Pakistan watchGordon Brown unveils new Pakistan policy

Published 27 April 2009

Brown, calling the area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border “breeding ground for terrorism,” unveils new strategy to enhance security there

Describing the mountains and deserts between the two troubled countries as a “breeding ground for terrorism,” U.K. prime minister Gordon Brown set out the blueprint to boost development aid in the affected areas, along with support for local forces to tackle the growing threat from the Taliban.

The lawless border region is home to around twenty-five million people and has become a virtual no-go zone for NATO and the Pakistani government in recent months. Brown said: “There is a crucible of terrorism in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We know that three-quarters of the terrorist activities that happened in Britain arise from the areas around here. The safety of people on the streets of Britain is immediately being safeguarded by the action being taken here. Our strategy for dealing with this breeding ground of terrorism will mean more security on the streets of Britain.”

During the trip to the front line in Lashka Gar, Helmand Province, the prime minister had breakfast with troops from the 19 Light Brigade before meeting local Afghan councilors.

Telegraph’s Roas Prince writes that after addressing the troops at Camp Bastion, where the majority of the 8,300 British contingent are based, he then departed for talks with Hamid Karzai, the Afghani president, in the capital Kabul. The new strategy, details of which will be put before Parliament later this week, is designed to address the deteriorating security situation in the region.

In Afghanistan it will mean local security forces taking on more of the burden of fighting the Taliban, and in a system modeled on that of Iraq, the country will be handed back on a “province by province” basis. By including Pakistan in the new blueprint, Brown hopes to tackle the home-grown terrorism threat at its source.

Speaking on a visit to frontline British troops in Helmand Province, Brown said the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan was a “breeding ground for international terrorists.” “There is a chain of terrorism that goes from here round to the streets of Britain. That’s why it’s absolutely important that while we have made progress on Afghan elections, democratic government, six million children in education, hospitals as well as roads and infrastructure for the people of Afghanistan, that we defeat international terrorism and hold it back from here in Lashkar Gar, here in Helmand province, but also on the other side of the border in Pakistan. That is why we will be publishing a strategy on Wednesday to deal with the problem of terrorism across these border areas.”

The Taliban last week reached as close as sixty miles from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, has warned that instability in the nuclear state poses a major threat to world security.

Brown’s visit comes as senior British military figures have warned that the Army cannot sustain an increase in personnel in the region. Ministers had hoped that the drawdown of troops from Iraq due soon would allow for a boost in numbers serving in Afghanistan. Barack Obama has called for a large surge in numbers of NATO forces to join the battle against the Taliban.

Military top brass have said that following six years of fighting on two fronts, and with the pressures on Military of Defense budgets caused by the financial crisis, overstretched Armed Forces cannot take on an increased role in Afghanistan.