Leading Article: An Impetuous Deployment Reveals the Constraints on British Military Action
THE POSITION of the 100 Special Boat Service marines occupying the Bagram airbase outside Kabul grows more precarious by the hour. The intention, to secure a vital facility so that humanitarian and military supplies could be quickly moved into the area, may have been a laudable one, but the execution has been dreadfully botched. Why deploy such a small force without first ensuring that substantial reinforcements could be quickly moved in, and that there was political support for this potentially dangerous action? Instead, the marines are surrounded and hugely outnumbered by the soldiers of the Northern Alliance. There is even the possibility that they will soon be forced into an ignominious withdrawal. It appears that Tony Blair was rather impetuous when he ordered in British forces.
The situation at Bagram illustrates starkly that the constraints on any British action are as much political and diplomatic as they are military - and that they are much tighter than Mr Blair anticipated. His spokesmen have given the impression over the past few days that they intended to see the several thousand British troops now on standby deployed to Afghanistan as quickly as possible, with a second batch arriving yesterday. Instead, these soldiers remain on alert at home, unsure of their mission, and Mr Blair has been forced on to the back foot over his soldiers' deployment.
In his statement to the Commons last week, the Prime Minister rightly said that British forces would only be used for as long as it took for an international force to be assembled. Mr Blair also identified some clear tasks for British forces on the ground - securing routes of supply for humanitarian aid, clearing unexploded ordnance, especially mines and cluster bombs, and the protection of aid workers and other NGO personnel. But all that depends on …
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Publication information: Article title: Leading Article: An Impetuous Deployment Reveals the Constraints on British Military Action. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 2, 2001. Page number: 3. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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