Manchester’s Sad Dichotomy

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
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Every terrorist incident in the West seems to have a sequel, and that is the blame game.
In a poll on Twitter by David Jones 70% of respondents suggest government was partly to blame for the attack. Even the music concert performer, Ariana Grande, who sung at the Manchester event is being blamed for the clothes that she wore. Then it’s the security services for not preventing the attack.

Of course, it goes without saying that an entire religion is also to blame. Loose immigration policy on Middle Eastern and North African refugees, and the infiltration of radicalism into mosques is apparently much to blame. Even liberal thinking people took a knock and so too does every strain of political party. On the other hand, singer, Morrissey suggests that politicians are just too scared to blame Islam for Manchester attack! It doesn’t help.

Indeed, how is all this indignant blame going to help? It is certainly throwing up a smoke signal and one wonders if our political ‘elite’ can see the smoke for the mist and formulate pro-active and acceptable policy.

I am told that two poor homeless people, Britons, who were begging and sleeping on the street in the immediate area of the blast, rushed to the aid the bleeding victims. Their moving accounts of how they helped the victims has ended in an appropriate appeal to assist them and the money is still pouring in!

Here are two British people made destitute by the system, struggling to keep going, against all the odds, and their Government does naught for them, so it seems. How could they? Here is the irony. So much funding available to the poor is allocated to refugee immigrants first; they are housed, given jobs and lead a right royal life in comparison to life in their home nations.

Our ungrateful terrorist, even enjoyed a university education until he dropped out. Who funded that? Police named British born Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Muslim, just 22 years of age, from a Libyan refugee background. His brother, Ismail Abedi, was arrested and so too were his parents, in Libya.

Salman and Ismail appear to be of good home and blessed with the opportunities of the British way of life. Abedi lived in a house on Manchester’s Elsmore Road – a quiet, residential street lined with red-brick semi-detached houses. How quaint. Better than a cardboard box outside a stadium. The brothers were more favoured by the system, it would seem, than are most true Britons who find themselves in dire straits.

So who is responsible for this, who should take the blame? Seems to me that there is blood on the hands of successive Western governments. European and American intervention in the Muslim non-secular states is part of the problem. Invasions on false premises of weapons of mass destruction and, of course, the war against terrorism. All with ulterior motive. Offensives against ISIS in the ‘Caliphate’, and more recently in Syria cannot help. But it is not the entire cause.

Islam cannot possibly be described as a religion of peace. By all accounts it is clearly the root of most terrorism in Europe and is based on its tenets of non-Muslim intolerance, jihadist revolution, hatred of the infidel and the anti-Semitism of its faith. It’s a hateful religion, so much so that some are influenced to perpetrate dastardly acts of terrorism in its name.

There are a disturbing number of psychotically deluded little Muslims running around Europe. This psychosis is the ultimate motive for all Islamic terrorism in the West. Yet the West digs its head deeper into the sand. The migration to Europe by many thousands of Muslims, away from their now broken homes and bankrupt economies run by despots, is not without contribution. They come with much religious indoctrination, a pathological bitterness, and even thoughts of retribution and, yes, the blame game too.

We owe them, some might say, and we are giving abundantly it would seem. Yet the system that feeds and sustains them is foreign to them, non-Islamic, and needs to conform to their way of living.  They, and more so their issue, are easy victims for radicalisation; that process of religious corruption of the mind and making the infidel host enemy. Their new home, with generous benefactors, becomes the target. No holds barred. They perceive they are profiled badly, which they are much due to Muslim terrorism, and they feel rejected.

So there is the ugly mix. The West seems to have ignored the alarm bells rung and buries itself in the comfort of being nice to these strange and struggling people with different ways. Society is intolerant of those who point fingers at migration or object to the pacifism in the face of an onslaught, labelling them racist or even bigot. And now the fires are burning. Manchester weeps. Terrorism wins yet again – Europe raises the white flag to negotiate!

The thing is, you cannot negotiate with terrorists. Negotiation with terrorists will only succeed if you bend entirely to their demands. They call the shots. The jihadist wants to impose his religion, his way of life, the Islamic way, and give privilege to Muslims and those of the faith. There is no compromise. Understand clearly, the jihadist has no political master nor tangible nation to which they are loyal. They fight and slaughter the innocents in the name of their mythical God. Gods cannot negotiate. So who are European government to negotiate with?

