14 October, 2006

Rubbish reporting from Iraq.

Rubbish is quite literally being reported from Iraq by the New York Times, says Yahoo News.

The NYT story is at least three months old, and its origins are even older, so why is the NYT running with it now?


CND is back

Bring on the street theatre. According to the Guardian, CND is making a comeback and is going to be entertained tonight at their weekend conference in Bradford by Attila the Stockbroker. No surprise that only the other major news organisation to take CND seriously this weekend is the BBC.

Little seems to have changed about CND over the decades, except that their national office is now called Mordecai Vanunu House and Soviet funding is no longer available. It is still anti-American, still protesting about the UK's nuclear weapons, the membership is still allergic to soap and they are still self-hating hypocrites who can make Robert Fisk look nearly normal. We can be sure that nobody at the conference will be protesting about North Korea.


Army chief speaks out, again.

Following yesterday's Daily Mail interview in which General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, spoke out against aspects of the army's involvement in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence pen-wallahs and their political masters have obviously been leaning on him, if not to recant, at least to tone down his remarks. Sir Richard has issued another statement,

"We have been in Southern Iraq for three and a half years and we have made significant progress, with two of the four provinces now handed over to Iraqi control and our responsibilities are much reduced in one other province. The point that I'm trying to make is the mere fact that we are still in some places exacerbates violence from those who want to destabilise Iraqi democracy.

"Currently Operation Sinbad is trying to make Basra better and a lot of British soldiers are doing a really good job. In that regard, their presence is helping but there are other parts where our mere presence does exacerbate and violence results.

"But that is not a reason for us to leave. I am on record publicly saying we're standing shoulder to shoulder with the Americans. I am on the record from a speech three weeks ago saying that I'm planning force packages in Iraq through 2007 in to 2008. I'm a soldier - we don't do surrender, we don't pull down white flags. We will remain in southern Iraq until the job is done – we're going to see this through."
Same point, different language.


Veiled News

"Muslim leaders rally round Straw", reports the Guardian in a totally misleading headline, following Jack Straws recent comments on veiled Muslim women. In fact, the Guardian's own report makes it clear that Islamic leaders in Straw's constituency did not so much rally round as say nothing in public, one way or the other. The rabble is restless. A demonstration is planned for today outside, Straw's constituency surgery,

...but not on the scale of an earlier planned protest of more than 8,000 people which was abandoned because police told them they were unable to manage more than 500 demonstrators.
Meanwhile, the case of the Yorkshire teaching assistant suspended for refusing to remove her veil in the classroom rumbles on with the school's decision being supported by leading muslims. According to the Times,
The suspension was supported by Shahid Malik, the local Labour MP, local Muslim councillors and the Muslim Council of Britain, all of whom agreed that Muslim women were not required by their religion to cover their heads, let alone their mouths, in the presence of pre-adolescent children.

13 October, 2006

Terry Lloyd

The case of Terry Lloyd, the British journalist killed in Iraq, apparently by an American bullet, is a tragedy. Now that a coroner has ruled that he was unlawfully killed (ABC News) this sad episode is being transformed from a tragedy for his family into a self-righteous media circus and a gold mine for the lawyers. (Guardian, BBC)

War zones are inherently dangerous places where people are liable to get shot. Journalists are not bullet proof and if they go wandering about on their own after stories, as did Lloyd, they are liable to get shot. That appears to be what happened: it was a tragedy waiting to happen in the chaos of a war zone.

To their credit, the US authorities have refused to provide a scapegoat. I hope that is their final word. It is unacceptable to send troops into life-threatening situations and then set the lawyers on them if they shoot first and ask questions later. We have seen quite enough of that in the UK; it serves no useful purpose but makes very useful enemy propaganda.

It is time to accept Lloyd's death for what it is, a tragic episode in a war full of such tragic episodes, and move on.

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US war-thirsty imperialists - beware!

US war-thirsty imperialists had better not try a sneak attack on Pyongyang. Korean News knows you are coming.

The U.S. war-thirsty forces are these days stooping to a plan to establish what they call Korean Peninsula air battle command which would perform a U.S. air force strike mission under the U.S. Pacific Command when they provoke a Korean war. Synchronizing with this, the U.S. Defense Department announced that the U.S. would sell a "patriot" missile system worth 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to south Korea. Commenting on this, a Rodong Sinmun analyst Thursday says: This is a highly dangerous scheme on the part of the United States to gain "upper hand in strength" and force its "preemptive strike strategy" at whatever cost. This testifies that they have made the provocation of the second Korean war a fait accompli...

