§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean rose to move, That this House takes note of recent developments in relation to the coalition against international terrorism.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is the fourth time since 11th September that the House has had the opportunity of debating the international community's response to the threat of global terrorism.
§ In the three debates that we have had so far there has rightly been much questioning of the decisions taken by the Government. The proceedings have also been characterised by wholehearted, bipartisan support for our comprehensive approach, in which military, humanitarian and diplomatic efforts are of equal importance.
§ The breadth of that support has been a great source of strength for the country, for those of us with the responsibility of government and, very importantly, for our Armed Forces. We have been united in our admiration of the professionalism, effectiveness and, above all, dedication and courage of those who willingly risk their lives to make the world a safer place. Ours are the finest Armed Forces in the world, and we should again pay tribute to them today. Our thoughts are also with the patient and brave families who wait at home for their loved ones.
§ The previous Statement and debate in the House took place on the day after the start of military action. It has since continued for the past 11 days, with one pause last Friday. Cruise missiles launched from a Royal Navy submarine were involved on the first night and on 13th October. We have continued to be 751 involved in the military action through the provision of refuelling and reconnaissance aircraft and the use of our facilities at Diego Garcia.
§ Our overall assessment of the strikes that have so far been carried out is that we have significantly impacted Al'Qaeda's capacity to train terrorists and have inflicted real damage on elements of the Taliban's military infrastructure. Achievement of the latter is, of course, essential if we are to end its support of Al'Qaeda. My noble friend Lord Bach will say more about that later.
§ Few conflicts are resolved by military action in a matter of days, and this was never going to be one of them. As both President Bush and the Prime Minister made clear from the outset, the terrain, the weather and the complexity of the targets mean that we can expect no early conclusion to this campaign. It will indeed be a long haul. It may take months, not days or weeks. As the United States President and the Prime Minister have underlined, a range of military tactics will be deployed. That is because we must eliminate the threat posed by terrorism. We need to remember that the threat is to our nation as a whole, to our families, to our places of work and to our communities.
§ The campaign objectives are set out in detail in a document lodged in the Library of the House. That document shows that the action has been carefully calibrated, that every effort has been made to ensure that it is proportionate to the task and that it meets our obligations under international law. Our objectives bear repetition here. They are clear and they are achievable. We must bring bin Laden and other Al'Qaeda leaders to justice and eliminate the terrorist threat that they pose. We must ensure that Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism. If the Taliban regime does not comply with that objective, we must bring about sufficient change in that regime to ensure that its links with international terrorism are broken. The goal is to re-build stability in Afghanistan and thus help stabilise the region.
§ And let us be clear on this: our military action is focused on Osama bin Laden, the Al'Qaeda network and their Taliban allies. No further action is contemplated by the UK Government at present. The US President is also clearly focused on the operation in Afghanistan.
§ Some individuals may ask why military action is necessary and we should be clear about that. No one wants military action; it is always an awesome responsibility to decide to take it. By its very nature, it risks the lives of our servicemen and women and the lives of those who may get caught up in the conflict. We wanted a peaceful solution to the crisis following 11th September but the Taliban chose a different route.
§ A peaceful and achievable path was laid out very clearly by the US President and our Prime Minister from an early date: an ultimatum to the Taliban regime to hand over Osama bin Laden and his associates; to close down the Al'Qaeda network and terrorist camps; 752 and to enable us to verify this. It bears repeating, and repeating again, that by rejecting this approach, by continuing to harbour and give support to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, it was the Taliban who chose to reject the path of peace.
§ The international community agrees with us. They know that this military action is needed. Canada, New Zealand, Australia, France and Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal have all offered direct military support. The 15 countries of the European Union and the 19 members of NATO have all endorsed military action. Only yesterday, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union declared total solidarity with the United States. The United Nations Security Council in a unanimous resolution on 12th September expressed its readiness to take "all necessary steps" to defeat this terrorism; and the action taken is fully consistent with Article 51 of the UN Charter. We have not only justice on our side; what we are doing is justified under international law.
