Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Taleban and Pakistan

What's going on? The BBC had two scoops about Afghanistan on the same day! First this :
The Taleban are tactically defeated in Helmand, the commander of the UK forces in Afghanistan has said.

Brigadier Ed Butler told the BBC that Nato had inflicted significant casualties on the Taleban who had failed to remove them from the south.
(Does this sentence make sense? - ed.)

"We have killed a considerable number of their mid-level and high level commanders," he said.

And a secret deal has brought a halt to violence in Musa Qala, a district which had seen intense fighting, he added.
This seems a very optimistic assessment given recent reports coming out of Helmand. I hope the brigadier is right.

Somewhat less positive :
The Iraq war has acted as a "recruiting sergeant" for extremists, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) report has said.

The policy paper on Pakistan by a senior MoD official admitted serious failings in the war on terror, the BBC's Newsnight programme has learned.

The report blamed Pakistan's ISI intelligence service for indirectly supporting terrorism and extremism.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf told the programme he totally rejected the allegation...

On Afghanistan, the paper said the UK went in "with its eyes closed".

The report also reveals that a secret deal to extricate UK troops from Iraq so they could focus on Afghanistan failed when British military leaders were over-ruled.

It blames the ISI for "indirectly supporting terrorism and extremism, whether in London on 7/7 or in Afghanistan or Iraq".

The report also accuses the Pakistan Army of indirectly supporting the Taleban by backing Pakistan's religious parties.
Here are a couple of screencaps showing the MoD's response to Newsnight:

So, has the BBC wilfully misrepresented the notes? Who might want to damage Anglo-Pakistan relations? If ISI is not to be trusted, what about the intelligence it provided in the recent airline terror plot? And what of Omar Khyam, a defendant in the fertiliser bomb trial who recently claimed that he was radicalised at an ISI training camp? Was the policy paper leaked at this time for a particular reason? Was it meant as a warning to Musharaff, or just to embarrass Blair ahead of his meeting with the Pakistani president this week?

Unfortunately, Newsnight didn't offer any analysis of possible motives for the leak (who needs insight when you can run headlines about Iraq being a recruiting sergeant for extremists?) Hopefully someone in the know will be able to shed a bit more light on this than the BBC's flagship TV news programme.


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