The Manchester suicide bombing is a dire tragedy of multiple proportions. The dead and their grieving and suffering families, the lacerated and torn wounded, and the horrified onlookers scared with fear, are only a part of the tragedy. The other tragedy is that of successive governments which, clearly, cannot see the wood for the trees.

The time is ripe for a paradigm shift in combatting Muslim terrorism. It goes much beyond tackling home grown radicalisation. Europeans need to go to the root of the problem and exorcise or purge the community which breeds the problem. This, of course goes against those well entrenched doctrines of human rights, religious freedom of association, and the credible system of jurisprudence that Europeans enjoy, but which no immigrant Muslim would have enjoyed in his home country. There is the dichotomy.

PRISM and Tempora: Unholy Tapping Alliance or Portcullis

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIIt seems rather strange that there is such indignant protest that the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States has been trolling social media, gathering intelligence. Even more umbrageous objection arises from the allegation that some of this intelligence is being shared with Unites States’ allies, principally the United Kingdom. The pinnacle dissent in this debacle seems to be that your trustworthy and friendly social networking site has allowed ‘Uncle Sam’ backdoor access to all your data, which of course they all deny.

Let us smell the salts here. Intelligence gathering has recorded biblical roots from the days when Moses sent twelve men to spy on the land of Canaan. Spying is labelled by some as the second oldest profession, but, perhaps, commands less respect than the first. While war with ones foes has been the catalyst of espionage motivation generally, home revolution, subversion and civil dissension have turned the practice inward, thus targeting citizen opinion.

The core of good intelligence interception is communication. Message snatching has moved from bribing or disabling the messenger to sophisticated methods of “wire-tapping” designed to monitor a broader spectrum of interests and thus glean more intelligence. Electronic eavesdropping forms a major part of most intelligence operations the world over today. The intelligence agencies have moved with the technology and social networking just had to fall within their sites.

Back in the 1960s the Western allies introduced ECHELON, the global electronic eves-dropping system; a late Cold War need to intercept then COMECON military and diplomatic communications traffic. With the waning of the Cold War, ECHELON turned its attention to the collection and analysis of private and commercial communications using radio, microwave, cellular, fibre-optic, cyber and celestial (satellite) communications, known by the acronym SIGINT. It continues to operate today and we have known about it for years. The Chinese are doing it, as are the Russians.

Now we have PRISM bursting onto the world stage, thanks in part to whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who is current sought by the United States. PRISM (described as an activity designator – thus the acronym SIGAD) is a complimentary process of the wider reigning ECHELON and a primary source of US and sometimes Western intelligence. The process of activity designation prioritises intercepts based on their worth, perhaps through a process of key word/phrase analysis. Thus, most of the drivel we write hits the waste bins of the NSA. The ‘good stuff’ is pumped into massive non linear databases, making the GDR Stasi’s Department 26 look like kindergarten.

According to leaked NSA documents, social networking giants (Facebook, Google, Skype and Yahoo were named) and some of the big five (Microsoft and Apple included) allowed direct access to their servers and databases by the PRISM system! All deny the access, one stating that they were ‘really protective of the information our users have provided’ – attributed to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Director of Engineering. Yet the United States government obtained over three billion items from cyber communications networks in just March 2013 alone. Where did it come from?

Edward Snowden and those documents he leaked suggest United Kingdom complicity in the scheme of things, yet British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, re-acting to the PRISM exposé, told Parliament,

“Our agencies practice and uphold U.K. law at all times… To intercept the content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the Home Secretary, or by another Secretary of State. This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis.”

Who is the Pinocchio here? The British SIGINT operation at GCHQ, which feeds United Kingdom intelligence, is tapping into fibre-optic communication links and drawing data for analysis over a 30 day holding period in an intelligence operation called Tempora. This is not a suspect targeted operation. The information, from both innocent citizens and security suspects, is shared with the NSA in dubious exchanges, perhaps for PRISM intelligence. Is this legal, Mr Hague, or is it just another ‘porky’ offered to cover your backs?

Be very afraid if you are a terrorist or a criminal so naïve as to chat about your dirty deeds in cyberspace or on any legitimate communications network. Big brother is really watching now. We know that, and it may not be legal, but really people who complain the most about privacy violations by social networks are in fact their own worst enemies. It is these same people who share their achievements, plans and wishes, if not there inner-most secrets, in social media. The message here is keep your private data to yourselves, but surely this would defeat the object of social networking.