§ Rightly, questions are raised about civilian casualties. I assure your Lordships that we are making every effort to avoid civilian casualties in the present conflict by rigorously targeting military and terrorist assets only. Of course, the possibility of accidents and errors cannot be eliminated altogether. Fortunately they are rare, but there is always the chance that things will go wrong, however much care is taken. That is one of the huge responsibilities of those who decided that military action was necessary in the first place. But let us be crystal clear on one point: there is no moral equivalence between us and our enemy. While we seek to minimise civilian casualties, the terrorists seek to maximise them. That is exactly what they did on 11th September.
§ The people of Afghanistan have suffered for years from conflict and civil war, often fuelled by the outside world, which has not done nearly enough to help them. The Taliban regime and Al'Qaeda are the latest in a long line of calamities to befall them. But it should be perfectly clear that we cannot give the people of Afghanistan all the help they need until the influence of the terrorists is broken.
§ Perhaps I may try to deal with some of the issues which I know are troubling your Lordships and others about the humanitarian problem. The international community has been trying to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan for years. It was a humanitarian crisis that was exacerbated by the Taliban regime and its policies. For years the Taliban regime has been obstructing international efforts to help. And right now, the blockage to the delivery of humanitarian assistance is being created by the Taliban. Even now, the Taliban continues to hamper aid deliveries by imposing unacceptable taxes, looting supplies and offices and harassing local United Nations and NGO staff.
§ Humanitarian assistance is as important a part of our strategy as the military campaign. We are working with other donors to relieve the suffering. The International Development Secretary has pledged a further £15 million, on top of the £25 million pledged 753 since 11th September and the £32 million we have committed to the Afghan crisis since 1997. We have also earmarked £11 million for the poorest communities within Pakistan. The European Union has undertaken to mobilise without delay aid amounting to more than £200 million.
§ Aid is getting through. Perhaps I may give your Lordships some figures which I hope will answer some of the points. The World Food Programme deliveries have increased from an average of 200 metric tonnes per day to 900 metric tonnes per day. Since 7th October, the WFP reports that more than 5,000 metric tonnes of food has entered the country.
§ Of course much more needs to be done to get vital relief supplies into Afghanistan. The WFP's target is to transport 52,000 metric tonnes of food into Afghanistan every month. So far this month, it has dispatched 11,000 metric tonnes, of which 6,000 metric tonnes has managed to reach its destination. The remainder is either in transit or stuck at border crossings.
§ This must be an international effort. The appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Foreign Minister of Algeria and a distinguished and able international diplomat and statesman, to have overarching authority over these life-saving operations at the United Nations, is the clearest possible signal of the importance we attach to the humanitarian coalition. When the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary saw Ambassador Brahimi last week, they assured him of the United Kingdom's wholehearted commitment.
§ Relief is the most urgent task. But Ambassador Brahimi has also been given a political responsibility for the longer term reconstruction of Afghanistan. This, too, is vital to our long-term security and to the fight against terrorism. And even before we embarked on this fight against terrorism, Britain was taking a leading role in shaping international thinking on the long-term future of Afghanistan.
§ Some of your Lordships will be concerned about what more the international community can do; for example, what more the United Nations can do. In the weeks since the atrocities in the US, we have worked towards a shared vision with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and regional players. A senior Foreign Office official, Robert Cooper, has been appointed to develop our thinking on the future of Afghanistan and to work with the UN on building a consensus on the way forward as the situation develops.
§ The world agrees that any future regime in Afghanistan should be broad-based and representative of the great diversity of the country's ethnic groupings. The domination of Mullah Omar's faction and the grouping which produced them cannot simply be replaced by another narrow faction, whether it be the Northern Alliance or some other group, because no regime will be sustainable unless it commands broad consent among those it would seek to govern.754
§ Therefore, the United Nations will play a key role. I am sure everyone will join me in congratulating the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his organisation as worthy winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. In Afghanistan, they will have yet another opportunity to demonstrate their value to the world, just as they have done so often in recent years; for example, in Kosovo, in East Timor and across the continent of Africa.
§ The United Nations is the only truly global organisation. It alone has the global reach, the instruments and the expertise to help the Afghan people establish the conditions for successful government in their country. Our task is to make sure that Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi also have the resources and the political backing to make that happen. We will do all we can.
§ The broader objectives of our campaign are to root out terrorism wherever it exists in the world. This involves strengthening domestic legislation and international co-operation against terrorists and their funds. It will involve sustained pressure on those states which aid and abet terrorism.
