21 October, 2006

Islamic sanscullottes

The British police struggle to control of Islamic threats of violence but, as the Times reports, the French have even greater problems.

An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

“The thing that has changed over the past month is that they now want to kill us,” said Bruno Beschizza, the leader of Synergie, a union to which 40 per cent of officers belong. Action Police, a hardline union, said: “We are in a civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists.”

Car-burning has become so routine on the estates that it has been eclipsed in news coverage by the violence against police.


Veiled threats:

According to the Daily Mail, Aishah Azmi, the Dewsbury classroom assistant sacked for wearing a veil whilst teaching, has terrorist connections. No surprise. There is ample evidence, from the London bombings of last July, that terrorist cells are using the Mosques in that part of Yorkshire.


Police sensitivity towards criminals

'Ello! 'Ello! Ello!. What 'ave we got 'ear then? The police not arresting Islamic criminals in Ramandan? That will cheer up Osama. From the Guardian:

Police in Manchester have been told not to arrest Muslims wanted on warrants at prayer times during the holy month of Ramadan.

An internal email listing prayer times was sent to officers in the metropolitan division asking them not to make planned arrests during those periods for reasons of religious sensitivity, Greater Manchester Police confirmed.

Some officers are said to have been angered by the instruction.
Tags: ,

Sex and the immigration judges: Act IV

The epic serial of the Brazilian slapper and the immigration judges has finally come to a close, of sorts. Roselane Driza, the blackmailing illegal immigrant, has been given 33 months; but, the Daily Telegraph tells us, it is not over yet. There are plans for a second series:

Driza's lawyers said they would appeal against her convictions since new evidence had emerged. Frances Oldham, QC, said colleagues of one of the judges had come forward with material that would have had a "significant effect" on the trial.
No word yet on whether the Inland Revenue is going to examine issues of tax avoidance by the judges involved.


20 October, 2006

John Keegan on Iraq and Vietnam:

Bush is Wrong: Iraq is not Vietnam, says John Keegan in the Daily Telegraph.

Keegan argues that the US military were not beaten by the North Vietnamese Army but by the American media and their anti-war allies in the universities. A similar defeat is likely to happen in Iraq if Bush accepts the mistaken premise drawing parallels between the two.

Marine Gary Wright

The Ministry of Defence has revealed that the 41st British fatality in Afghanistan was Marine Gary Wright, from Glasgow. We can only pray that his colleague, seriously injured in the attack, makes a full recovery.

From inthenews.co.uk

A British marine who died in southern Afghanistan after a suicide bomber detonated himself next to his vehicle has been named by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Marine Gary Wright, 22, from Glasgow died from injuries sustained in the blast, which killed two children and seriously injured another marine in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province.

The passionate Scottish football fan, described as having a "cheerful and optimistic outlook on life" had served in the Commando Royal Marines since October after initially joining the Royal Marines four years ago.

"Gary was a popular and hard-working member of Recce Troop where his positive attitude and soldiering ability set a fine example to those around him. He was a consistently high performer who found he had a natural affinity to the harsh conditions encountered on demanding exercises and operations in a variety of environments," an MoD statement today said.

Marine Wright's Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Dewar RM, described the 22-year-old as an "outstanding" member of the elite Recce Troop unit.

He said Marine Wright was "extremely popular with a good sense of humour, he was very highly thought of by everyone who worked with him".

"He was an excellent marine who died doing the job he loved and will be missed by all his friends in 45 Commando. Our thoughts are very much with his family at this difficult time," Lt Col Dewar added.

(updated: 20.10.06, 17.04)

Snout in the shower trough

In North Yorkshire, a foreigner is somebody from the next valley and victims of sex crimes are treated by a vet. Where better to meet Home Office quota targets by appointing a female Chief Constable. What can possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, as the Yorkshire Post reveals.

The latest nonsense from Della Canning, the current Chief Constable, is that she has spent over £28,000 of taxpayers' money on an en suite shower for her office. In the interests of taste Crumbling Spires will refrain from references to the filth and greedy pigs.


