British face hard questions on Afghanistan losses

British face hard questions on Afghanistan losses

A steep rise in casualties has sparked a soul-searching debate about the value of the Afghan war inside Britain, the major international partner for the U.S. in the battle against Taliban extremists seeking to regain power there, Associated Press reported.

The debate about the purpose and progress of the faraway war - launched after the 9/11 attacks - follows the deaths of 15 British soldiers so far this month. The overall toll of 184 now surpasses the number of British troops killed in Iraq.

On Monday, a beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown had to defend his war policy in Parliament against charges that British forces are poorly equipped and pursuing pie-in-the-sky objectives that cannot be achieved.

"It has been a very difficult summer and it is not over yet, but if we are to defeat this vicious insurgency and make Britain and the world a safer place, then we must persist," he said, asserting that commanders on the ground have told him they have the manpower and equipment needed.

With other European nations unwilling to send in more troops - and Afghan forces not ready to take up overall security - Britain's support is crucial to any American effort. Middle East experts warn that the Taliban and its al-Qaida allies believe the British and American public will eventually tire of the war and force their governments to pull out.

Britain's 8,000 troops are fighting in southern Helmand province with thousands of U.S. Marines in a major offensive intended to disrupt Taliban insurgents and cut their supply lines to Pakistan before Afghan elections planned for next month.

Much of the debate in Britain has focused on whether its troops are properly equipped to defend themselves, particularly whether they have enough helicopters and if Viking armored vehicles are effective.

David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, said Monday that the government must immediately provide more helicopter support. He urged Britain to persuade other NATO countries to supply airlifts to reduce the amount of time soldiers travel by road, where they are vulnerable to roadside bombs.

"It is a scandal that they still lack enough helicopters to move around in southern Afghanistan," Cameron said. "The government must deal with this issue as a matter of extreme emergency."

Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth told Parliament that British forces are involved in hazardous, hand-to-hand combat and cannot accomplish their goals from the relative safety of helicopters and heavily armored vehicles.

"Our people have to get out," he said. "They understand that and I think the British public accepts that."

He said it is vital that the August elections are credible and bring Afghans an improved government.

But Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said the government should acknowledge that the goal of establishing a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan is probably beyond reach. Instead, he said, Britain should adopt the more realistic goal of keeping Afghanistan and Pakistan from being used as a base for planning international terror attacks.

"Our objectives should be to provide sufficient domination in Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent further terrorist attacks against the West such as 9/11, the London bombings, the Bali attacks, the Madrid attacks and so on," he said.

The government should drop more "idealistic" goals - such as achieving equality for Afghan women, or helping the country establish a judicial system - and focus on reducing the security threat, Kemp said.

That means U.S. and British forces have to control enough of Afghanistan to make it impossible for al-Qaida to use it as a planning and training base - but even this more modest goal will take years to achieve, he said.

President Barack Obama has also said he has a "very narrow definition of success when it comes to our national security interests" in the region. "And that is that al-Qaida and its affiliates cannot set up safe havens from which to attack Americans," Obama told The Associated Press in an interview this month.

Obama has ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year. There are about 57,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the number is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of this year. The British toll of 184 killed in Afghanistan is less than a third of the 657 American forces' deaths, according to U.S. figures.

The rising British toll - three recently killed were 18 years old - has created fresh political pressures, but so far no signs that public support for the Afghan intervention is waning.

A new poll published Monday indicated support for the war has actually increased compared to polls taken three years ago. The ICM Research poll published in The Guardian newspaper shows 47 percent of the public support the war in Afghanistan while 46 percent oppose it. The pollster said support was 15 percent higher than in 2006.

ICM interviewed 1,000 adults by telephone on Friday and Saturday, as the news of the latest casualties was emerging. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Charles Heyman, editor of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, said there is ample support for the troops doing the fighting but little backing for Brown, in part because many believe he is not supplying the manpower and equipment needed.

"It's natural when our soldiers are fighting hard that the population says we support our troops but don't support our politicians," he said. "The British prime minister is in a difficult place. His popularity is really low so whatever he says is questioned. People are suspicious of him. He needs to support the British troops in Afghanistan, which most people believe he's not doing properly at the moment."