While some may dillydally innocently, others spin sinister plots and revolution foolishly oblivious to reality on these sophisticated networks. We have come to trust the integrity of our communications platforms and social networks; and we clearly believe we should enjoy some right to privacy. This is a mythical right, since the wicked World cannot work like that in an age of fundamentalist terrorism.

PRISM and other similar systems, like Tempora, have built up complex profiles about you, but you only have yourself to blame for gullibly feeding the system. Our sudden indignity about all this snooping does amuse, and must surely rank in the naivety stakes with those who believe the myth of the tooth fairy. We know it is happening and this makes it all the more nauseating that filthy politicians choose to deny the instruments of their intelligence gathering apparatus.

Wikileaks: Corrupting the Keepers of Secrets

By Andrew Field
Today, the media dwelled upon the recent exposure of previously classified information by Wikileaks.
They have just published 400 thousand pages of a United States Army situation reports during the Iraq occupation, causing much retrospective indignation. The material leaked is old news, there are few surprises. It has renewed the disclosure cravings of Iraq war critics. Despite pre-release media hype, the information is stale, and while revealing a few points of interest, there is no major scoop.

One does not know whether to scorn or admire Wikileaks. For what purpose do they act? They say ‘transparency creates a better society for all people’, and that ‘better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations’. Fair enough, if we were living in a pure world, but what of our enemies’ institutions who benefit from this ‘principled leaking’? Was there no corruption by the principled leaker?

What some struggle to come to terms with, is that while western nations are collaborating to prevent or fight terrorism, thus protecting its citizens; there are those who choose to expose their secrets, unwittingly perhaps, to the enemy, in the interests of such transparency. We seem to be losing the plot here, if wicked nations and organizations are really intent upon your absolute destruction.

For centuries conflict and political turmoil, and even commercial competitiveness, have given rise to a world immersed in cloak and dagger activity, spying and snooping. This has been enhanced hugely by technology in the last few decades. Our institutions have much to gain from information about their enemies, adversaries and competitors. Is this so thoroughly immoral?

To most, this is known as intelligence and an echelon of organizations and agencies has blossomed to perform this simple task of information one-upmanship upon your enemy, to defend your democracy. By their very nature, they do have blood on their hands, some more than others, and one would like to think mostly that of their foes. There is no purity in warfare.

Evidently, and acknowledging that no conflict is clean, much hard work is done to secure information, in some cases by devious means, which is why intelligence becomes so secretive. And this seems to irk some people, because while secrecy provides protection to those gathering and providing intelligence, it also covers up truths, eliminates transparency or things which in normal circumstances should properly be exposed. Where do we draw the line?

Our enemies, and we do have them, are going to pursue their objectives by the most evil means possible, and terrorism seems to be the vogue at the moment. Terrorists have another view of utopia, and will happily deny you yours, no matter how much you demand pure and absolute democracy and freedom, civil rights or equality for all, including your enemies.

No democratically minded citizen wants this evil of terrorism on their door steps. Such conflict brings death and destruction in the ugliest way. Warfare is a filthy thing, but a necessary evil if you are on the receiving end of a threat. Sadly, the successful counter-insurgency does not conduct itself by the ‘Queensbury Rules’, so blood does get spilled.

In fact, things get very dirty out there and on both sides of the fray. But when people within your own community decide upon ‘principled leaking’, passing on our secrets to a would-be whistleblower, then surely there is something wrong. It is morally incomprehensible and corrupt for the custodian of secrets to pass them on. When our whistleblower discloses the leak, he is in fact feeding and serving the enemy.

From a purely intelligence perspective, there is an ethical clash between the transparency you demand, being the supposed democratizer, and the undoing of secret intelligence networks and conduits used. Intelligence plays a part, apparently, in protecting those citizens, who claim this right to know, in the face of deadly adversity. Think about it. This is akin to wetting one’s powder when the beast is charging.

Intelligence conduits will dry up if we broadcast our intelligence modus operandi to the opposing world. By the same token we don’t want governments or their agencies to get away with their crimes under a cloak of secrecy, such as the tortures which occurred in Iraq. They who choose to support and feed this destructive whistle blowing should examine their collective conscience. It may be suicidal to uphold Wikileaks’ rights to spill the beans acquired through corrupt leakages.

