Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why did Bin Ladin live in Pakistan?

We all know about Pakistan but all for the wrong reasons, not to mention our war inside its nearest neighbour - there are a million British living in the UK of Pakistani origin whom remind us that in recent years the name Pakistan has become deeply synonymous with Islam and terrorism. It's a country now synonymous with Bin Laden as well.

It now turns out that Pakistani authorities knew that he was living there in relative comfort. They've always denied it of course. Since the attack, carried out on 2nd May 2011, Pakistani leaders continue to deny any knowledge that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad – despite revelations that he ‘had been hiding there for at least five years.’

Why on earth did Osama Bin Laden choose to live in Pakistan of all places?

It's not a great country to live in - it assassinates its own politicians; stones women to death; geographically sits in a flood basin and is arguably overpopulated which compels a public spending deficit. It's NUCLEAR defence budget is extraordinarily larger than its education budget. It's a country with several territorial disputes; its northern regions has been overrun by militant Islamists. Security is poor. The last few British Pakistanis to visit have either been kidnapped or murdered in so called 'Honour Killings', and the country is crawling with Islamists trying to get into the United Kingdom. Even the Pakistani Cricket Team (that has a deserved reputation for match-fixing) dare not play its matches there which is a shame for its people as Pakistan is a very sporty nation.

NO wonder when Bin Laden was found at his compound in Abbottabad, he had surrounded himself with Western pleasures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Falkland Islands: Cameron Chairs National Security Council Summit

It has been reported in various newspapers that the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) amid renewed threats by Argentina that they are ‘plotting a mock fishermen’s invasion’ and, in an escalation of the verbal tempo, David Cameron accused Argentina of ‘colonialism’ in the ‘run-up’ to the 30th anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in April 1982.

It is in light of Argentina’s increasingly belligerent stance on the Falkland Islands that ‘contingency plans’ to reinforce the standing military force on the islands have been reviewed by the Ministry of Defence. It is expected that troop reinforcements would be ‘effected’ by air with flights staging through Ascension Island.

General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, has assured the Prime Minister that Britain can defend the islands.

In response to the plans drawn up by the MoD the Argentine Interior Minister, Florencio Randazzo, stated on 18th January 2012 that “It is absolutely offensive especially in the case of Britain. History clearly shows what its attitude to the world was.”

During the NSC meeting it appears that Mr Cameron was made aware of intelligence that ‘warns’ of a possible landing by Argentine fishermen on the islands and South Georgia to ‘plant’ an Argentine flag – actions reminiscent of the South Georgia landings in 1982 that led to war between the two countries. The Prime Minister was also warned that the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, will use the anniversary as the pretext to ‘raise the temperature’ while a Government source stated:

“Kirchner is highly unpredictable. The meeting was designed to make sure we are totally plugged into where the threats might come from. We think there will be a further push at interfering efforts from Argentina.”

Commenting on the NSC meeting the Prime Minister said:

“The NSC discussion was held so we could make sure our defences and everything else is in order. It is important for Britain to send a clear message that as long as people in the Falklands want to remain British, we respect that right of self-determination.

“The reason for holding a National Security Council is to make sure nobody is in any doubt that Britain supports that right of self-determination, and we will go on doing so for as long as people in the Falklands want to continue in that way. I think it is important that everyone understands that.”

Forces currently located on the Falkland Islands include four Eurofighter Typhoons and 150 troops with the Type 23 Duke Class frigate HMS Montrose, offshore patrol vessel Clyde and survey ship HMS Protector patrolling the seas surround the islands.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘Could’ Reduce Western Terror Threat

A study, released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), has stated that a less visible security presence in Afghanistan could reduce extremist attacks - but it would appear that Britain and America will both have to pay between £4.7 and £8billion a year for over a decade to keep Afghanistan from sliding back into chaos.
The study, named ‘Afghanistan: To 2015 and Beyond’ comes at the end of two years of research by IISS military and intelligence experts who have studied the probable repercussions of what ‘will happen’ when Western troops withdraw in 2014. The study paints a disturbing picture of the two most probable outcomes where either ‘slow uneven progress’ or ‘a relatively rapid descent into disorder’ will eventually occur.

