Tag Archives: Gordon Brown

Iraq War – UK’s Iraq inquiry to ask ex-PM Blair to testify

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Iraq War – UK’s Iraq inquiry to ask ex-PM Blair to testify

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called to testify to a panel investigating Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, the head of the inquiry said on Thursday, promising a thorough and independent probe.

Former civil servant John Chilcot said the inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would look at the run-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the war and its aftermath.

The five-member panel, which also includes eminent historian Martin Gilbert, will examine the decisions taken by the British government and look at the legality of the war.

Chilcot said the witnesses would include Blair and “other senior figures involved in decision-taking” although he would not say if Brown, who took over from Blair as prime minister two years ago, would be called to testify.

Asked how the inquiry would avoid suspicions it was a “whitewash”, Chilcot said the panel would do the job “as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can”.

He said the inquiry could single out officials for blame.

“If we find that people fell short in their duty, made mistakes (or) acted wrongly, we shall most certainly say so and say so clearly,” he told a news conference.

A spokesman for Blair said he would cooperate fully with whatever format Chilcot set for the inquiry.

Chilcot said the inquiry would last until late next year, at the earliest. That means that its conclusions, which could be politically damaging to the Labour government, will not be published before a national election due by next June.

But Brown runs the risk that the panel’s hearings, some of which will be in public, could embarrass the government in an election year.


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UK’s Brown calls on Afghan army to pull its weight

in.reuters.com

UK’s Brown calls on Afghan army to pull its weight

LONDON – Afghanistan needs to do far more to make its troops available on the ground if a U.S.-British offensive to secure territory ahead of elections is to succeed, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday.

Answering questions before a parliamentary committee, Brown repeatedly made the point that he did not think Afghanistan was pulling its weight and said he had spoken to President Hamid Karzai to try to address the situation.

Karzai told Brown this week he would increase the number, but did not say when or by how many.

“I’m very clear that the Afghan army has got to do more,” Brown said, arguing that any strategy to clear and hold large swathes of territory in the south ahead of a presidential election in August would hinge on Afghan forces.

“I’m very clear that where we are in Helmand, we need the complement of more Afghan troops and police. And I’m also clear that we have a role to play, and it will be a continuing role after the election, for some of our troops to mentor and train the Afghan security forces.”

He said Britain, which has about 9,000 troops in Helmand, having boosted the number for a pre-election offensive, would review its numbers after the poll, and possibly in October, if the vote goes to a second round.

But more immediately, he said there was not enough support from Afghanistan’s side to back up the efforts being made by Britain and the United States. If Afghan communities were to be kept safe, it meant Afghanistan stepping up to the plate.

It is a point U.S. military commanders have also made in recent weeks, but which Brown has taken up on a political level at a time when he is under pressure at home to justify why Britain is still fighting in Afghanistan after eight years.

“We have been asking the Afghan national army through President Karzai to make available more Afghan troops on the ground,” he said.

“It would be by far the best way of moving forward if once ground is taken by our troops, then local Afghan troops and police are there on the ground … There are troops available and I believe they should be in Helmand for this campaign.”

The prime minister was also dismissive of the size of the Afghan forces, saying they would have to be substantially expanded if they were ever going to be capable of keeping control in a country the size of Afghanistan.

“Our ability to defeat a terrorist threat depends not only on what we can contribute militarily, but on what we can achieve by civilian as well as military effort in training the Afghan army,” he said.

“Which will have to be higher than 130,000 (soldiers), by the way. I mean, it’s 80,000 at the moment, and the plan is 130,000, but I think everybody is in no doubt that for a territory that is as big as Afghanistan, we will have to train any army to a higher number than that.”

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Eight British troops die in Afghan war in 24 hours

in.reuters.com

Eight British troops die in Afghan war in 24 hours

LONDON/L’AQUILA, Italy -july 11- – Britain said on Friday eight soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, its worst death toll in a 24-hour period, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown said troops faced a “very hard summer” battling insurgents.

Five troops on foot patrol were killed by two blasts, the highest death toll in a single attack.

Britain has now lost 184 soldiers in Afghanistan since it joined the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, more than the 179 deaths during its campaign in Iraq that began in 2003.

Fifteen soldiers, including four officers, have been killed in the past 10 days in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

The heavy losses threaten to damage British public support for the deployment in Afghanistan and further hurt Brown’s already poor opinion poll ratings ahead of a British parliamentary election due by mid-2010.

Most newspapers led their early Saturday editions with reports of the losses, with the right-leaning Daily Mail urging Brown to “back our troops — or pull them out”.

“We cannot go on as we are, watching the bravest and best of their generation dying at the rate of more than one a day … for an ill-defined cause and with inadequate backup,” it said.

The Times said the deaths recalled the worst moments of the 1982 Falklands conflict, when British troops retook the South Atlantic islands after an invasion by Argentine forces.

“In the last ten days, the British public has had to become accustomed to the daily ritual of grim … announcements,” said the newspaper.

Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup said British troops were winning in their mission to improve security in Afghanistan ahead of a presidential election.

“But it’s going to take time and alas it does involve casualties … Our people out there know what they are there to do and they know they are succeeding in it,” he said.

Brown said there was no question of pulling soldiers out of Afghanistan until the international community had finished its mission there and quelled the threat from the Taliban.

“This is a very hard summer — it’s not over,” Brown told reporters at the G8 summit in Italy.

“But it’s vital that the international community sees through its commitments,” he said.

“Our resolve to complete the work that we have started in Afghanistan is undiminished. We must help deliver a free and fair presidential election in Afghanistan.”

Britain has boosted troop levels to around 9,000 from 8,100 to improve security ahead of and during Afghanistan’s presidential election, due to be held on Aug. 20.

DIFFICULT TERRAIN

Critics have said Britain is placing soldiers at risk by not deploying a big enough force and failing to give troops the equipment they need, especially helicopters and better armoured vehicles to withstand deadly Taliban roadside bombs.

“I think we have responded to the demands of the military for extra equipment for particular things — night vision equipment and also for armoured vehicles and the protection of these vehicles as well as the helicopters,” said Brown.

“I think you’ve got to accept that this is very difficult terrain. This is the season when we’re dealing with the Afghan Taliban.”

Most of those killed in the past few days have died as a result of bomb blasts, with the Taliban using increasingly sophisticated technology to detonate bigger and better disguised mines and bombs planted by the roadside.

The attacks are an attempt by the Taliban to stall a large-scale operation by U.S. and British troops across southern Afghanistan where the Taliban remain strong, especially in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Britain has a variety of lightly armoured vehicles in use in Afghanistan that have proved good at handling the rocky, desert terrain but have been torn apart by bombs.

Defence experts say Britain also needs to move many more heavy-lift helicopters to the region to help with ferrying large numbers of troops over the vast distances. Britain currently has just a handful of these helicopters in the Afghan operation.

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