...The projected establishment of the command is intended to boost the preemptive strike capacity of the U.S. air forces in preparation for a war of aggression against the DPRK. Linked with it is the decision to sell a vast "patriot" missile system to south Korea. The establishment of the afore-said command is, immediately that of an air commanding body for a "preemptive attack" on the DPRK. This scheme is a patent proof that the Korean war scenario of the U.S. imperialists has entered a practical stage.
If only. There is much more loony tunes were this came from, including, the (ever-popular) US is a wanton human rights abuser, exotic animals breeding like rabbits in Pyongyang Zoo, stirring anti-imperialist folk dancing and details of the long-awaited new edition of Kim Jong Il's seminal work, Let Us Carry Out the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung's Instructions for National Reunification. (Cantaclara Publishing, Venezuela, 2006). Click here for the 1997 edition.

Post-modern Policing

The brave British police force continues its fearless fight against serious crime, arresting Codie Scott, a 14 year old Salford school schoolgirl for the henious crime of er... something or other. Anyway, the police could not find anything to charge her with and so had to let her go. The Daily Mail has the ridiculous story.

With farces like this, is it any wonder that police are increasingly regarded with utter contempt throughout all levels of British society?

It does not say much for the teachers involved, either.


Taliban Reefer Madness

CNN reports that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been using an impenetrable forest of 10 foot high marijuana plants as camouflage. Canadian troops have been trying, without much success, to burn them down; but they did get stoned on smoke from the few plants they managed to incinerate.

Apparently, these particular pot plants absorb energy and heat in such a way that thermal sensors find it very difficult to penetrate the foliage, making them ideal cover for armoured vehicles.

Army chief speaks out.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff (head of the army) has been talking to the Daily Mail. The headlines around the world will be dominated by General Dannatt's view that the army should be withdrawn from Iraq because it is not going to be possible to fulfil the original mission of introducing a liberal democracy there and the troops' presence is only destabilising the country.

I suspect rather less attention will be given to Sir Richard's view that the military action in both Iraq and Afghanistan is a defensive response to Islamic attacks on western civilisation. He argues that the weakening of our society's Christian moral values is creating a vacuum which Islamic extremists are attempting to fill by forcefully imposing their own perverted version of Islam; unlike the Cold War, which required defence against territorial threats, the Islamist threat requires defence, both at home and abroad, of the Judeo-Christian values underpinning our society's way of life.

We can't wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the Army, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life.
What then, he was asked, of Islamic soldiers serving in the army? No Metropolitan Police style PC cowardice from the General: they have taken the Queen's shilling so should go on whatever missions they are sent.

Sir Richard also has some forceful views on the treatment of wounded soldiers in civilian hospitals and he has not been afraid to express them to the defence secretary.


12 October, 2006

Helicopters for Afghanistan.

Do not get excited just yet. Three months after the first reports emerged of the chronic shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has finally got as far as considering hiring or buying helicopters for use in Helmand. I wonder how many Whitehall man-hours it took to get this far.

The Daily Telegraph reports two offers are under review. One, from a British company, Security Support Solutions, appears to be a second hand job lot of ex-Soviet machines. They sound to me like the lumbering beasts that the Taliban found so easy to shoot down the last time they met them. The other is from the Danish military, which wants to unload half a dozen choppers because of high maintenance costs. So that is why the Danes will not deploy them to Afghanistan despite NATO's repeated requests.

Lord Drayson, defence procurement minister, is quoted as trying to dismiss the past problems by saying,

The question is not how we got here but what we are doing now.
No, minister. Those are both highly pertinent questions and both require an answer.

Ruth Kelly takes on Islamic extremism.

Following her remarkable attack on multiculturalism, Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary has announced that her department will no longer fund groups which support Islamic extremism. First in line to feel the financial pinch is the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). As the Times puts it, the MCB is to lose funding

...for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day, criticising police anti-terrorist operations and “sitting on the sidelines” in the campaign against extremists.
It is a start but, although Mrs Kelly's decision is a welcome move , it remains to be seen if it will have any practical effect. Moreover, I think it only fair to point out that MCB's views are not dissimilar to those held by many left wing Labour Party members. Are they going to have their funding cut off as well? And what about the Mayor of London?

