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Northern Alliance turns on British troops

With an advance force of 100 Royal Marines surrounded by reportedly hostile Northern Alliance militia at the Bagram air base outside the capital, Kabul, the expected airlift of an initial 2,000 British troops into Afghanistan failed to materialise amid reports that British plans for a larger-scale deployment of up to 6,000 troops had been put in reverse.
Northern Alliance turns on British troops
Number 10 denies rift with US over use of troops
Tuesday, November 20, 2001

By Frank Millar, London Editor

BRITAIN: Mr Tony Blair's envoy was holding crucial talks in Kabul last night as Downing Street denied any rift with Washington over the deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan.

With an advance force of 100 Royal Marines surrounded by reportedly hostile Northern Alliance militia at the Bagram air base outside the capital, Kabul, the expected airlift of an initial 2,000 British troops into Afghanistan failed to materialise amid reports that British plans for a larger-scale deployment of up to 6,000 troops had been put in reverse.

Number 10 denied this, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman insisting: "The fact that we shortened the notice to move for several thousand of our forces was not a decision on deployment. To talk about a delay is to confuse that issue."

However, confusion about the coalition's intentions persisted for much of the day amid speculation that Washington may be resistant to the commitment of large numbers of troops for indefinite mission inside Afghanistan, and might prefer to rely on the continued use of air power and special forces in the continuing assault on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network.

And Mr Blair faced renewed concerns on the home front as his envoy, Mr Stephen Evans, established
Britain's "embryonic" diplomatic mission in Kabul and opened talks with the Northern Alliance about the role British troops might play.

As the government braced itself for an opening backbench rebellion against Mr David Blunkett's anti-terrorist proposals in the Commons, a former Labour defence minister warned Mr Blair against getting drawn in to "a new colonial war."

Mr Peter Kilfoyle said the deployment of more British troops could become "a distraction from the main purpose" of the coalition effort: "The main purpose is to apprehend Osama bin Laden and members of al- Qaeda. We do not want to get bogged down in a new colonial war. We need specialist forces with specialist missions."

He also said the elite Royal Marine forces, currently securing Bagram air base, should not have been sent without a clear mission.

A spokesman for Mr Blair claimed the "mandate" for that original deployment was provided by section 5 of the UN Security Council resolution urging all countries to do whatever they could to help achieve security in the region. And British government sources last night signalled their belief that differences within the Northern Alliance were in the process of being resolved.

Mr Blair's spokesman said Mr Evans' arrival in Kabul was "a significant development" and the result of recent successes against the Taliban: "It is obviously a fluid situation. There are a number of options being considered for further deployment. To talk of delays is to misunderstand the situation"

Rachel Donnelly adds: The Home Secretary, Mr David Blunkett, faced serious cross-party criticism in the Commons last night over controversial new anti-terrorism laws, which include a limited form of interment.

Mr Blunkett insisted the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill was "proportionate and reasonable" but many Labour backbenchers, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats criticised the government for allowing only three days of debate in parliament for the new measures.

Source: The Irish Times 20-11-01 www.ireland.com
www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2001/1120/wor2.htm
 
 

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