Operation Eagle

NATO forces in Afghanistan have launched Operation Eagle. According to the Kuwait News Agency,

NATO commander Lt Gen David Richards told a news conference in Kabul that they were launching a new countrywide operation. He said the operation would be jointly conducted with the Afghan military to keep the militants under pressure.

Although the general did not give details, the operation is aimed to strike a decisive blow at the Taliban during the coming winter season. The operation has been codenamed as "Operation Eagle." The NATO commander said the purpose of the operation was to encourage the much needed reconstruction and development across Afghanistan.
Despite the references to "across Afghanistan", reports over the last week indicate that the main business in still in the east on the border with Pakistan from where as the Hindustan Times reports, Taliban infiltration is a problem.
Taliban fighters told this week how they crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to carry out a "jihad" against troops after mullahs said it was their duty as Muslims.

The young men -- two Pakistanis and an Afghan -- were captured after a fierce five-hour battle in Paktika province on Tuesday, just a few kilometers (miles) from the border.

During the battle, 24 of their fellow fighters were killed. The bloodied and broken bodies were later shown to reporters by the Afghan army at a base in Barmal district.

The dead were mostly Afghans but included an Arab, Chechens, Pakistanis, Turks and a man from Yemen, an officer said, citing information from the captured three, identity cards and, in one case, a name on a bullet belt.

"Mullahs in Pakistan were preaching to us that we are obliged to fight jihad in Afghanistan because there are foreign troops -- there is an Angriz (British) invasion," dishevelled Alahuddin told reporters.

"A Pakistani Taliban commander, Saifullah, introduced us to a guide who escorted us to Barmal," he said. "Then he left and we joined a group already here and came to the ambush site."

It was only Alahuddin's second day in Afghanistan and it went horribly wrong.

His group of 32 Taliban lay in wait for an army convoy, launching a clumsy attack mainly with AK-47 machine guns.

The Afghan soldiers and their International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) counterparts retaliated. Two columns of support quickly arrived and surrounded the attackers as attack helicopters were called in.

After five hours of fighting, 24 Taliban and a (Afghan] soldier were dead. Some of the rebels not killed by the troops blew themselves up with their own grenades, soldiers said...

Veiled News

The Dewsbury teaching assistant, sacked for wearing a veil, has lost her case for unfair dismissal but has been awarded £1,000 of taxpayers hard-earned cash for hurt feelings because her public sector employers did not follow the correct procedures. She is now whining that minorities in Britain are treated like outcasts.

"Integration requires people like me to be in the workplace so that people can see that we are not to be feared or mistrusted. Mrs Azmi said: "Muslim women who wear the veil are not aliens, and politicians need to recognise that what they say can have a very dangerous impact on the lives of the minorities they treat as outcasts.

"Sadly, the intervention of ministers in my case - against the ministerial code - makes me fearful of the consequences for Muslim women in this country who want to work."

Mrs Azmi's lawyers said she intended to appeal and possibly take the case to the European Court of Justice.

She added: "I will continue to uphold my religious beliefs and urge Muslims to engage in dialogue with the wider community, despite the attacks that are being made upon them."

19 October, 2006

Mirza Tahir Hussain: Update

The case of Mirza Tahir Hussain, the British citizen acquitted of murder by the Pakistani High Court and then re-tried and sentenced to death under Sharia, looks as though it might be slowly moving towards some sort of resolution. The Guardian reports that,

Prison officials in Pakistan said his execution had been delayed from November 1 for two months after the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened in his plight. According to some reports, the Pakistani government were also consulting legal experts and considering the possibility of a pardon for Hussain.

His brother Amjad said: "In postponing the execution President (Pervez) Musharraf has clearly recognised the strength of public feeling over this case but the correct response would have been for him to pardon my brother or commute his sentence, not to merely postpone this barbaric punishment, presumably in the hope that the fuss will die down.
Although a pardon would have been the correct response to this double jeopardy miscarriage of justice, Musharraf is in a difficult position. As regular readers of this blog will know, the President has serious problems with local Islamic extremists in Waziristan and Balochistan, and with rogue elements within the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence Services) and maybe even the army itself. It is a particularly bad time, therefore, for the President to inflame matters by over-riding Sharia Law.