3 Para back from Helmand.

3 Para Battle Group is finishing its 6 month tour of duty in Afghanistan and it is with some justification the Daily Telegraph headlines its coverage as, "Troops come home with tales of heroism". As the paper summarises,

For the past four months the 3,500 troops of the Helmand Task Force, based around 3 Bn the Parachute Regiment, have been fighting with an intensity not seen since the Korean War. They lost 16 dead and 43 wounded.
For the first time in decades, artillery fired their guns over open sights,[1] military policemen were turned into streetwise infantry fighters and Chinook pilots watched as rockets and bullets came within inches of downing their aircraft.
Some soldiers talked of frontline fighting akin to the First World War, others nonchalantly accepted "becoming accustomed" to incoming fire.
[1] As far as I understand it, "open sights" is aiming at what you can see, a technique more associated with the Napoleonic Wars and WWI than modern combat.
The DT reveals more details of the troop shortages in Afghanistan. Men from both the Royal Artillery and the Royal Military Police had to be deployed as emergency infantrymen to cope with immediately serious situations. Indeed, one Gunnery unit of 30 men fired 10,000 rifle rounds in a two-week operation.

The article also contains a moving account of the bravery of Corporal Bryan James Budd in the action, in Helmand during August, which led to his death

In view of the recent controversy over the RAF's performance in Afghanistan it is worth emphasising the view of the officer who told the Telegraph that the, "RAF have also given us some of bravest flying I have ever seen or heard of."

Yet, despite the individual heroism of its soldiers, of which the country can be justly proud, the question still needs to be asked: why did the government send British soldiers into combat in insufficient numbers and without the necessary equipment? It is to be hoped that 42 Commando Royal Marines, who are going back to Afghanistan to take over from 3 Para in Helmand will not face similar problems.

Nuclear North Korea

Below is the full text of the (North) Korean News Agency statement on nuclear testing in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). I have reproduced it in full because experience shows that archived material is not very easy to find on that site and might even vanish altogether.

In brief, the statement says that the nuclear tests would never have happened if the Bush administration had maintained a positive dialogue with North Korea. Last night, Madelaine Albright, former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, told the UK's C4 News that the nuclear tests would never have happened if the Bush administration had maintained a positive dialogue with North Korea. Michael Savage is unlikely to appear on C4 News but I reckon he has the sadly mis-named Albright figured.

DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on U.S. Moves Concerning Its Nuclear Test Pyongyang, October 11 (KCNA) --A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry issued the following statement Wednesday as regards the U.S. ill-boding moves in the wake of the nuclear test in the DPRK:

As we have already declared the field of scientific research of the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on Oct. 9 as a new measure for bolstering its war deterrent for self-defence.

The DPRK's nuclear test was entirely attributable to the U.S. nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure. The DPRK has exerted every possible effort to settle the nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, prompted by its sincere desire to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Bush administration, however, responded to our patient and sincere efforts and magnanimity with the policy of sanctions and blockade.

The DPRK was compelled to substantially prove its possession of nukes to protect its sovereignty and right to existence from the daily increasing danger of war from the U.S.

Although the DPRK conducted the nuclear test due to the U.S., it still remains unchanged in its will to denuclearize the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations.

The denuclearization of the entire peninsula was President Kim Il Sung's last instruction and an ultimate goal of the DPRK.

The DPRK's nuclear test does not contradict the September 19 joint statement under which it committed itself to dismantle nuclear weapons and abandon the existing nuclear program. On the contrary, it constitutes a positive measure for its implementation.

The DPRK clarified more than once that it would feel no need to possess even a single nuke when it is no longer exposed to the U.S. threat after it has dropped its hostile policy toward the DPRK and confidence has been built between the two countries.

No sooner had the DPRK, which had already pulled out of the NPT and, accordingly, is no longer bound to international law, declared that it conducted a nuclear test than the U.S. manipulated the UN Security Council to issue a resolution pressurizing Pyongyang, an indication of the disturbing moves to impose collective sanctions upon it.

The DPRK is ready for both dialogue and confrontation.
If the U.S. increases pressure upon the DPRK, persistently doing harm to it, it will continue to take physical countermeasures, considering it as a declaration of a war.
Now, place that in the context of North Korean military philosophy, as outlined yesterday on the same site, and the reason why these loonies cannot be allowed to develop any sort of WMD become plain to all but the thickest lefty: sooner or later, the rhetoric will start to become the reality.
Philosophy on Arms
Pyongyang, October 11 (KCNA) -- The successful advance of the Korean revolution is firmly guaranteed by the great Songun politics, the philosophy on arms. The arms philosophy is a unique one advanced by Kim Jong Il, Songun commander of Mt. Paektu, with the viewpoint on the arms that the arms are the permanent companion and comrade of the revolutionaries.