§ Domestically, the Government are taking steps within the United Kingdom to address this long-term threat. There can be no safe havens for terrorists. We will systematically attack their finances and movements until the machinery of terror is dismantled.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary both made Statements to the House of Commons on 15th October on freezing terrorist assets and emergency legislation to strengthen our own antiterrorist laws. The measures include making it an offence for financial institutions to fail to report suspected terrorist transactions and giving law enforcement agencies full access to passenger and freight information which air and sea carriers will be required to retain. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 will be overhauled to prevent anyone suspected or convicted of terrorist involvement being considered for asylum.
§ Internationally, UN Security Council Resolution 1373 is the centrepiece of the global efforts. It represents a significant crackdown on those who fund and provide safe havens for terrorists, and Britain as chair of the Security Council committee which oversees the implementation of Resolution 1373 will play a key role in its success. I am sure that everyone will join me in expressing our thanks to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our Ambassador to the UN, who will oversee that task. There is no better man for the job.
§ We are now supported by the broadest possible range of countries from east and west, north and south, Muslim and non-Muslim. We are not at war with Islam; nor do we seek a clash of civilisations. Islam is part of our civilisation—a full and valuable part—and Muslims are part of our communities and a part of what was attacked on 11th September. Our quarrel with Mullah Omar and the Taliban regime is not over their religious practices, but the terrorism that they propagate and support. I know that the Prime 755 Minister and Secretary of State—indeed, all Ministers—have repeated that over and over again, but it bears repeating over and over again. We cannot say it often enough. There are those who want our Islamic community here and overseas to believe something quite different—of course they do—to try to justify the murders that they have committed and the murders that they say they want to commit. Bin Laden wants to drive a wedge between the Islamic world and the West, and we must not let him succeed. The terrorists are the enemies of the Islamic community, as they are the enemies of everyone who believes in tolerance, fairness and inclusiveness in our society and in global society.
§ We all suffer from the threat of terrorism, no matter from which part of the world we hail or which religion we practise, and we all have an interest in removing it. The Government and people of Pakistan recognise this. We should once again praise their courage in taking a firm stand against terror and supporting the military action.
§ We have to resolve the conflicts and the perceived injustices which terrorists exploit for their own ends. I know that a number of noble Lords have concerns about how all that is now happening will affect what is going on in the Middle East. At a time when the rest of the world is coming together to combat terrorism fighting continues in the Middle East. Our efforts to secure a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement are more important now than they were before. We were all profoundly shocked at the news of the assassination yesterday of the Israeli Minister for Tourism, Rechavam Ze'evi. The Foreign Secretary telephoned Shimon Peres immediately to express the shock of the British Government at what had happened and to ask that our condolences be passed to the Minister's family. This terrible news underlines so vividly the need for a peace process. It also underlines the potential of extremists who aim to disrupt that process. They must not be allowed to achieve their objectives. We call on the Palestinian Authority to do all that it can to bring the perpetrators to justice and we call on Israel to demonstrate the utmost restraint.
§ But the peace process was important before yesterday and before 11th September. The Mitchell plan was on the table for months. Resolving the Middle East peace process had been a top priority for this country, the US and the EU long before that. On 15th October my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary discussed the way forward with Yasser Arafat. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians will come only through a political process which implements "land for peace" and brings security for Israel within recognised borders and an end to occupation and leads to a viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state. It is time for the political will which exists on both sides to be turned into reality, and it is time that the men of violence have the wisdom to recognise that a concession which helps secure a lasting peace for the young people of the region is not a concession at all but an immense gain.756
§ We all want peace but sometimes there can be no peace until we have fought for it. I understand the fears which military action evokes, but the action that we are taking with our allies is designed to make the world safer, not more dangerous. By far the greater danger would lie in leaving the threat of terrorism unchallenged. The closure of the House of Representatives is another reminder of the will of some to undermine democracy. Military action is essential to avert more terrorist attacks.
§ But the military action is only part of the fight against terrorism. The surest way to defeat these evils is to build a more inclusive world where the cries of the people of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Kosovo do not go unheard. Of course the critics will say that we cannot succeed and we shall make the situation worse, but they said the same about the Kosovo campaign and look what happened. Now there is a democratic Serbia, Milosevic is in the dock, refugees are returning and new prosperity is on the way.