However, the good news is that Prince Charles will be visiting Pakistan from 29 October to 3 November. The Prince's standing in Pakistan and his behind the scenes interventions may offer Hussain more hope than the legal arguments.


Guardian misquote update:

Further to the previous post, on the Guardian misquoting Brigdier Butler, Normblog has the Brigadier's letter to the Guardian.

Did the Guardian misquote Brigadier Butler?

The Ministry of Defence has an item reporting that the commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, has written to a national newspaper to deny making remarks attributed to him by the paper. Butler writes,

Your front page story paints a misleading and mischievous picture of what I said at a media briefing on Tuesday. It omits some of my comments, and extrapolates meaning and intention from others which is completely false.

I did not say the operation in Iraq had cost "years of progress" in Afghanistan; I did not say it had left "a dangerous vacuum" and I did not say that British soldiers faced a tougher task now because of it.

I made clear that the operation in Iraq had concentrated UK resources and focus for a time; this is hardly rocket science, nor is it news. I also made clear, however, that the coalition had not slipped back in Afghanistan as a result, nor would it affect its ability to get the job done (emphases added).
The MoD does not identify the newspaper concerned but after an extensive research project, lasting at least five seconds, Crumbling Spires came across this in the Guardian, under the headline "Iraq war cost years of progress in Afghanistan - UK brigadier":
The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now (emphases added).
The emphases match in both and neither phrase can be found in other reports. In addition, Brigadier Butler did not say British soldiers faced a tougher task because of the invasion of Iraq. According to the Independent, hardly a mouthpiece for either the government or the military, he actually said the decision to make Iraq a priority had delayed a successful completion of the Afghanistan mission, hardly the same as making it a tougher task.
"We could have carried on in 2002 in the same way we have gone about business now," said Brigadier Ed Butler. "Have the interim four years made a difference? I think realistically they have. It doesn't mean that we will not achieve what we set out to do."
I think the Guardian's anti-war brigade have been nailed on this one.

Methodological note: it was odds on to be either the Independent or the Guardian and I got lucky, saving 5 seconds.

Lost Terrorists no. 3 (and counting)

Another one gone. Lost terrorist number 3's control order has expired and the enterprising Iraqi scarpered before PC Plod could serve him with a renewal.

As the Home Office proudly proclaims on its website's homepage (original emphasis):

The Home Office works to build a safe, just and tolerant society, by putting protection of the public at the heart of everything it does.
I feel safer already.

Previous posts:
Home Office loses terrorist.
Home Office Loses (another) terrorist

Al Qaeda, Multi-culturalism and Blair.

One day, Tony Blair surprises everybody by announcing the demise of multi-culturalism as official policy and calling for Islam to accept the pluralist values of British society.

The next day, senior intelligence community figures brief the Guardian that,

...Britain has become the main target for a resurgent al-Qaida, which has successfully regrouped and now presents a greater threat than ever before...
...Britain is an easier target, they have concluded, because of its traditional links with Pakistan which is visited by tens of thousands of people each year. Intelligence agencies have found it very difficult to penetrate the camps there.

Are these two events entirely unrelated or was Blair opening a domestic front in the war on Islamic terror.

The NHS kills again.

Have an urge to kill somebody but afraid of being locked up? Then join the NHS, and release your homicidal tendencies without fear of being sacked.

Lisa Norris, a 16 year old cancer patient in Scotland, has died of a radiation overdose incurred through the incompetence of those treating her at the at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow. She was administered not just one overdose but seventeen. The BBC reports that:

Several months after the overdose was given, the Beatson was found to have given a series of other patients radiation overdoses.
Health officials said there had been 46 incidents over the past 20 years where the treatment carried out was different from what had been planned - including 14 cases where patients were given overdoses.
The BBC continues that, Dr Michael Williams (vice president and dean of the Faculty of Clinical Oncology, and candidate Professor of Manslaughter) said:
We are working with patients and other health care professions to identify ways in which processes can be improved to minimise errors.
We are also seeking to improve checking procedures so that any mistakes can be detected earlier in a course of treatment.
Here is a procedure for you to consider: sack whichever incompetents are responsible. It won't bring young Lisa Norris back but it might prevent the serial bunglers responsible from killing anybody else. It is not an isolated incident. Systematic mistakes are endemic in the NHS.