The philosophy is based on the principle that the revolution for the independence of the popular masses is initiated, advanced and accomplished by force of arms.
If they want to make a revolution, the popular masses should not only be awakened to rise up but also firmly take rifles in their hands.

This is because the reactionary exploiting classes, counter-revolutionary forces, violate and restrict the independence of the people in reliance upon the counter-revolutionary violence.

The path for the revolution is explored by the people only when they make a breach in the counter-revolutionary violence by force of arms.
The arms also play an important role in the whole period of progressing and carrying out the revolution.

It is a serious lesson of the history left by the former socialist countries. A party, with millions of party members, ceased to exist as it failed to seize the army and some countries had socialism collapsed as they weakened military strength.
The arms philosophy also includes the principle that the army is precisely the party, state and people.

The party, the general staff of the revolution and the guiding force, can ensure its leading position under the protection of the army and demonstrate its invincible might.

A party with a long history and tradition met its tragic end in the consequence of "depoliticizing" the army and neglecting ideological work within it. But the Workers' Party of Korea has made a victorious advance of the revolution by seizing the army under difficult conditions. These instances contrastingly show that the party with powerful revolutionary armed forces is invincible.

The revolutionary army and the people's government share the destiny with each other proceeding from the commonness of their characters and basic mission. The independent and creative life of the people is unthinkable apart from a strong army.
The unique philosophy on arms of Korea testifies to its correctness and vitality in the revolution thanks to the Songun politics based on the philosophy.

11 October, 2006

Kurdistan update:

Way back on 26 September I posted an item,Turkey and Iran to invade Kurdistan which reported DEBKA's conclusion that Turkey and Iran were shortly going to invade Kurdistan.

No invasion has occurred but Hellenic News of America has been examining the issue. Analysing the August 2006 issue of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy and the Journal of the International Strategic Studies Association, HNA reports that since March of this year, the Turkish army has been involved in 53 operations against the Kurds, including one conducted jointly with Iranian troops; the Iranians have conducted a total of eight operations in the area.

The target of of the attacks was the Marxist, separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a terrorist group and it seems that Turkey has few qualms about the weapons to be used against the them. According to HNA,

It was reported by highly-reliable first-hand sources that Turkish forces, using chemical weapons, killed 14 Kurds on March 25, 2006. Documentary evidence has been seen by Defense & Foreign Affairs on issues relating to Turkish infrastructure of chemical and biological weapons, as well as a 1986 written order by a Turkish general authorizing use of chemical weapons against Kurds.
The US is obviously concerned about the possible consequences of these problems. Secretary of State, Condi Rice, has been visiting Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government; and, the International Herald Tribune reports that Retired Gen. Joseph Ralston, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, has just arrived in Turkey. General Ralston is the U.S. special envoy for countering the PKK and he will be discussing ways of eliminating their bases in northern Iraq.

Death on the NHS

The Daily Mirror reports that an 85 year old woman in was left to die in her own excrement because nurses were too busy to do anything about it. She

was so distraught at her treatment she pleaded with daughter Ann Cunningham: "How long does it take to die?"
Evidently, not every long once the NHS gets hold of you. If they do not you get one way, they will find another.

Elsewhere, the Guardian has the story that the NHS has ruled that a drug costing £2.50 per day is too expensive to give to elderly patients suffering from Alzheimers Disease.

Such reports are no by no means unusual. This is the health service that the left claims is the envy of the world.


Associated Press Defeatism.

CNN has a gloom-laden article from Associated Press which asks rhetorically, is "History repeating repeating in Afghanistan?" According to AP it is Vietnam all over again and, despite NATO's successes against the Taliban, defeat is just around the corner.

The simple answer is that, except at the most superficial level, history never repeats itself. However, drawing parallels between events occurring decades apart and in different countries, and caused by differing policy aims within in very different political circumstances is an easy way for anti-western main stream media journalists to produce their copy. It is certainly an easier way of reporting complex events than attempting to understand and then explaining what is actually happening.