An expert at the IISS and former Deputy Head of MI6, Nigel Inkster, states that ‘a reduced US presence, whether the military in Afghanistan or CIA in Pakistan, represents the best option for lowering the temperature and creating circumstances in which the countries of the region can best address the threats they face from militancy.’ He goes on to warn that ‘policymakers will have to assume a different calculus of risk in respect of terrorism and to accept that some residual threat will continue to emanate from Afghanistan and Pakistan for the foreseeable future, particularly towards the US.’

As part of the study the IISS provides an assessment on the survivability of the Karzai Government as opposed to the violent end of the Najibullah regime three years after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The general conclusion is that Kabul would prevail ‘because the central government has probably amassed sufficient power to ensure that the centre will hold.’

The report highlights that despite progress in the south of the country the eastern part of Afghanistan ‘is likely to be an ungoverned territory up to 2014 and beyond’. ‘It is further considered that ‘with control contested between warlord factions it will become a base for attacks on Government controlled territory and a recruiting ground for militants, as well as an area of increasing opium cultivation.’ It is also considered that the area could ‘potentially be a base for international terrorist groups.’

The study also indicated that only 13 of the Afghan Army’s 20 brigades are ‘semi capable’ with the possibility of ‘getting the majority of them acting independently by the end of 2014,’ a task that will probably prove to be a ‘race against the clock for NATO’s trainers.’ Even if the NATO trainers succeed in ‘their race against time’ it is considered Afghan security forces could well split along ethnic lines.

According to Nigel Inkster ‘the key to any peace process is the position of the Pakistani supported Haqqani network of militants that control the eastern approaches to Kabul.’ He described the head of the network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, as ‘al-Qaeda’s main patron’ but added there was ‘little evidence to indicate what Haqqani wants to achieve and what, if anything, the group might regard as an acceptable resolution of the current conflict short of all-out victory.’

Photo © 2011 isafmedia, Flick

Monday, January 16, 2012

Royal Marines Test CB90 Combat Boat

In a never ending search for excellence the Royal Marines of 11 (Amphibious Trials and Training) Squadron are ‘trialling’ the Swedish CB90 Combat Boat. The high speed boats, designed to protect Royal Navy vessels from fast-attack craft, are being evaluated at the Royal Marines base at Instow in North Devon.

Driven by water jet propulsion units and weighing approximately 16 tonnes the CB90 has a top speed of about 50mph. The vessel is similar in size to the smaller landing craft used by the Royal Marines , can carry up to 18 fully equipped Commandos and mounting heavy machine guns can provide accurate and effective firepower. The manoeuvrability of the CB90 is acknowledged to be outstanding and, because of its unique water jet propulsion system, can literally ‘turn on a sixpence.’

When describing the capabilities of the CB90 Combat Boat the Officer Commanding 11 Squadron RM Craft Trials Wing, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Guyer RM, said:

“There’s no real comparison with what we operate at the moment – it’s a completely different beast. It’s a basic boat, you can really throw it about and it keeps coming back for more. That’s the sort of thing we like.”
To date the trials have tested CB90’s basic handling, operation alongside other landing and assault craft currently in use, safe CASEVAC handling and in the Commando assault role.

It is anticipated that trials will not be completed until the end of 2013 by which time CB90 will have carried out exercises with Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels and ‘worked’ in and out of HMS Bulwark’s dock.

Colour Sergeant Ian Gibbons, a Royal Marine with 13 years of landing craft experience, said that the high speed CB90:

“Is very easy to drive – if you can drive an Offshore Raiding Craft, you can drive one of these”.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Falklands are British. No argument

1982 Liberation Memorial in Stanley
"The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the UK, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance."
Margaret Thatcher
This year is the 30th anniversary since Argentina lost the Falkland War, after they mistook British sentiment and invaded. Sadly, they don't recall they were soundly beaten (at the sacrifice of 255 British Soldiers, RIP) and lost 700 of their own.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why are Soldiers Awarded 1% Pay Increase while MoD Civil Servants get Huge Bonuses?

The Daily Mail has reported that at a time when front-line soldiers are facing bullets and bombs in Afghanistan, massive redundancies and only a 1% pay increase for the next two years civil servants at the Ministry of Defence are being paid large bonuses .