Rapping with Dave Cameron

Rhymefest, the leader of the Conservative Party has invited to tea, at the House of Commons, David Cameron, the rapper notorious for his violent lyrics. It is not known if they will be discussing a rap video for Webcameron. (I think I've got them the right way round, but these days it is hard to tell.)

Anyway, the Daily Mirror has the story.

18 October, 2006

The Vikings are not coming.

After France, it is Norway's turn to refuse to send any more troops to Afghanistan, in addition to the 518 already there. Reuters quotes the Norwegian foreign minister as saying they are too stretched and,

The Norwegian contribution [to Afghanistan] will be based on an overall assessment of needs and capacities, and the obligations we have assumed linked to other current international operations and a possible future U.N. operation in Sudan/Darfur.
Really? In fact, the promised future Norwegian commitment to Darfur is 170 engineers and transport specialists.

The days of the warrior Vikings are long gone and the Norwegian army now consists of 7,500 civilian employees and conscripts, of which the total deployed abroad, as of 19th September, 2006, is only 624. One of the army's principal tasks is to defend their borders against Russia; that will have the lights burning late in the Kremlin should Putin ever fancy taking Oslo.

Norway is just another example of how the majority of NATO members are having a free ride at the expense of the USA, Canada and the UK. NATO's rationale was always to defend Europe from a Soviet invasion. With that threat gone, it is surely time to re-assess the alliance's utility. The lesson from the attitudes of member states to Afghanistan is that NATO no longer serves any useful purpose and needs to be replaced by an alliance of countries willing to contribute military forces to NATO operations undertaken in the defence of western interests.

The death of multi-culturalism?

In a leading article, the Daily Telegraph has announced the ending of multi-culturalism as the British government's official policy:

At his press briefing yesterday, the Prime Minister made it clear his Government's approach to cultural diversity had changed. He may have couched his position in careful language, but the conclusion was inescapable: integration, rather than multi-cultural separatism, is now official policy.
The Telegraph goes on to state that
Ministers are now clearly ready to embrace the argument that they have attacked for many years as insensitive, even bigoted: if Britain is to succeed in absorbing diverse peoples, ethnic minorities must accept the mores of their adopted country. Private religious observance should always be respected, but its practices cannot be permitted to contravene either civil law or the social rules that make community life workable.
It is probably too early for those of us, who have been arguing against multi-culturalism since the days of the Honeyford controversy, to start celebrating. The Telegraph takes Blair's words at face value but it is entirely possible the prime minister is merely posturing for electoral advantage in the light of the findings of his latest focus group. Yet, the very fact that Blair can articulate views that were once the preserve of what the left called the "racist" right, is at the very least an encouraging sign. As I wrote yesterday, the political climate is changing in our favour.

Neither Blair nor the Telegraph, however, spell out in detail either the exact nature of the problem or what is meant by "integration". However, if a problem is to be dealt with effectively, it must first be identified precisely. Within the UK, there has been relatively little difficulty in assimilating Jews, Hindus and any other religious grouping you care to name. The one religion to create problems through its refusal to integrate is Islam. The problem of Muslim integration is not one of veils; that particular controversy is no more than a convenient way to avoid debate over more serious problems.

In this context, by "integration" I mean an immigrant community being subject to the same laws of the land and their application as the indigenous population. The specific "integration" problems which the government needs to address in this respect are:
  • Muslim death threats and civil disorder as a response to any perceived criticism of their faith;
  • so-called "honour killings";
  • forced marriages and the statutory rape which can be involved;
  • domestic violence, especially, wife beating .
Additionally, the government needs to find a way to force the police to stop turning a blind eye to these issues and instead enforce the law as they would if any other section of the population was involved. When we see signs of that happening, we will know that government is serious about integration. Until then, judgement must be suspended.

