 38,000, a rise of more than 7,000 since NATO commanders called for increases late last year.
NATOs official spokesman, James Appathurai, said the alliance appreciated Australia’s backbone and determination to provide the forces necessary to go into an expected tough campaign against Taliban forces in the northern summer.
“It’s absolutely welcome … I think we can expect a tough summer,” he said.
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