Britain’s mission in Afghanistan could last for up to 40 years, the next head of the Army warns today in an exclusive interview with The Times.
General Sir David Richards, who becomes Chief of the General Staff on August 28, said: “The Army’s role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years.”
He emphasised that British troop involvement, currently 9,000-strong, should only be needed for the medium term, but insisted that there was “absolutely no chance” of Nato pulling out. “I believe that the UK will be committed to Afghanistan in some manner — development, governance, security sector reform — for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said. [continued…]
Behind the rise of Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan lie factors that are not going to be resolved by a missile fired from a drone.
Firstly, there is the fusion of Pashtun tribal identity with a radical Islamic identity. The latter has only ever really thrived when grafted onto a sense of local belonging. Hamas in the Gaza Strip represent radical Islam and Palestinians. Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, about the only off-shoot of the terror group that is thriving at the moment, are, as their name suggests, firmly fixed on a real location. Al-Qaida in Iraq failed through being insufficiently Iraqi, reduced at the end to pretending leaders were from Baghdad when they were Egyptian. But the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) knew who they were and where they were from. They were Pashtuns from the Pakistani side of the frontier that has split their tribal lands for over a century.
In 1998 and 1999, I travelled widely in FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies or Areas) where the TTP and Mehsud were strongest. At the time, I met no hostility. In 2001, as bombs rained on Afghanistan, I travelled up into the Khyber Agency and was warned by Pashtun contacts that the Taliban’s war was their war. So, they added, was that waged by al-Qaida. This remains the case today. This intertwining of ethnic identity, religion and politics will take decades to undo. [continued…]
A deputy to Baitullah Mehsud claimed Saturday that the Pakistani Taliban chief was not killed by a CIA missile strike, contradicting another aide who confirmed Mehsud’s death a day earlier.
His claim, reported widely by Pakistani media, flies in the face of growing confidence among U.S. and Pakistani officials that Mehsud died, and it could be a tactical maneuver aimed at delaying a decision on who will succeed Mehsud.
Local intelligence officials acknowledged Saturday that the missile strike said to have killed the Taliban chief was carried out with Islamabad’s help, indicating growing coordination between the two countries despite Pakistan’s official disapproval of the strikes. [continued…]