PLANS TO station large numbers of Western troops in Afghanistan have created a dangerous rift between American and British officials and are threatening to cause a new conflict with the Northern Alliance, it was claimed yesterday.
With concern growing over the safety of 120 members of the Royal Marines Special Boat Service at Bagram airbase, there was no clear indication of when 2,000 paratroopers and marines will be sent to reinforce them.
Britain's newly appointed envoy to Kabul, Stephen Evans, arrived for urgent talks with the Northern Alliance leadership to enable a British force to be deployed to do humanitarian work and attempt to prevent further conflict in a post-Taliban Afghanistan.
But in London the Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted that Alliance objections to the presence of large numbers of foreign troops on Afghan soil would not be allowed to stand in the way of their deployment. "The Prime Minister gave a pretty clear signal of our willingness and readiness to commit further forces should they be required," he said. "I doubt you have seen the last of our forces in Afghanistan."
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, faced cross-party criticism in the Commons last night for his controversial emergency anti- terrorism laws as MPs debated his plans to detain suspects without trial.
Labour backbenchers intervened to question the speed with which Mr Blunkett was pressing through the legislation. One of them, Mark Fisher, said: "When this House acts quickly, it seldom acts wisely."
After meeting the Northern Alliance's foreign minister, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, in Bagram, Mr Evans admitted more talks would be needed.
But in another sign of antipathy to foreign forces, the Northern Alliance was refusing to allow French troops …