The Folly of an Overwhelming Right to Know

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe most extraordinary decision by two, supposedly, learned judges to allow disclosure of foreign intelligence material in the legal matter of Binyan Mohamed beggars belief.   The judgement sets, to Britain’s great peril, a grievous precedent, if what the politicians say is correct.  Would the Americans cease intelligence co-operation in consequence?   Some say not.

Mohamed is an Ethiopian national, who was given refuge, benevolently one might add, by the British government back in 1994.  He is a manqué terrorist who would happily slaughter innocent Britons, given half the chance, according to the publicity the man has attracted.

Mohamed left the safety of the United Kingdom, as a drug addict, seeking solace for his filthy habit from the Muslim faithful in distant Afghanistan.  This country is the epicentre of terrorism, co-incidentally.  He soon became embroiled in the homicidal underworld of al-Qaeda fundamentalist terrorism.  Mohamed allegedly trained with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist mentors and other sources suggest his collusion with American gangster turned terrorist, Jose Padilla.

Our alleged terrorist and Padilla plotted death and mayhem, so they say, including the construction of dirty bombs and spraying people with cyanide.  He was arrested in Pakistan attempting to exit that country on a false passport, destined for the United Kingdom.  One might suspect that, on the face of it, he was up to no good.

Of course, this does not condone his rendition and alleged torture, but quite what he is doing back on British soil, to contest British intelligence involvement, is a mystery.  Surprisingly, it was British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who secured the man’s release from Guantánamo and allowed him back to Britain.  What was he thinking, one might ask, and have we lost all of our senses on the altar of political correctitude?

Clearly, Mohamed, had a few ulterior motives, and he is not exactly the model Muslim devotee that some would like us to believe, nor British.  And yet, this matter is not about Mohamed, but rather how this foreigner has brought the judiciary and government on a collision course, because a couple of fellows, bedecked in their wigs, have decided that the British people have an overwhelming ‘right to know’.  Really, so why do we not just throw open MI5 and MI6 headquarters as public archives, you could ask?

The suppression of foreign intelligence material, by Miliband, was considered by the judges to be ‘harmful to the rule of law’.  For those with any common sense, it is enough to make one vomit.  The judges have thoroughly ignored the appeals of the Foreign Secretary.  His position is contentious; would such disclosure strain intelligence relations between the United States, the originators of the material, and those attempting to defend the Realm?  It is considered that revelation may compromise vital sources of intelligence, including the death of agents, and breach a reciprocal understanding.

In all probability, the actual material subject to this furore may not divulge much that is either sensitive or secret, but it breaks a solid principal of absolute trust in the shadowy world of spy craft.  Friendly intelligence agencies share their information, knowledge and hard gleaned intelligence and nobody has any ‘right to know’ the content of these exchanges.  This reciprocity is secret and should not be scuppered.  It is done in the interests of combating a very serious threat, the type of threat our not-so-friendly Ethiopian terrorist would pose to the British people.

While the blood of British soldiers and airmen is soaking the soil of Taliban poppy fields, defending Britain from the al-Quaeda terrorist threat, so we are told, a couple of judges pontificate about the law and rights in the comfort of their chambers.  Are they are making decisions that would breach a trust and dangerously expose Britain’s hand?  If they are, some believe, then counter-terrorism operations will suffer and British servicemen and spies will be denied access to vital intelligence from their lead ally.

Let us not forget that the Americans are still seething badly at the release of another terrorist, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, by their British ally.  The State Department took that pretty seriously, and no doubt stifled intelligence outflows in consequence. The risk that Britain’s allies will clam up altogether, drying the intelligence fountain, perhaps is no theory.  This is the gambit. Surely, it is the Americans who should be authorising the release of the information anyway.

The judges may just have made terrorism a lot easier for al-Quaeda and damningly harder for the likes of MI5, MI6 and the men and women on the frontline.  Those who deem they have the overwhelming ‘right to know’ are increasing the odds of terror attack upon themselves.  The folly of this judicial thirst for transparency and lawful outcome may come back to haunt the Realm.

Kiddies on the African Killing Fields

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XIIt is about a year since the United States passed the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, enabling the prosecution of those generals who recruit child soldiers into their ranks. UNICEF dubbed the practice of kiddies at war as ‘illegal and morally reprehensible’ a couple of years back.

The International Criminal Court only recognised the use of children in conflict as a war crime just over 10 years ago. Really? So, when is the World going to stop ‘talking the talk’ and start ‘walking the walk’ as promised by Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children in Armed Conflict? Not soon, apparently.