10 October, 2006

Pakistan and NATO: the problems.

Why is NATO getting upset with Pakistan? The fundamental problem is that the Taliban is operating against NATO forces from bases operated with impunity from inside Pakistan. In particular, the Taliban presence in Balochistan and in Waziristan is of concern.

Crumbling Spires has already dealt in some detail with Waziristan, on Afghanistan's eastern border. The Waziristan Accord has been widely interpreted as a surrender of the area by the Pakistan government, with the effect of providing safe bases for the Taliban.

Balochistan is south of Waziristan, on Afghanistan's south eastern border, adjoining Kandahar (click here for map). Despite Pakistani denials, NATO is concerned that Mullah Mohammed Omar, Taliban supreme leader, is based in Quetta, the regional capital, where elements of ISI - Pakistani intelligence services - are being very helpful to the terrorists. ISN reports that, during Operation Medusa,

NATO captured 160 Taliban, many of them Pakistanis who described in detail the ISI’s support to the Taliban. NATO is now mapping the entire Taliban support structure in Balochistan, ranging from ISI-run training camps near Quetta to huge ammo dumps, arrival points for new weapons and meeting places for the Taliban leadership council in the province’s capital.
Two training camps for the Taliban are located just outside Quetta, according to NATO and Afghan officers. The Taliban are using hundreds of local madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, to house the fighters and rally them for the mission ahead before sending them to the front.
According to a United Nations Security Council report, the safe bases in Balochistan and Waziristan are being used by five Taliban command and control centres, to organise the insurgency in Afghanistan. According to Daily India,
These include a Taliban command active in Afghanistan's north-eastern provinces, an eastern command and a southern command, as well as separate fronts established by two Taliban allies, veteran warlords Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.
Although the UN does not allege that all these fronts are based in Pakistan, NATO and American intelligence says both Haqqani and Hekmetyar as well as Mullah Mohammed Omar in Pakistan.
These are the problems NATO's commander and Pakistan's president have been discussing. So far, nothing of substance has been made public; everybody is being diplomatic. The The Hindu reports,
An official from the Pakistan President's office said Richards ``praised Pakistan's role in the fight against terrorism but suggested that there should be an extended cooperation between NATO and Pakistan'' to defeat terrorism.
We shall have to wait to see precisely what that means, if anything.

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NATO commander in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the Taliban appears to be sending a message to President Musharaff. Several days ago, a rocket was fired at his offical residence in Rawalpindi. More rockets have been found near the Islamabad parliament. The Asia Times reported that

...it has has learned that the incidents were a clear show of disapproval in Waziristan over Musharraf's basking in "Washington's charm", and that he had not implemented a key aspect of the peace accord - the release of al-Qaeda suspects - despite numerous promises.
Asia Times draws the conclusion that these incidents represent a Taliban attempt "to keep Islamabad in line."

General David Richards, NATO commander in Afghanistan, is in Pakistan. He is also trying to keep Musharaff in line. They will be discussing reported links between ISI ( Pakistani intelligence) and the Taliban.

The Taipei Times outlines the accusations and denials.

09 October, 2006

Viva la difference

According to a recent survey, for the wine industry in France, one in five people in the UK would rather be a French wine-slurping, cheese-eating surrender monkey smelling of garlic and onions than an ale-swigging, fish and chips- eating, ros boeuf-stuffing Brit. As one of the latter, I say, F the French.

All good harmless fun, but the press really should not be taking such methodologically disreputable studies seriously.

I notice no one was asked which country he would prefer as a military ally.

Keywords: Crecy, Agincourt, Blenheim, Peninsular Campaign, Waterloo, Gave up

"Multi-faith" Britain.

Just as the Church of England gives the impression of being dead, the corpse springs to life and attacks the government's anti-Christian, pro-Islamic philosophy. A report, for the House of Bishops, leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, accuses the government of side-lining the established church:

