Saturday, 01 November 2014
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On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as president, while the outgoing Hamid Karzai watched calmly from a front-row seat. Washington, congratulating itself on this "peaceful transition," quickly collected the new president's autograph on a bilateral security agreement that assures the presence of American forces in Afghanistan for at least another decade. The big news of the day: the U.S. got what it wanted. (Precisely why Americans should rejoice that our soldiers will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years is never explained, says Ann Jones, U K Defence Forum Research Asociate.)

The big news of the day for Afghans was quite different - not the long expected continuation of the American occupation but what the new president had to say in his inaugural speech about his wife, Rula Ghani. Gazing at her as she sat in the audience, he called her by name, praised her work with refugees, and announced that she would continue that work during his presidency.

Those brief comments sent progressive Afghan women over the moon. They had waited 13 years to hear such words - words that might have changed the course of the American occupation and the future of Afghanistan had they been spoken in 2001 by Hamid Karzai.

                                          An action at regimental level during first Battle of Ypres, before trench warfare established 

Dai Havard MP at Gheluvelt memorial to South Wales Borderers

Gheluvelt chateau today The opening months of the First World War were a time of fluid manoeuvring, as each side sought to outflank the other; or so it now seems. We recall the 'race to the sea' and the subsequent stalemate that endured until the battles of 1918. But to those regiments of the BEF committed to action in August 1914, the picture was confused as they came to terms with the enormity of the forces ranged against them, writes Nick Watts.

Among many crisis moments in those early months, the action fought at Gheluvelt on 31st October 1914 by the 2nd Worcestershire regiment illustrates the nature of conventional warfare in 1914.

 The 2nd Worcesters landed in France on 14th August 1914. They were part of 5th Brigade in the 2nd Division. Its war establishment was 30 officers and 992 other ranks. The regiment was involved in the battle of Mons and the retreat to the Marne and the battle of the Aisne. As part of Haig's l corps they were moved north to Flanders, arriving on 15th October.

How to defeat ISIS and its like - The separation of mosque and state, proposes Ahmed Shebani.

The threat which ISIS and other Islamist terrorist organisations pose can only be understood in terms of their nihilist ideology which is bent on destroying civilisation in all its manifestations. This nihilism stems from the age old ideology of the so called implementation of "Al-Shari 'a" which is a way of life that rejects all but itself.

It would be futile to deal with this terrorist phenomenon without addressing this ideological problem of "Al-Shari'a" .At the outset, it needs to be stated that "Al-Shari'a" is a gross distortion of Islam rather than being Islam itself as commonly held. Sadly, most Muslims are not aware of this basic fact. Actually, it is correct to go as far as saying that "Al-Shari'a", as it stands, is an alternative to Islam. This abuse of Islam by the Shari'a cult is almost as old as Islam. It started with the establishment of hereditary monarchism by the Umayyad dynasty approximately 1400 years ago. The Ummayads managed through laws, which they called "Al-Shari'a", to totally stifle the democratic spirit of Islam and to turn it into a totalitarian religion in order to keep their hold on power indefinitely. They brought to a prompt end the short lived democracy of the Muslims which The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had established.

King 'Abdallah II of Jordan said recently that there was a civil war in Islam going on. He was only half right. It is not just a civil war within Islam, but across Arab society as a whole. This is not the Arab Spring turning to Winter, but something far more fundamental that the Arab Spring was simply one expression of - the fight for the very soul of the Arab world.

So while the F-15s, the Typhoons and the Mirages pour bombs on to the tyrants of ISIS, masquerading under their black flag, Western governments should stay sensitive to the fact that we are in fact fighting in conflicts far older than our technology and governments. In the heart of the Levant the ancient clash between Sunni and Shi'a is being played out in increasingly eschatological tones, but it is now enmeshed with wider, more modern conflicts; between rich and poor, moderate and conservative, urban and rural and, ultimately, over the final role of Islam in the modern Middle East society.

The outgoing Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, General Sir Richard Shirreff, addressed the U K Defence Forum on this topic last night. Although it was under the Chatham House Rule, so of his views have been previously published. They are reproduced on the next page. Nick watts, Deputy Director General, will be interviewing General Richard for Volume II of our Strategic Reflections series.

There is an appreciable risk of war between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, into which the US would be drawn, according to a new publication from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Conflict is genuinely possible, despite the potential costs to both nations far outweighing the economicvalue of the disputed territory.

NATO's Ebola 'capability gap': where are the hospital ships? asks Dr Ian Davis, Director, NATO Watch

A UK Royal Navy ship with a 100-bed medical facility, helicopters, landing craft, emergency supplies and around 400 personnel is heading for Sierra Leone to help tackle the Ebola crisis.

The 28,000-tonne Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Argus, will act as a forward base for army medics, engineers, soldiers and aid experts who will build and operate medical centres, train local doctors and nurses and transport vital supplies. About 80 medical staff will be on board, including surgeons, consultants, radiographers, anaesthetists and nurses. Some will be deployed onshore to help with the training; others will remain on RFA Argus.

While the ship will provide medical cover to British military and civilian personnel for injuries or illness while working in Sierra Leone, it will not treat anyone who contracts Ebola. Any suspected UK victims of Ebola will be evacuated to a British-run facility onshore. The aim is to keep the ship a safe, sterile environment from which the UK's efforts can be coordinated locally.

Previously I have discussed the suggestion that Ebola positive patients be transferred from West Africa to suitable isolation hospitals in well-resourced countries for treatment. The article also explored whether NATO might have a role in such an initiative. The idea of setting up emergency systems in NATO member states does appear to have merit and deserves wider debate.


RAF Tornados took part in their first armed mission over Iraq on Saturday 27th September 2014, a day after MPs voted to back British participation in airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Whilst the media focused on the rights and wrongs of military action in Iraq, little attention was paid to the fact that the decision was made by MPs rather the Prime Minister. Overlooked it may well have been but the vote cemented a constitutional development that it is now Parliament's call, not the executive's, to sanction the use of force. Whilst this new Parliamentary convention has been hailed as a landmark step in the reassertion of Parliament in international affairs, foreign policy by committee could paralyse decision-making and herald a radically diminished role for Britain on the international stage, writes Darren Griffiths.

Neil Thompson is convinced that the West should not involve itself in those states where political Islam is a major force. As he sees it, religious groups should be left to expose their own shortcomings, which should then help revive the local spread of democracy in the Middle East.

When many Westerners think of the Middle East today they tend to see a region gripped by religious and sectarian violence. Within Sunni Islam there is a struggle over religious authenticity, while secular governments in places like Egypt, Algeria and Syria face armed opposition to their rule by Islamist extremists. Meanwhile, much of the violence in long-running civil wars has taken on a sectarian nature, both between different strands of Islam and against religious minorities. Sometimes this has been encouraged as a deliberate divide-and-rule strategy by embattled regimes and, as in the case of Syria, the categories often overlap. What all the conflicts are perceived to have in common is the participation of inflexible and fanatical groups of fighters dogmatically opposed to the further modernization and Westernization of their home countries.

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