Today almost all media sources cover the war in Iraq and the activity of the most notorious terrorist group Al Qaeda. The Christian Science Monitor in one of its recent articles tried to juxtapose these phenomena and came to the conclusion that Al Qaeda is using Iraq as a training ground for its terrorists.
Rather than being subdued by the war in Iraq, Al Qaeda has "changed its modus operandi," and is using Iraq as a training ground for future terrorists and as a propaganda tool in its war against the West. Those are some of the findings of a British parliamentary committee, reports the Daily Telegraph Monday. The committee also reports that the war on terror has increased the likelihood of another "brutal attack" on Britain, similar to the one that occurred in London a year ago this week.
"Despite a number of successes targeting the leadership and infrastructure of Al Qaeda, the danger of international terrorism, whether from Al Qaeda or other related groups, has not diminished and may well have increased," it says. "Al Qaeda continues to pose an extremely serious and brutal threat to the United Kingdom and its interests."
The members of the foreign affairs select committee who wrote the report also cite evidence that tactics used by Al Qaeda in Iraq are increasingly being used by other groups.
The MPs [Members of Parliament] argue that since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, Al Qaeda has fragmented into autonomous local cells united by the same extreme ideology, but far more difficult to track than when it was under more centralized leadership. Despite this, lessons are being learned by terrorists in one theatre of war from their counterparts in another.
"We have seen methods copied from the terrorist campaign in Iraq being used in Afghanistan by Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked groups and their Afghan warlord allies to attack," the report says.
The Associated Press adds that the group also felt that while it was the hope of US and British troops to eventually hand over the responsibility of fighting insurgents to the Iraqi military, Iraqi troops "remain a long way from being able to take the lead on security across Iraq." An over reliance on Shiites and Kurds to build up troop strength has "added to tensions in a country already riven by ethnic violence."
The Financial Times reports that the committee also said the West must do more to counteract terrorist propaganda, which it called one of the major tools in Al Qaeda's arsenal. The group specifically singled out the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, which it said was "backfiring."
"We...conclude that the continuing existence of Guantánamo diminishes US moral authority and adds to the list of grievances against the US. We further conclude that detentions without either national or international authority work against British as well as US interests and hinder the effective pursuit of the 'war against terrorism'," the report said.
The Scotsman reports that the committee was concerned that the British mission in Afghanistan was in danger of "blurring" its twin mission of fighting insurgents and eradicating the opium crop. It said that there had been "negligible progress" in stopping the growing opium trade, and that Britain needed to "clarify" its mission.
The Voice of America reports that the British MPs also warned against attacking Iran, which they wrote would "likely unleash extremely serious consequences."
In Afghanistan, the BBC reports that British commanders haved asked for more troops and equipment in order to deal with fierce fighting with Taliban militants. Brigadier Ed Butler, who is in charge of UK forces, said his troops were "well-prepared and well-equipped," but said he had asked for more troops in order to deal with "changing circumstances".
The Guardian reports that while coalition military leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan leaders may have previously called the Taliban a "spent force," their assessment has changed over the past six months of intensive fighting.
The Taliban have also taken their campaign to Kandahar, a city the fundamentalists consider their spiritual capital. Iraq-style roadside bombings have killed Canadian soldiers and driven most westerners off the streets. Taliban officials stroll openly through the market and the handful of remaining western aid workers rarely venture beyond the city limits in their bullet-proof vehicles. Local staff of international organizations are intimidated by "night letters" – threatening tracts pinned to their doors under cover of darkness. "It's the worst I've seen it here," said one western official with four years' experience in Kandahar. "We see people growing their beards longer and moving their families back to Pakistan."
Finally, the Times of London reports that two other important committee reports by leading MPs to be released Monday will "condemn" British Prime MInister Tony Blair's government for "their botched efforts to give police new powers to hold terror suspects for up to 90 days."
Although the influential Home Affairs Select Committee concedes that some suspects will have to be detained without charge for longer than the present 28 days, it rebukes the Government for its failure to properly examine the police case for giving them more time.
The committee says that the Prime Minister and Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, backed the police argument on the flimsy basis of three press releases from chief police officers, a letter and a brief covering note. The MPs also criticise the police for not providing more comprehensive backing for their case instead of submitting only two sides of A4 paper describing a couple of previous terror operations.
The Times reports that Chancellor Gordon Brown, thought by many to be the eventual successor to Mr. Blair, proposed restarting the debate to extend the current 28-day holding period, but this time ensuring greater consultation with other MPs and more safeguards to protect the rights of those being held.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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