It will not be easy. This government's previous fanatical devotion to multi-culturalism has spawned a huge industry of race relation advisers in central and local government. They will fight to defend their vast bureaucratic empires, the more so given that these individuals are probably utterly unemployable elsewhere. Moreover, multi-culturalism is the current Whitehall orthodoxy , something which is notoriously difficult to change. Before long, the counter-attack will come, no doubt headed by Trevor Philips and the rest of the extremists at the Commission for Racial Equality. The government's response to that will be a reasonable indication of how serious ministers are about getting to grips with the problem.

In the meantime, the celebrations are on hold, but tonight I will be raising a glass to Roger Scruton who, as editor of the Salisbury Review, led the intellectual battle against the evils of multi-culturalism.

Senlis and the opium trade.

The Senlis Council, an international think tank has said that the ISAF' s ambition to destroy Afghanistan's opium trade is harming the country's prospects for recovery. It would be better, Senlis argues, to buy up the poppy crop to help solve the world shortage of opium-based medicines. Senlis used to have an office in Kabul; not any more. Afgha.com reports that the Afhganistan government has kicked them out. According to the BBC,

Correspondents say there has been tension over a recent council report blaming the government for a failure to stop farmers growing poppies.
Senlis' idea is not without merit. For many Afghans the opium trade is all that stands between them and starvation. Offering a defence to poverty and destitution must be a powerful propaganda and recruiting argument for the Taliban. NATO governments do not appear to have addressed the question of what is to to replace the opium crop.

17 October, 2006

Blair on the missing terrorists

According to the Times, Tony Blair has blamed the judiciary for the farce of the Home Office's missing terrorists.

That is not entirely correct.Yes, it was, and it remains, disgraceful that the pampered, over-indulgent and well-guarded judiciary puts the human rights of terrorists before the protection of the people. However, once the decision, however disgraceful, had been made, the Home Office and the police were responsible for keeping tabs on these maniacs and (as reported in a previous post) along with probably hundreds of other assorted murders, rapists and thieves, it is the Home Office that has misplaced them. Very careless.

The Future of Iraq

The Times reports the Iraq Study Group has concluded that the attempt to turn Iraq into a democracy should be abandoned in favour of a less ambitious approach. Two alternatives are said to be on the table. One, called "Redeploy and Contain" involves "a phased withdrawal of US troops to bases outside Iraq where they could be deployed against terrorist organisations anywhere in the region." Another, entitled "Stability First", (which should perhaps be better labelled as "petrol on the fire") suggests attempting to stabilise Baghdad whilst bringing in Iran and and Syria to help end the fighting. Bringing in terrorist states to combat terrorism in Iraq, much of which they are behind? I doubt I will be the only one not able to take reports of that option seriously.

Crumbling Spires is in no doubt that President Bush was right to try to turn Iraq into a functioning democracy. Equally, Prime Minister Tony Blair was right to commit British troops to the operation. Success would be of great value to the foreign policy interests of both countries. However, there must come a time when the desirability of any mission's aims must be weighed against the cost in terms of military casualties. We may well be approaching the point at which the Coalition will have to accept that it is impossible to impose western concepts of democracy on an unwilling Iraq without our troops paying an unacceptable price.

The Iraqis themselves are so rent with factional ethnic and religious conflicts that they seem, almost by default,to be moving towards some sort of federal solution, as though the only way to hold the country together is to keep the factions apart. The Daily Telegraph reports that last week the Iraqi parliament passed a federalism law which could allow the main religious factions -Sunni and Shia- to create their own semi-autonomous regions, roughly analogous to that of the ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq. There is an obvious danger that such an arrangement would lead to Sunni and Shia refraining from killing each other for long enough to jointly take on the Kurds, a move which Turkey and Iran might well enthusiastically join. None the less, for all the dangers, the federal solution might at least offer some stability, even if it might not amount to western concepts of a functioning democracy. It might even offer a sufficient degree of stability to enable the Coalition to more easily fulfil what is surely its primary role in Iraq: reducing the terrorist threat to the west.