No generals have answered for the crime of sending kids to war, well certainly not in Africa. Yet, about half of the World’s child soldiers are fighting small wars and ethnic campaigns in Africa, including Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda.

Rebellions and insurgencies have been raging in Africa for decades, and the warlords just keep on plundering, with children as gun fodder. Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Angola had their wars too, and Zimbabwe, not in conflict, used its ‘Green Bomber’ youth militia to perpetrate ghastly violence against political opposition candidates.

Children in conflict are easy to abduct and then shape their minds to any way of thinking; and to molest and abuse too. Most warrior kids are abducted, subjected to brutal initiation and indoctrination. They are morally degraded and sexually exploited then quickly honed to perform bestial acts and atrocities against the enemy, to loot, exploit and kill.

The boys tote AK-47’s, use hardcore drugs, and smoke and swear like troopers, literally. The girls serve as porters, cooks and sex slaves, being raped by their captors, and frequently offered as human traffic for a hungry prostitution market. Many of these ‘four-foot killing machines’ are slaughtered on the battlefield. It is the ‘blooding’ of the teddy bears!

This is all so morally repugnant to any civilised person. Would elegant people allow this to happen to their own issue? One would suppose not. Yet the civilised World just does not seem to be able to come to grips with the situation. Yes, of course, there has been serious debate in the august chambers of the almighty United Nations, with treaties and human rights laws even being established.

Sure, the Security Council debates these matters, from time to time, and points its ‘fearsome’ finger at offenders, but nothing more. And there are the Conventions and Protocols forbidding this and that in conflict and categorising this war crime and that too. Why, even the International Labour Organisation has predefined the use of children in war as the ‘worst forms of child labour’. Goodness, one can only shudder at the dimension of this toothless dog.

Some are working really hard at the problem. The ‘Coalition to Stop the Use of the Child Soldiers’ is such an organisation. It plays an important role with its awareness campaigning. Various World bodies do likewise, but, frankly, the message just isn’t getting through. Well, not at least to those who believe they can influence change, so it would seem.

Politicians are in the firing line here. Whatever their philosophies, or which ever ‘ism’ is the flavour of the day, World leaders just do not seem to have the moral fibre to act, nor the intelligence to understand the real issues unfolding in African wars. It seems abhorrent to them to be critical, least they might offend, or have the courage to do what is right for the World’s children in conflict zones, especially in Africa.

Torture: Unnecessary Evil?

By Andrew Field
The practice of torture and rendition are on the menu, again. It’s a subject which arouses strong emotion in democratic society. Just today, we have read or heard the matter discussed in the news. British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, speak of United Kingdom intelligence apparatus making ‘difficult judgments’ and ‘hard choices’ in the context of torture and rendition.

Let’s get to the basics. Torture of one human being by another is an abhorrent act. Your disgust at such treatment needs little justification. Torture, or rendition to conduct torture by ‘surrogate states’, is the product of conflict, political oppression, and, in any social society, crime. In situations of warfare, torture occurs on both sides of the conflict. It’s a fact of life that potential intelligence required by one side of any conflict will be bravely refused by the captive from the other. Until, of course, more persuasion is applied.

The question on my mind is when does persuasion convert to torture and just where does one draw the line between legitimate extraction of intelligence and torture? It is not as simple as that. One needs to throw into this equation the concept of potential life and death consequences to your own forces or population, by one’s failure to extract relevant intelligence. Call this justification, or as Mr Miliband puts it, making ‘hard choices’.

It goes a step further though, as we have all experienced through the news over the years. When not properly controlled or overseen, and left in the hands of badly selected, often ignorant, inexperienced or poorly trained interrogators, torture is the outcome of warped mindsets and frequently, if not always, the source of sadistic satisfaction and domination by the individual. You only have to look to the Iraq war and the Abu Ghraid abuses by the United States military. Little wonder the emotions of the democratic world are aroused. My own Zimbabwe has had is fair share of the innocents being tortured by the regime’s political commissars.

Torture is often ‘justified’ by those with blood on their hands, with the not surprising claim that ‘the other side’ does it without sanction, often perpetrates far worse treatment upon its victims, and nobody makes much noise about it. It is probable that any NATO serviceman, captured by insurgents in Afghanistan, will likely receive brutal, sustained, ultimately fatal, torture during his captivity. This is the nature of terrorism, those warped minds and sadistic satisfaction, this time in the hands of religious zealots. It is no reasonable motive for democratic nations to do likewise.

