PARLIAMENT & POLITICS: AFGHANISTAN: Marines Could Be Caught in Civil War, Say Labour MPs
Waugh, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
SENIOR LABOUR MPs lined up last night to warn the Government that 1,700 British troops being sent to Afghanistan risked being "bogged down" in a new civil war.
Tony Blair defended the deployment of Royal Marines Commandos to the country by insisting there was no "mismatch" between their combat role and the peace-keeping of fellow troops in Kabul. Challenged by Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, at Commons question time, Mr Blair said it was important to remember the two deployments were in different areas.
A peace protester was ejected from the public gallery after he shouted that Mr Blair should be on trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
But the Prime Minister's stance was also heavily criticised when several backbenchers, including former defence ministers, said British troops were being sent into a war zone with no clear idea of their length of stay or the extent of their opposition.
At question time, Mr Kennedy said the chief of the defence staff had "publicly cautioned against dual roles of peace-keeping and combat forces in the same place at the same time". But Mr Blair said the chief had agreed to the deployment and stressed that the 6,000 British troops in the country amounted to fewer than a tenth of the number sent to the Gulf War.
Later, opening the emergency debate, Bernard Jenkin, the shadow Defence Secretary, questioned the role of the Marines and warned that the operation desperately needed an "exit strategy".
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, admitted he could not put a precise date on when the troops would be brought home and said they would return only when the "the job is done". …