Instead, "preferential" treatment has been afforded to the Muslim community despite the fact that it makes up only three per cent of the population. Britain remains overwhelmingly a Christian country at heart and moves to label it as a multi-faith society suggest a hidden agenda, it says.
I am not sure about the last point. Nothing much has been hidden about this disestablishmentarian government's relentless anti-christianism (Blair's much publicised faith notwithstanding). Moreover, its specifically antichristian character can be seen in the parallel headlong rush to surrender to the demands of Islamic extremism.
The report lists a number of moves made by the Government since the London bombings in July last year to win favour with Muslim communities. These include "using public funds" to fly Muslim scholars to Britain, shelving legislation on forced marriage and encouraging financial arrangements to comply with Islamic requirements. These efforts have undermined its interfaith agenda and produced no "noticeable positive impact on community cohesion", the Church document says."
Indeed, one might argue that disaffection and separation is now greater than ever, with Muslim communities withdrawing further into a sense of victimhood, and other faith communities seriously concerned that the Government has given signals that appear to encourage the notion of a privileged relationship with sections of the Muslim community."
The Telegraph notes that,
The leaked report follows a week of tension in which a Muslim policeman was excused armed guard duty at the Israeli embassy in London, Asian and white youths clashed in Windsor, and Jack Straw suggested that Muslim women should not wear the full veil across the face in public.
That is the first reference I've seen in the national media to the Windsor riots, a story I came across previously only on Little Green Footballs.

One final point. The Telegraph refers to author of the report as "Mr Wilkinson, who was an archdeacon in Bradford during the riots of 2001". The Telegraph of all papers should know better and refer to the Reverend Wilkinson.

Aid for widows and orphans in Afghanistan

CNEWS of Canada reports that the Canadian International Development Agency is going to end its food aid programme for the widows and orphans of Afghanistan, the poorest people in the country. The programme is to be replaced with vocational training so that the women can get jobs to support themselves and their children.

A long line of widows in tattered blue burkas waited for hours Sunday for Canadian-bought rations of flour, cooking oil, dried peas and medicine.
Younger women had weary children alongside them who rarely fussed. The eldest widows, with mouths full of rotting teeth, described illnesses they can't afford to treat. They are the poorest of Afghanistan's poor, yet their monthly food support is to be cut off by April.
That's when the Canadian International Development Agency plans to replace the rations, worth C$2.5 million a year, with training designed to help widows support themselves.
In theory a good idea but, leaving aside the question of what jobs are they going to able to get in a non-industrialised economy, local cultural and social problems appear to have been just ignored. As one official phrased it diplomatically,
...many will face child-care issues and resistance from men who don't want them to work..
Resistance? The Taliban and other mediaeval muslim relics will kill them.

08 October, 2006

Blair interview: the army counter-attack

After yesterday's disinformation on the military situation in Afghanistan, from the prime minister and his media friends in the BBC, the army has begun a counter-attack. So far, the assault, launched in the Sunday Telegraph, is limited to small arms fire. The ST reports unidentified "defence sources" as saying,
...that what commanders needed most desperately was more troops on the ground — something Mr Blair notably failed to mention.
Another source said it was scandalous for the Prime Minister to suggest that commanders could have as many helicopters as they liked when it was a "well-known fact" within the military that virtually all helicopters were committed to training or operations.
In fact, the shortage of helicopters is a well known fact outside the military but the shortage of troops seems to add a new indictment to the government's charge sheet.

And in a breathtaking piece of spin on the helicopter problems, the Guardian quotes an MoD spokesman as saying,
"It is wider than just the UK providing this. It is a Nato mission, it is up to Nato to provide the necessary assets."
Since NATO assets are only whatever the member states choose to make available, there is as much chance of that happening as there is of the MoD telling the truth about the problems in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Militia

The Times reports that the British army is doing a deal under which the locals in Helmand will take more responsibity for their security. British soldiers, whose static platoon houses have been offering a tempting target for the Taliban, will be withdrawn. Instead,

The districts will be guarded by new auxiliary police made up of local militiamen. They will initially receive $70 (£37) a month, although it is hoped that this will rise to $120 to compete with the $5 per fighting day believed to be paid by the Taliban. “These are the same people who two weeks ago would have been vulnerable to be recruited as Taliban fighters,” said [NATO commander, General David] Richards.
Being on the winning side seems to be the major factor in attracting recruits. The Taliban have been taking heavy losses so have abandoned frontal assaults in favour of their traditional hit and run attacks. General Richards thinks this NATO victory offers an opportunity which must be exploited. NATO now has
" ... a six-month window during which the international community must make visible changes for the people of southern Afghanistan or risk losing everything. Fighting alone is not the solution,” he warned. “We’ve got to win over the 70% of people in southern Afghanistan who are good peasant stock and basically want security and the means to feed their families. If it’s only fighting they see ahead of them for the next five years, chances are that they will say well, we’d rather have the Taliban and all that comes with it."