MacShane on Islam:

Until a few months ago, any criticism of Islam was liable to be met with shrieks of "racist" from the left, including Labour MPs. Anybody pointing out the obvious problems created for a pluralist, liberal society by Muslim traditions such as wife-beating, forced marriages and honour killings, was assumed to be from the extreme right, outside the pale of civilised politics. Now, the political weather is slowly beginning to change. As yet, it is only a gentle breeze, none the less, the winds of change are beginning to blow. After Ruth Kelly and Jack Straw comes Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham and a former Foreign Office minister of state.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, MacShane begins from the premise that,

At long last, the debate on Islamism as politics, not Islam as religion, is out in the open.
From that standpoint he goes on to argue,
...we have to find answers to calls for censorship, to celebrations of jihadist terror, or a religiously ordained world view that denies equal rights for women or gays here and in Afghanistan....
...there is a new generation of British Muslims who want to engage in politics and reclaim the issues that concern their communities from religious-based outfits or those who see their task as importing foreign conflicts into domestic British politics.
The main problem with MacShane's logic is that it is built on a false assumption: that Islamism as politics and Islam as religion constitute a duality in which tensions can somehow be reconciled. A common mistake on the left, especially amongst those who can only conceive of society in secular terms. In fact, Islamism as politics and Islam as religion are indivisible. There is, and never has been, any such thing as a secular Islamic society. The Enlightenment passed by Islamic societies. In other words, rejecting Islamism as politics is effectively the same as rejecting Islam as religion and it is unlikely to happen to any significant extent amongst British Muslims.

The essence of the problem, which MacShane fails to identify, is that Islam, however defined, regards itself as a dualism in conflict with the rest of the infidel world. Consequently, what he refers to as imported foreign conflicts in domestic British politics, are in fact native manifestations of a much wider global, phenomenon: a kulturkampf between western civilisation and Islam. Indeed, in his now infamous Daily Mail interview, General Dannatt said as much, in viewing the military action in Iraq and Afghanistan as the foreign dimension of a the west's response to Islamist challenges to our way of life. Unless the problem can be correctly identified, it is going to be very difficult for the politicians to meet the domestic threats posed by that challenge.

David "Machine Gun" Blunkett

From a very senior civil servant, the Times has the strange story of an hysterical Home Secretary screaming down the phone at him, demanding the army be called in to machine-gun rioting prisoners.


Mutli-cultural Britain

The Guardian has learnt that the government has a plan to ask universities to keep a terrorist watch on Asian looking students. Who will keep watch on the extremist lecturers who dominate so many universities these days?

Meanwhile, Ruth Kelly, Communities secretary, has been told to stop demonising muslims, by the Muslim Council of Britain.

And the friends of the demons, parliamentary branch, are fighting back.

Just another day in multi-cultural Britain.

16 October, 2006

Home Office loses (another) terrorist.

Update to my previous post.

It is now known that the Home Office has lost another terrorist who was under a control order.

To lose one maybe regarded as a misfortune but this definitely looks like carelessness.

Blair has lost two Home Secretaries already. If ministers still accepted responsibility for departmental policy failures, he would be losing a third but a Home Secretary who thinks criminals escaping from prison is acceptable, is not likely to lose much sleep over losing somebody on a control order.

Home Office Loses Terrorist.

If you see a crazy al Qaeda terrorist roaming about the UK, please inform the Home Office. They have misplaced one and would like to find him. From the Guardian:

It was understood the man, who has not been named, escaped from a mental health unit and has been on the run for two weeks.

The British citizen was believed to have climbed through a window to evade staff at the London unit.

Control orders act as a loose form of house arrest, usually placing suspects under a curfew and requiring them to report regularly to police. The man now on the run will have been suspected of playing a role in international terrorism, possibly linked to al-Qaida groups.
The Home Office has also lost at least 446 foreign criminals.

Afghanistan: all points bulletin no. 3

Current news reports coming out of Afghanistan indicate that Taliban activity is mainly, but not exclusively, concentrated towards the east of the country, in the provinces closest to Waziristan and Balochistan.

Click on map to enlarge.