Iran's Natanz nuclear facility continues to operate – AEOI
Iran's Natanz nuclear facility continues to operate – AEOI
Iran wants return to JCPOA's original model - Iranian official
Iran wants return to JCPOA's original model - Iranian official
Time in Iran's favor - AEOI official
Time in Iran's favor - AEOI official
Loading Bars
Latest
Inventory of basic goods in Iran's ports increase
Eni Turkmenistan Ltd opens tender for provision of directional drilling services
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan records industrial production value growth in 1Q2021
Azerbaijan's housing agency talks further plans on building residential complexes
Georgia not to cut economic growth forecast - Minister of Economy
Russia restricts air service with Turkey from April 15 to June 1
Iran, Afghanistan discuss bilateral ties, latest developments
Georgia faces third coronavirus wave - NCDC
Turkey welcomes Ramadan with tight measures against COVID-19
Operator of Kazakh Kashagan to hold open round-table on Marine Access Channels Project
Nvidia to directly challenge Intel with Arm-based 'Grace' server chip
New oil drilling platform activated in Turkmen sector of Caspian Sea
War Trophy Park to open for visitors in Azerbaijan’s Baku soon
Azerbaijani, Maldives FMs hold exchange views issues mutual interest
Uzbekistan discloses progress on construction of new plant of Navoiazot company
Azerbaijani FM receives delegation of Italian Senate (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan’s Baku Metro introduces solution for automatic supply of voltage to trains (PHOTO)
Several audit companies in Azerbaijan included in network of int’l organizations
Current interest rate in Azerbaijan to improve position of local capital market - Unicapital
International IT Holding of Belarus implementing big transport project in Azerbaijan
Russia's Red Wings may launch flights from Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk to Uzbekistan
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on April 13
Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds in Iran
Uzbekistan increases export volume of clothing to Kazakhstan
Iran's Natanz nuclear facility continues to operate – AEOI
UAE reports 1,928 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths
Russia allows import of tomatoes to several Azerbaijani enterprises
Israel's fiscal deficit narrows as economy begins recovery
IMF makes prediction regarding Georgian external debt
UK, EU talks on Northern Ireland are constructive, differences remain
Georgian E-Space actively cooperating with car dealers to bring new electric vehicles
Russia, Uzbekistan approve text of space co-op agreement
Uzbekistan joins CIS industrial agreement
Uzbekistan, Kuwait launching direct flights
Georgia's external debt up due to COVID-19 shock - IMF
Azerbaijan's CBA signs contract to acquire licenses for cybersecurity
Uzbekistan’s centers of public services improve work on basis of Azerbaijan's ASAN
Iran's LPG exports decreases
USDA unveils forecast for Azerbaijan's barley production
Russian Technonikol looks to build thermal insulation plants in Kazakh Almaty region
Indian-American, 5, Reads 36 Books Nonstop In 105 Minutes, Sets Record
Weekly review of Georgian's capital markets
Georgian Inert Materials Complex company investing in extraction of gravel materials
Nar’s renovates its service centers in Baku and regions (PHOTO)
India becomes largest buyer of US crude in first quarter of 2021
Turkmenistan's Mary region opens tender for construction of schools
Iran implements its plan on domestic production in full - deputy minister
Azerbaijan publishes latest data on COVID-vaccinated citizens
Investments in Kazakhstan's agriculture surge
Several international companies express interest in Georgian FDI Grant
Minister discloses amount of export of Azerbaijan’s non-oil products
Iran tightens restrictions for travelers on borders with Turkey, Iraq
Azerbaijan confirms 1,151 more COVID-19 cases, 1,052 recoveries
Georgia to place new Eurobonds
Iran looks to set up advanced centrifuges at Natanz nuclear plant
Kazakhstan increases exports to UK
Iran Oil Ministry to fund startups
Iran unveils generation capacity of thermal power plants
Azerbaijan temporarily bans import of poultry meat from several countries
Georgia shares data on revenues from tobacco excise duty
S.Korean PM, Iranian Supreme Leader's Advisor discuss frozen Iranian funds
Kazakhstan, Belarus trade surges
Potato, onion planting completed in Dashoguz region of Turkmenistan
Iran's TEDPIX sees decline
Swiss government urges voters to back COVID-19 law that foes want to ditch
Kazakhstan exceeds plan on petroleum products output
High-voltage substation with digital control system to be built in Uzbek Jizzakh region
Azerbaijani president signs order to set up new enterprises in Balakhani Industrial Park
Revenues of Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan from communication services increase
Turkish Aksa Enerji building thermal power plants in Uzbek Tashkent region
Maersk Explorer completes drilling activities for Shah Deniz
Unicorns of 2021: Gupshup, ShareChat latest entrant to $1B club; total number rises to 10
In a first, surgery restores 'right' music to man's ear
Cargo transportation in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan increases
Georgia reveals volume of pension fund's assets
Volume of SOCAR Ukraine’s aviation fuel supplies revealed
Baku Heydar Aliyev Airport gains 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating
U.S., European consumers warm up to electric vehicles, but remain wary of price
Kazakhstan’s KAZAKHALTYN delists its shares from Stock Exchange
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan sees increase in investments in fixed assets
Several contracts signed in Iran’s oil sector
Azerbaijan announces restoration of Araz newspaper's office building in liberated Fuzuli (PHOTO)
Domino's, Nuro to start robot pizza delivery in Houston
Turkmenabat cotton spinning factory of Turkmenistan exports most of its products
GDP of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan shows increase
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Economic Affairs bank talks volume of net profit for 2020
Average monthly nominal salary in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan continues to grow
Kazakhstan Railways opens tender for rolling stock repair
Turkish Ziraat Bank shares forecast for Azerbaijan's GDP in 2021-22
Kazakhstan's gas consumption exceeds plan in 1Q2021
Kazakhstan’s Ulba Metallurgical Plant announces tender for equipment repairs
Iran has greater potential in technology than in oil sector - minister
Azerbaijan discloses daily volume of oil production for March 2021
Assets of Kazakhstan’s National Fund decrease
Iran's CBI allows some traders to import commodities, instead of revenues
Iranian technology companies produce number of aviation products
OECD countries’ crude oil imports fell in 2020
Georgia implements program aimed at supporting real estate sector
Total OECD natural gas imports decrease by over 5%
IMF reveals forecast for breakeven oil price in Azerbaijan
All news