Monday, December 14, 2009

Brown to unveil plan to tackle Afghan roadside bombs

Gordon Brown is to outline proposals to counter roadside bombs which have led to rising UK deaths in Afghanistan.

The prime minister, who visited troops in Helmand at the weekend, will promise money for new equipment and a greater detection role for local forces.

He will tell MPs an Afghan intelligence network to identify where the devices are made and deployed will be set up.

Meanwhile, the new bishop to the Armed Forces has called for a less simplistic attitude to the Taliban.

The Right Reverend Stephen Venner said there were many things about them that the West disapproved of but the Taliban could perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith.

Defence spending

The prime minister said he would re-prioritise defence spending, with an extra £150m due to be spent on the UK's campaign in Afghanistan.

There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve

Rt Rev Stephen Venner

Growing menace of Afghan IEDs
It will come as part of a substantial change in defence priorities with more money being diverted to pay for equipment to target improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and more helicopters, says the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale.

The cash, to be spent over three years, will see a specialist training base set up in Britain.

The IEDs laid by the Taliban will be targeted with an additional £10m to be used to buy 400 hi-tech robot mine detectors.

In an announcement on Tuesday, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth is also expected to say a new centre will be set up in the UK to analyse aerial surveillance photographs.

As part of the reallocation of funds, he is set to announce the closure of at least one RAF base and a scaling back of the UK sovereign base area in Cyprus, as well as cuts to the MoD Police and back office functions.

Basic quarters

During his visit to Afghanistan, the prime minister inspected new equipment and held talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar.

Gordon Brown: "I am here to thank our troops"
At the Shorabak Afghan army base in Helmand, he witnessed the sort of training local forces are getting to deal with IEDs.

He is expected to tell the Commons that President Karzai has promised to step up the training programme so his forces can take over more of this role from allied troops.

Our correspondent said unusually Mr Brown spent the night in the country, rather than flying in and out in one day.

He slept in "basic quarters" at the Kandahar air base, the headquarters of Nato troops in the south of the country.

Admirable qualities

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Venner said the Taliban could "perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other".

The Church of England bishop argued against demonising the Taliban and said the attitude taken towards them had been "too simplistic".

"There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation," he said.

Bishop Venner said everyone in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, needed to be involved in finding a solution to the country's problems

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