Kandahar is still bearing the brunt of the attacks. For the most part it is suicide bombings but Taliban mount occasional larger attacks. Both the Canadians and the Americans continue to suffer casualties. However, the Taliban are not having it all their own way. Fox News reports that in Ghazni,

U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops, backed by warplanes, carried out a raid on a militant hideout that killed three suspected insurgents and wounded one soldier, the U.S. military said.
and from the same report,
...in eastern Kunar province, U.S. troops fighting under NATO command killed four insurgents near the Korangal outpost in the Pech district, attacking them with rocket-propelled grenades and semi-automatic weapons, a NATO statement said.
Elsewhere, the IHT says that Afghan police and Taliban clashed in Paktika and there are reports that the Taliban are increasing in strength in Lowgar, just south of the capital, Kabul.

Isolated attacks continue throughout the country including, in the west, in Herat, and in the north, in Baghglan. In the south, Helmand has been quiet recently, at least as far as news reports are concerned.

The overall picture to emerge is of the Taliban fighting a series of disjointed actions, presumably wherever and whenever the leadership can find individuals willing to earn their 72 virgins. No overall strategy can be discerned, other than a war of attrition, the outcomes of which will be decided by which side has the most political will to go for the long haul.

The French have surrendered, again and are pulling out their combat troops (special forces). They must have signed whatever trade deals they were after.

Britannia used to rule the waves.

Britannia rules the waves or it would do if the Royal Navy had the ships. The senior service is telling the Daily Telegraph that the government is going to have trouble finding the resources to help enforce UN sanctions on North Korea. Having cut the navy by about a third, ministers are now having to live with the consequences of their actions.

The Royal Navy's current surface fleet consists of two aircraft carriers, with a third in mothballs, eight destroyers and, in addition to various smaller specialised craft, 17 frigates. The RN website does not make clear how many of these ships are operational. Presumably any ships used to enforce sanctions will have to be moved out of other operational theatres.

Since 2003 UK defence spending has fallen (graph here ) whilst commitments have vastly increased. Once again, having cut defence expenditure to pay for other priorities, the politicians are finding that a strong military is not a luxury.

Children of the Taliban

From the ISAF:

Three teenage boys were killed and at least three more were injured on 7 October when an improvised explosive device detonated as the Taliban were training the youths to planting mines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the Gailan District of Ghazni Province.

The Taliban, according to reports, falsely claimed the adolescents were killed and injured when they picked up an object thrown out of a U.S. military vehicle traveling through the area. In fact, the Taliban were training the teenagers in the use of IEDs.

"The Taliban resort to the one of the few things they know how to do - build IEDs to kill indiscriminately" said an ISAF spokesman. "That they would then lie and blame others for the tragic deaths of these young adults whom they so cynically misled, shows both their true character and utter lack of morals."

15 October, 2006

Taliban in Waziristan threaten NATO

Pakistan Dawn argues that, contrary to earlier reports, the Waziristan Accord was not signed between the Pakistan government and local tribal elders but between the government and the Taliban. Although the Accord was supposed to remove foreign (i.e. Taliban) influences from Waziristan, it contained no enforcement mechanisms and an unchecked Taliban have become stronger than before in the area. Consequently, Waziri-based Taliban incursions into Afghanistan have become increasingly problematic for NATO.

...the deal stipulates that foreign militants living in North Waziristan would either leave or live peacefully. But no mechanism has been put in place to oversee and verify either their conduct or the departure of those who violate the agreement. Over a month after the signing of the deal, there is no progress on this front.

Contrary to the government’s assertion, troops deployed in and around Miramshah [regional capital], except those manning the borders, have been removed from check-posts and relocated to their camps. All weapons seized from militants have been returned and their men released.

There have been more kidnappings, robberies and murders since then as the Khasadar force — a ragtag, untrained tribal force left to man the posts — has neither the teeth nor the wherewithal to rein in the militants or control crime, area residents point out.

Eyewitnesses say there are now not one but two Taliban offices in Miramshah to maintain law and order, control crime and address public complaints, a serious violation of the agreement by the Taliban who had undertaken not to form a parallel administration in the tribal region.

There is growing evidence that militants are now more assertive than they were before the September 5 agreement. Recently they wrested custody of suspects, along with a vehicle the latter had snatched, telling the Khasadars that they would deal with the suspects themselves. Nothing is known as to what happened afterwards as the hapless Khasadars merely looked on.

