Tag Archives: parliamentary committee

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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Chaos stops Zimbabwe constitution conference

in.reuters.com

Chaos stops Zimbabwe constitution conference

HARARE – july 14 – A Zimbabwean conference to draw up a new constitution descended into chaos on Monday as riot police broke up clashes between rival delegates, underscoring the tensions within a unity government formed this year.

Police drove the delegates out of the venue and cordoned it off, while Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his old rival President Robert Mugabe met to discuss the disruption.

The conference is part of a process which should lead to the adoption of a new national constitution and fresh elections in about two years.

But the chaos reflected the divisions within the coalition government set up between President Robert Mugabe and old rival Morgan Tsvangirai in February to try to end political paralysis and reverse a decade of economic decline.

Zimbabweans hope a new charter, replacing one inked in 1979 before independence from Britain, will strengthen the role of parliament and curtail the president’s powers, as well as guaranteeing civil liberties and political and media freedom.

Trouble broke out between delegates from Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF during an opening statement by the speaker of parliament.

Riot police drove them out of the conference venue. The police also sealed off the venue, keeping delegates out despite earlier indications that the conference would continue.

MDC lawmaker and co-chairperson on the parliamentary committee driving the constitutional reforms, Douglas Mwonzora, earlier told Reuters political leaders had agreed the conference would resume. Delegates had not reconvened by Monday afternoon.

“We cannot give in to hooliganism,” Mwonzora said.

In a statement, the MDC accused some ZANU-PF lawmakers and officials of organising youths to disrupt the constitutional conference.

“Judging by today’s events, ZANU-PF MPs (members of parliament) and the party’s delegates were clearly reading from a script whose sole agenda is to derail the constitution-making process,” the MDC said.

The conference, which was initially scheduled to be opened by Mugabe, with Tsvangirai also expected to speak, was mired in controversy and administrative glitches from the start. Some delegates could not be accredited on Sunday night and slept outside and it was running hours late even before the clashes.

When Zimbabwe speaker of the lower House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, from Tsvangirai’s MDC, got up to deliver his opening speech, he was drowned out by youths singing revolutionary songs and delegates heckling each other.

The youths were waving fists, a traditional symbol of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and singing the veteran leader’s praises.

MDC secretary general and Finance Minister Tendai Biti told reporters that his party would press on with the drive to write a new charter.

“Quite clearly, there are some people who don’t want a new constitution … who view a constitution as an enemy to this country,” Biti said.

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