MOD / FCO lose data on a stick - prime Minister lied to House of Commons about plans for military training camp for Taliban in Musa Qala
Independent today Revealed: British plan to build training camp for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan
Gordon Brown The Prime Minister made a statement to the UK Parliament on 12 th December 2007 : "Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating their leaders. We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."Hansard 12 Dec 2007 : Column 303
He was tackled about this by David Cameron ..."Press headlines say clearly that the Government plan to talk to the Taliban, but the Prime Minister said in his statement that “we will not” talk to “these people ..... can the Prime Minister clear this up and tell us what he will do to investigate how this took place?"
In response the Prime Minister reiterated ..."Let me repeat what I said in my statement—that our aim is to isolate and eradicate the Taliban insurgency and to isolate the leadership. We are not negotiating with the leadership and we do not propose to do so." Hansard 12 Dec 2007 : Column 310
ooops ..... Having mislaid a memory stick - the contents of which have been revealed by The Independent - they can now publish today, evidence that the UK Gubment were actively in detailed discussions directly with the Taliban leaders , plans to build a Taliban training camp outside Musa Qala, in Helmand, for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed. The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December and involved a UK plan to use bands of reconciled Taliban, called Community Defence Volunteers, to fight the remaining insurgents.
The Afghan government claims they prove British agents were talking to the Taliban without permission from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, despite Gordon Brown's contrary claim.
The British Government (apparently) insist President Karzai's office knew what was going on. But Mr Karzai has expelled two top diplomats amid accusations they were part of a plot to buy-off the insurgents.
The Independent go on to claim that President Karzai's political mentor, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, endorsed a death sentence for blasphemy on the student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh last week, and two British contractors have been arrested in Kabul on, it is claimed, trumped up weapons charges. The developments are seen as a deliberate defiance of the British.
The (un-encrypted and therefore easily read files) computer memory stick at the centre of the row was impounded by officers from Afghanistan's KGB-trained National Directorate of Security after they moved against a party of international diplomats who were visiting Helmand.The computer stick contained a three-stage plan, called the European Union Peace Building Programme. The third stage covered military training.
The memory stick revealed that $125,000 (£64,000) had been spent on preparing the camp and a further $200,000 was earmarked to run it in 2008, an Afghan official said. The figures sparked allegations that British agents were paying the Taliban.
A ministry insider said: "When they were arrested, the British said the Ministry of the Interior and the National Security Council knew about it, but no one knew anything. That's why the President was so angry."
The Western delegates, Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson, were given 48 hours to leave the country on Christmas Day. (See Lord Patel Dec 26th)Their Afghan colleagues, including a former army general, were jailed. The expulsions coincided with a row within the Taliban's ranks which saw a senior commander, Mansoor Dadullah, sacked for talking to British spies. One official claimed the camp was planned for Mansoor and his men.
Afghan government staff also claimed the "EU peace-builders" had handed over mobile phones, laptops and airtime credit to insurgents. They said the memory stick revealed plans to train the Taliban to use secure satellite phones, so they could communicate directly with UK officials.
It is claimed that the British Ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, cut short his Christmas holiday to meet President Karzai and "spell out the Foreign Office paper-trail" which diplomats claim proves his government had agreed. They met twice, Mr Semple and Mr Patterson left the country.
The Independent provide this timeline ;
* December 11
British and Afghan troops take Musa Qala, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand, after President Hamid Karzai reveals that a senior Taliban commander swapped sides.
* December 23-24
The acting head of the EU mission, Michael Semple, and the third-ranking UN diplomat in Afghanistan, Mervyn Patterson, hold talks with local dignitaries and Taliban sympathisers in Helmand. Afghan secret police arrest their colleague, General Stanikzai, and seize a memory stick containing plans for training camps.
* December 25
Semple and Patterson are given 48 hours in which to leave Kabul and leave 48 hours later.
Perhaps they should get back to messengers carrying messages in a forked stick.
Lengthy, detailed piece about this over at Moon over Alabama with excellent and informed comment.