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The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I should like to make it clear that I did not wish to suggest in any way that the Muslim communities in this country are homogeneous; they are various. But the fact is that the Pakistani community, particularly of Miripuri origin, is probably the largest and the one with which at the moment we are most concerned.
Then we must talk about Afghanistan itself and the immediate humanitarian needs on which my noble friend Lady Williams spoke very powerfully. I hope that the Minister in replying will talk about the possibility of opening up corridors through which humanitarian aid may go before the winter closes in. I hope that it will be possible for the noble Lord to say a little about how the British Government are contributing to thoughts on longer-term development. I hope that Robert Cooper, who many of us know and have a great deal of respect for, is thinking about how Britain and others may contribute towards training the next generation in Afghanistan in a different kind of state, as well as the position of women.
A number of noble Lords have talked about the region around Afghanistan and how difficult it will be to make sure that both Iran and Pakistan are on board. In some ways in the last 10 years the British Government have neglected relations with India and Pakistan. We are also now very conscious--I am sure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham also knows--that British relations with South Asia reverberate within British cities. Therefore, our relationship with both India and Pakistan, particularly where we have Kashmiri populations, is something about which there is a great deal of sensitivity.
Lastly, I want to talk about the problem of the level of rhetoric and promise in this crisis. I was one of those who was nervous about the tenor of the Prime Minister's conference speech because we do not have to pitch our expectations too high, we have to respect the limits of the possible. I well remember President Bush and his promises of a new world order. That ran rapidly into the sand. It would be unwise to promise another new world order unless we are sure that we can deliver it. We must be extremely careful not to suggest that there is another sense in the West that we are taking up the white man's burden and that we will resolve the problems of the world. It is therefore extremely important that we get the Asian countries as actively engaged as we possibly can in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its neighbours, including China.
We should recognise the mistakes made in the past 10 years and more and make a sustained effort to overcome them. We should not have abandoned Afghanistan after 1989. We must make absolutely sure that we keep a long-term effort there after this conflict is over. We allowed western policy in the Middle East to drift. We now must take a very firm grasp on the inter-connected problems of that region as a whole. We have failed to reform the United Nations. We now must take on board much more actively what we do about strengthening global institutions. We gave a low
Lord Vivian: My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for not being able to be present for the previous three emergency debates, but I can assure the House that I have read very carefully the three Hansard reports of those debates.
At this late hour I shall be brief and confine my remarks to the situation in Afghanistan. We have had a high quality debate with interesting and constructive contributions from all sides of the House. It is now my duty to wind up for these Benches. The Minister has brought us up to date with the current situation in her usual clear and concise manner. For that we are all most grateful. My noble friend Lord Howell made excellent and relevant points and asked questions which require answering; and there have been other contributions on which I shall touch later.
Perhaps I may say from the outset that it is essential that we do everything to minimise civilian casualties, but in time of war there will always be some risks to civilians even though the utmost care is taken over targeting. Regrettably, on occasions the precision systems in bombs and missiles may not function correctly causing them to go off target.
Counter-terrorism is a very complex subject. During this wind up speech I thought it might be useful to the House to repeat once again to your Lordships the stated aims of the coalition forces and to cover the military objectives and what has been achieved so far. I shall also include a brief comment on the points raised by my noble friend Lord Onslow about Exercise Saif Sareea in Oman.
However, may I say that this is not a time for the faint-hearted nor for any wavering of support for the United States of America. As already agreed, it is essential that the United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with our American allies. I am sure that your Lordships need no reminding that we are only in the second week of air strikes and missile attacks, which have been very successful and which have been essential for gaining air supremacy at medium and high levels over Afghanistan. President Bush and the Prime Minister have both warned that this is likely to be a long, drawn-out affair lasting for many months. In my opinion, the defeat of terrorism will take many decades.
Some of the aspects that involve counter-terrorism are denial and deterrence. These cannot be successfully implemented without accurate and timely intelligence. Therefore there is an imperative need to increase our flow of intelligence as quickly as possible. Without that intelligence, casualties will be far more likely and the wrong objectives might be targeted. I read with some care the comments made by the noble and
My noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, mentioned the political and military objectives which bear repeating, even briefly, in this wind-up speech. First, we want to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks on 11th September. Secondly, we want to ensure that Osama bin Laden and the Al'Qaeda network are never able to pose a terrorist threat again. Thirdly, we wish to prevent Afghanistan from harbouring and sustaining international terrorism and terrorists.
To achieve the political ends, it is necessary to have clear military objectives, which I understand to be: to destroy the enemy training camps and the equipment within them; to destroy the Taliban and its military forces, which force it into capitulation, ending its support for Osama bin Laden and Al'Qaeda; and to create the right conditions for sustained pressure to be applied for as long as it is necessary.
So, what has been achieved so far? The coalition has attacked more than 60 military targets, which have included terrorist training camps, the Taliban's military infrastructure, including their early warning and air defence capabilities, their military command and control sites, airfields, surface-to-air missile sites, military aircraft, garrisons and military maintenance bases. Nine airfields have been attacked and the vast majority of those have had their operational capability destroyed or degraded. The majority of the Taliban fighter planes, helicopters and transport aircraft have been destroyed and no longer does the Taliban airforce pose a threat. All our military objectives have not yet been achieved, but Al'Qaeda will now find it very difficult to train its terrorists, as nine of its camps have been attacked. Many of them are not useable and others have been badly damaged.
The future is not at all clear and it would be very wrong of me to gaze into a crystal ball and predict what may happen. If we are to have security of information we should not be told about future plans. The press and television should stop speculating on the future and confine themselves to reporting facts and what has actually happened. However, I think it is reasonable to say, first, that the severe winter conditions which are only a few weeks away will have a bearing on the timing of future operations; and, secondly, that in counter-terrorist operations, small search and destroy
I have noted and agree with the interesting points and comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I was also grateful to hear the interesting views of my noble friend Lord Moynihan on the causes of terrorism. Likewise, I agree fully with the points made by my noble friend Lady Cox.
I shall now turn briefly to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Onslow on the current exercise in Oman Saif Sareea. In the main, I agree with the points that he has made. After all, as he has told us, he was on that exercise recently. I believe he said that he went last week. But I would not like your Lordships to go away with the impression that the Challenger 2 tank is useless. That is not the case at all. The fact of the matter is that the version of Challenger 2 possessed by the Army is the one that was designed automotively for European climates and terrain. There is a different version, known as A1, which operates in temperatures above 49 degrees. The gun control equipment has worked perfectly.
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