While serving in opposition both the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties stated their intention to ‘deal with the bonus culture at the Ministry of Defence’.

The article states that ‘MoD bureaucrats were paid £38.4million in bonuses in five months in 2011-12 meaning that the cash-strapped department [MoD] is on course to eclipse the £43.5million handed out in the whole of 2010-11’. The article went on to say that ‘figures showed that senior officials shared £505,000, averaging £9,000 each with junior staff being handed a total of £37.9million, typically taking home £697. One civil servant pocketed a £69,459 bonus’.

These bonuses are paid while a new Army recruit risks life and limb on the frontline in Afghanistan for a basic salary of £17,265 and, with an expected ‘pay-rise’ of only 1% over the next two years, the average soldier expects to have less money to spend when taking inflation into account!

The 1% ‘pay-rise’ has led to allegations that the Government – and the Prime Minister in particular - is breaching the Military Covenant by expecting those who place themselves in harm’s way to accept such a paltry pay-rise.
Outrage at the bonus payments has come from across the political divide with Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, saying ‘any such payments should only be paid in exceptional circumstances’ and that ‘right now our priority must be looking after our men and women on the front-line’. The Liberal Democrat MP and Defence Minister for the Coalition, Nick Harvey, said the pay-outs were ‘scandalous’.

Former Army officer and now Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, said:
“It raises questions about our priorities when bureaucrats get richer on bonuses while those on the frontline are being asked to take what is effectively a pay cut”.

Commenting on the MoD bonus culture defence analyst and editor of the British Army Guide, Major Charles Heyman, said:

“To the soldiers sitting in a hole in Helmand, being attacked by the Taliban day in, day out, it must damage morale to know that someone sitting on swivel chair behind a desk doing a pretty cushy job is getting their pay packet bumped up”.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson’s mother said she was ‘appalled at the payouts’. Ben is considered to be the most severely wounded British soldier to have survived an attack in Afghanistan – an attack that saw Ben suffer horrendous injuries and lose both of his legs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Long Term Sustainability for Injured Personnel in Doubt. It's a con isn't it?

A Commons Defence Committee has said there are doubts over whether the ‘Government has fully understood the scale of demands to be placed on services in the coming years’ when bearing in mind the number of casualties requiring on-going treatment for injuries received in current conflicts.

The Defence Select Committee report on military casualties praised ‘the first class medical treatment’ available but questioned whether it was sustainable bearing in mind the ‘moral obligation’ to support Service personnel as set out in the Armed Forces Military Covenant. It went on to urge the Government to ‘act as a matter of urgency’ to exclude Armed Forces compensation paid to injured personnel from consideration when ‘means-tested’ benefits are assessed.

It was acknowledged by the committee that while the MoD provided ‘outstanding care’ in many areas ‘this cannot always be said for the support it gives to families’. It was also critical about the lack of support given to children following the death or serious injury of a relative and urged the department to ‘look again’ at its support services.

The committee also said that Government reforms of the National Health Service will affect the future care of soldiers injured on the battlefield and requiring on-going treatment.

When discussing the significant contribution made by Service charities the report suggested that charities could well be paying for projects that should be funded by the MoD. The report said it was important for the MoD and charities ‘to work even more closely together to explore ways of ensuring that new capital projects provided by charities can be sustained into an era when current levels of donations may no longer be relied upon [after the withdrawal from Afghanistan]’.

The Defence Select Committee Chairman, James Arbuthnot, said:

“We, as a committee, have seen how determined our injured servicemen and women are to achieve the fullest possible recovery from their injuries. They see it as duty to get better and to return to their units if at all possible.

“And we have been impressed by the brave and skillful personnel, both military and civilian, who are providing the medical care that our Armed Forces need.

“But we need to have the confidence that such specific treatment, for injuries hardly ever seen in the general NHS experience, will continue long after an individual’s retirement and into old age.”

In response the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, Andrew Robathan, said:

“There is always more to do and we will consider carefully the committee’s specific recommendations as we strive to fully meet and sustain our commitment to wounded, injured and sick personnel under the Armed Forces Covenant.”

*Photo © 2007 Brian Harrington Spier, Flickr*