'British Citizens Are Increasingly at Risk'

British soldiers in Helmand are silhouetted against the sky as they provide security for a meeting with the Afghan National Police at the fortress of Qala-e-Bost in Lashkar Gah. (Photo: John D. McHugh / AFP-Getty Images)

Reaction to Saturday's Nimrod plane crash in Afghanistan, and Britain's role in the "War on Terror."

'R.A.F. Base Remembers Airmen'

LONDON — The Sun (Conservative tabloid), Britain, Sept. 4: The father of one of the 14 air crew killed in the Afghanistan plane crash paid tribute today to his "beautiful boy" who is now "flying with the angels" … Sgt. Knight, who served with 120 Squadron at R.A.F. Kinloss, Moray, lost his life when the station's Nimrod crashed near Kandahar at the weekend. At a press conference outside the Moray airbase, Mr. Knight Sr. said: "He (Ben) was a beautiful boy and he did what he wanted to do — he wanted to be in the R.A.F." … Prayers were said and a one-minute silence observed at the station in Moray, where 12 of the air crew with 120 Squadron were based … Station commander Group Captain Chris Birks said a four-man board of inquiry was on its way to the Middle East to investigate the cause of the crash, in which a total of 14 men lost their lives … Fire warning detectors went off at the cruising altitude of 25,000 feet and the plane plunged in a desperate dive for safety … The jet crashed in the village of Chalaghor — just miles from Kandahar Airbase's western perimeter fence.

'Britain's New Top Soldier: "Can the Military Cope? I Say — Just" '

LONDON — The Guardian (Liberal), Britain, Sept. 4: The new head of the British army has told the Guardian that his soldiers are fighting at the limit of their capacity and can only just cope with the demands placed on them by the government. Sir Richard Dannatt, who took over from Sir Mike Jackson last week, called for a national debate about what resources the armed forces should be given, and what value society should place on them … General Dannatt warned: "We are running hot, certainly running hot" He added: "Can we cope? I pause. I say 'just.' " His warning comes as the government faces renewed pressure over Britain's involvement in Afghanistan after the deaths of 14 military personnel on Saturday … The crash — the biggest single loss for the British military since the start of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 — brings the four-month toll of British military killed in action in southern Afghanistan to 27, and has once again focused attention on whether the armed services are "overstretched." Speaking exclusively to the Guardian before Saturday's crash, Gen Dannatt said British soldiers were not fighting the "fourth Afghan war" — a reference to past military disasters in the country.
—Richard Norton-Taylor

'The Drain on Men and Machines'

LONDON — The Times (Conservative), Britain, Sept. 4: Operation Herrick, the codename for the Afghan campaign, may sound like some sort of fishing expedition, but it has become one of the toughest assignments for the British Armed Forces for decades. The casualty toll has risen dramatically since the weekend crash … Despite the claims by politicians that the dispatching of troops to Helmand province was all about assisting the Afghans to rebuild their lives after years of war, the senior military commanders given the job of carrying out the political objectives knew that the Taliban would not look favorably on the arrival of thousands of foreign troops in an area of Afghanistan where they had previously enjoyed a dominating role. However, even the British commanders have had to acknowledge that the assignment has proved tougher than expected and, in a hostile environment where temperatures in the summer can reach 50°C (122°F), anything mechanical starts to suffer. All the helicopters ... have been worked so hard that frequently they have to be taken off operational duties to be given a thorough overhaul. Clearing out the sand and dust is one of the key tasks for the mechanics. There are never enough helicopters available for all the potential requirements. The Nimrod MR2, like the C130 Hercules, is an old-stager, but without these aircraft Operation Herrick would grind to a halt.
—Michael Evans

'Afghanistan: What Labor Must Do'

LONDON — The Daily Telegraph (Conservative), Britain, Sept. 4: Many of those who favor the evacuation of British troops from Basra tend, almost unthinkingly, to extend their argument to Afghanistan … British policy in the 19th century was, in effect, to find a well-disposed local chieftain and offer him support so that he could dominate any rivals — which is roughly what we are doing today, with the difference that we now lend our support to the faction elected by the Afghans themselves. By and large, the policy is working: … we are at least taking on the terrorists in the Hindu Kush rather than in British cities. All military campaigns involve danger, and ministers are culpable for not having made this clearer. However, the loss of the Nimrod, tragic as it is, does not alter the argument for continuing the fight … What it does is bloodily to underline the need to equip our troops properly. This newspaper has argued repeatedly, most recently last week, that our Armed Forces are let down by poor procurement decisions and an inadequate budget.

'Another Fatal Day in the "War on Terror" '

LONDON — The Independent (Liberal), Britain, Sept. 4: Across the Middle East, wave upon wave of violence engulfed the region and paid testament to the new, bloody reality five years on from Sept. 11. The focus of some of the violence yesterday, the victims of attacks in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Jordan, were Britons. Be they military or civilian, British citizens are increasingly at risk everywhere in the area because Britain is seen as the closest political and military ally of the U.S. A group of tourists were looking at the remains of a Roman amphitheatre in the heart of Amman, the capital of Jordan, yesterday morning when a lone gunman approached them, shouting "Allahu Akbar" — " God is Great" — and opening fire … Hundreds of miles away across the great stony desert dividing Jordan from Iraq, a British military unit came under attack at Ad Diyar, north of Basra … Still further east in Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber in a car blew himself up beside a British convoy, killing one British soldier and wounding three others, one of them seriously … One of the most extraordinary aspects of Tony Blair's analysis of militant Islam is his blindness to the extent to which foreign invasion and occupation has radicalized the region and legitimized militant Islam.
— Patrick Cockburn