So just where do we draw the line between saving lives and exerting a little more persuasion than that which is acceptable to our democratic principals? It’s a tall order for any intelligence organisation. Governments thrust their ‘spooks’ into the role of gathering information in ‘Defense of the Realm’ and yet cannot be seen to justify the acts of those who forced to make these ‘hard choices’. Those who make ‘difficult judgments’ and get caught doing so, it seems, suffer the consequences of being ostracized and prosecuted by the very institutions that ask them to make the ‘hard choices’ in the first place.

Are we not conditioning, too negatively, those who have to make ‘difficult judgments’, which are so inevitable in conflict? Are we not, by our ivory tower sagacity about these profound methods, asking our intelligence communities to slide down the slippery slope of inactivity to our very own detriment? There will be little use in rattling the cages of the intelligence services the next time bombs start going off in your capitals, if we are.

British Troops in Afghanistan: Why?

by Andrew Field, in Harare

The very sad loss of life by soldiers in the Afghanistan war, in such numbers as in the past few days, raises the question, just what are the British, or for that matter the Americans, or any other foreign troops doing there? During the last couple of days United States President, Barrack Obama is quoted as saying ‘deadly conflict in Afghanistan is a “serious fight” but one essential for the future stability of the country’. He believes ‘the mission in Afghanistan is one that the Europeans have as much if not more of a stake in than we do’, adding that ‘the likelihood of a terrorist attack in London is at least as high, if not higher, than it is in the United States.’ Gordon Brown, reiterates the point and speaks of the UK’s military deployment there being aimed at preventing terrorism in the United Kingdom. Really?

The now stale justification that foreign military domination of a country can some how prevent terrorism in the far off United Kingdom is wearing a little thin. It is bordering on the naïve, and its difficult to fathom how these, presumably great, men can follow the same mindset. The point is that the people of Afghanistan will have to be masters of their own destiny in the long term. That means if a Taliban government resumes power (through either force or democracy), they will provide a haven for their religious brethren, al-Qaeda. If the Taliban do not regain a political foothold, at the cost of hundreds of British and American troops, the attrition of these religious zealots will never cease and the true foe will continue to have its refuge.

Either way, al-Qaeda is expected to pursue its wicked ways against Western imperialism. It seems to many that Britain and the United States should be taking their war to al-Qaeda, but are actually bogged down with fighting a surrogate ‘terrorist’ to achieve their objective, or is Taliban al-Qaeda? Clearly, the war against ‘our’ surrogate terrorist can never be won, without either:

  • the total breakdown or elimination of the Taliban, and that means erasing its extremist philosophies too, or
  • political settlement with these extremists, which is acceptable to both western ‘protagonists’ and the majority of Afghans.

Let us believe those high echelons of the British military for a moment, and accept that the war against the Taliban can be won. The reality of this is that both the British and the United States are going to have to take the gloves off and get dirty. They will need to ‘eliminate’ a sector of the Afghan people and destroy its beliefs by both solid force and scrupulous oppression, an idea that goes against the grain of democratic thinking most thoroughly. There will be much ‘liberal’ squealing at home. We know the kid gloves will not come off and the spectre of winning will elude those nations who try.

So then, surely it is up to politicians to achieve a political settlement with extremism. Viewpoints here are so massively divergent and they cross religious terrain too. Most of us are still trying to comprehend what al-Qaeda’s cause with the West is, apart from the obvious religious counter-crusade of Muslim fundamentalism. The clear lead to achieving ‘settlement’ with terrorists is to bring their support base, the Afghan people, at grass roots level, on sides. Alienate Afghans from the Taliban. A massive inflow of development and infrastructure, which touches the heart of the Afghan people, would evidently help, and is helping, apparently. But this ‘softening up’ approach comes with foreign strings and influences, and taboos too for Muslim people. It is a difficult, though not impossible, situation to achieve political compromise, but why should the British and Americans be troubling themselves with this? Why are these nations pouring money into this baron, alien territory?

Whatever the Afghanistan endplay, one is still forced to ask, how is this going to stop al-Qaeda terrorism in the West? A war won in Afghanistan will surely be another war started in Pakistan or some other Muslim nation. What of other fundamentalist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba? Western political and military strategies need to be thoroughly re-evaluated and focused more against the true enemy, and that, many might suggest, will happen at home, rather than abroad in some dusty valley.