The agreement says that there will be no cross-border infiltration but Nato military officials stationed in Afghanistan have been quoted as saying there is a 3oo per cent increase in militant activity in the border regions. The death of a local militant commander, Maulvi Mir Kalam, and his men in an operation across the border and the capture of 10 of their comrades by security forces is a case in point.

The deal also stipulated there would be no targeted killings but recent reports indicate that alleged spies have been assassinated by militants in the region.

In essence, there are two main verifiable clauses in the agreement: one, that the militants would not attack government forces and installations and, two, that the government, for its part, would not undertake any ground or air offensive. That the two sides have stuck to their word on at least these two points explains the relative peace in an otherwise volatile tribal region.

Equally crucial and perhaps central to this whole agreement were the two other clauses, the presence of foreign militants and cross-border infiltration. It is unclear what additional steps the government has taken to stop militants’ movement across the border since the truce. But if the death of Mir Kalam and the reported arrest and subsequent release of three ‘mujahideen’ in the Kurram tribal region — at the request of militants in North Waziristan — are any indication, the government will find it hard to defend its position that the truce is directed against the Taliban and not in their favour.

Indeed, peace is the desired goal. But one look at the agreement and the situation on the ground and it is glaringly evident that the government has chosen the path of pacification by appearing to capitulate to the militants than take corrective measures to ensure lasting peace. Peace is vital but not at the expense of abdicating state authority, as appears to have happened in Waziristan’s case. Therefore, when President Musharraf said at a recent gathering that “there is no guarantee that it [the agreement] will succeed”, it was pretty clear why.

Given the complexity of the situation, and to be fair to the president, it should be mentioned that Gen Musharraf also said that if anybody had a better idea of how to deal with the situation, he would be a patient listener.

But he is not the only player in the region, however critical his role in the war on terror may be. On cross-border infiltration, Kabul is being joined in its complaints by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). With a growing Taliban insurgency and mounting casualties being taken by the 37-nation Nato-led ISAF, Pakistan is coming under a lot of pressure to do more.

Blunkett on Dannatt

David Blunkett, the disgraced former Home Secretary caught lying about abusing his ministerial position, has taken a break from wallowing in self pity to criticise General Sir Richard Dannatt, the army's senior soldier, for interfering in politics. ITN reports that,

Mr Blunkett said General Sir Richard Dannatt's comments on the situation in Iraq were a "constitutional" issue, and the armed services should not interfere in governmental decisions.
He said: "I think lessons will be learned, because we don't have the intervention of the military into our decision-making in Britain, and nor should we."

The decisions have been long made and ministers have sent British troops into combat in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment. It is quite correct for the head of the army to speak out over this scandalous treatment of our soldiers.

It is quite clear, from Sir Richard's various interviews over the last few days, that he feels a personal responsibility for the troops under his command and that he spoke out from a sense of duty towards those soldiers, who he knows he may well be sending to their deaths. Sir Richard was merely fulfilling that duty, not interfering in either constitutional issues or political decision making.


BBC bias against Israel.

The anti-Israeli bias of BBC news has long been evident, the most notorious example being a reporter moved to tears over the death of the terrorist Yasser Arafat. It has been widely reported that such a bias was identified in an internal report compiled by a senior editorial advisor in 2004. Now the BBC is spending a fortune trying to prevent that report's release under the Freedom of Information Act.


Fat is thick

French scientists are claiming that fat people are less intelligent than thin people, reports the Sunday Telegraph.

Dr Maxime Cournot, who headed the study, suggested that hormones secreted from fats could have a damaging effect on cerebral cells, resulting in decreased brain function.
Ann Widdicombe, an incredibly intelligent British politician and popular television entertainer, herself of no small girth, responded,
When I lost weight it was my waistline that improved, not my cerebellum.
I think the study must have copied the latest research methods for investigating global warming.


General Dannatt

In the wake of General Dannatt's Daily Mail interview, the Observer says that military planners have been worried about levels of troop commitments for some time.

The General fires a few more rounds in defence of his troops in the Sunday Telegraph, where Patience Wheatcroft and Matthew d'Ancona also weigh in.

In the Times, Simon Jenkins has his say.