§ I believe that the world is coming together in a new community to tackle terrorism, but in that process we must consider honestly what allows terrorism to grow and why some ground appears to be so very fertile for the men of violence to propagate their terrible evil. We must try to learn from this process, use all of our formidable assets to understand how terrorism can flourish and do everything that we can to extinguish injustice and suffering. We have a huge responsibility not only to defeat terrorism but to deal with the circumstances that terrorists exploit in their desire to spread their evil. We believe that there will be a better future for the people of Afghanistan and, we hope, a safer world for all of us. This Government are committed to that task. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of recent developments in relation to the coalition against international terrorism.—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, five weeks after the carnage in New York and Washington I again repeat from these Benches our full endorsement of what we understand to be the Government's high purposes and the policy of standing shoulder to shoulder with our American allies and the whole coalition of nations, which I believe now numbers up to 36. We give this endorsement and support not just for tactical reasons but because we believe that that policy and direction are right and just and are the way to peace and to stopping the perpetrators killing again, which they almost certainly will do unless they are stopped.
Nevertheless, I suggest that our support justifies putting a number of questions where perhaps greater clarity and reassurance are needed and asking the Government to extend their thoughts a little into the future about how the scene will shape itself. First, the immediate military objectives are set out very clearly. The Foreign Secretary's paper which was placed in the Library of the other place outlines without any 757 difficulty or blurring the immediate objectives: to destroy the Taliban infrastructure, get the troops on the ground and then, presumably, surround and corner Osama bin Laden and his odious and evil crew. Those are military objectives which we understand. They will not be easy but they are clearly definable.
But we come to the wider objectives in the Foreign Secretary's paper which the noble Baroness has also mentioned. As to those, it is perhaps time to explore a little how we are to advance towards them. The wider objectives are fairly bold rhetoric; they speak of eliminating the threat of terrorism—the noble Baroness repeated that phrase—and changing the entire climate in which terrorism is conducted. They are very big ambitions. We certainly welcome what has been proposed so far, in particular the Government's measures to cut off the lifeline of funds to terrorist operations, where they can be identified—that is not easy—and the efforts of other members of the coalition and the European Union package which has been agreed. I am not sure that it adds all that much to what nations are agreeing by international co-ordination, but the general direction is welcome.
But one must ask: what are the limits of the campaign and at which terrorism is one to begin to aim? We have spoken a great deal about Al'Qaeda. That seems to be Mr bin Laden's organisation which he manipulates. The world is full of other networks of organisations. We have the Tamil Tigers who are said to be financed in part from London. I was reminded only yesterday by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner that, in the past five years, of the 250 suicide bombers who have assassinated people, 163 have been Tamil Tigers. Of course, many Tamils are peaceful, but these were the dedicated terrorists.
What do we say about that? What do we say about A1-Gama'a t A1-Islamiya, Hezbollah, the Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, Abu Nidal, ETA, Mujaheddin e Khalq or the Colombian Marxist guerrillas, all of whom are highly committed to assignation, killing and terror of the most brutal and poisonous kind?
The noble Baroness mentioned the news from America about anthrax. I am the first to concede that we do not know the source. It may be exaggerated. It may be inside America, although high authorities in America are already pointing to Iraq as a country which has the facility to produce the higher-grade anthrax which is causing the scares. We need to be kept up to date on that in case our assumption that it is local is too complacent.
Above all, we need to think about our own back yard. By that I refer to the terrorism that has bedevilled Northern Ireland for many years. We on this side of the House very much want the peace process to work. However, the lesson of Northern Ireland from 20 years ago when I had the privilege of serving there—it is a lesson that echoes down to today—is that peace processes work only if at the same time terrorism is under constant assault. It must be a twin-track process. That applies as much in the Middle East as in Northern Ireland.
758 On Tuesday, some of us felt that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, had difficulty in grasping this central point; that one cannot proceed to negotiate with those who are still half committed to terror and that terrorist extremism can always undermine the processes of reconciliation. It did in the early 1970s when I was involved, and it could again today if we are not careful. We are of course at a very delicate moment in the Northern Ireland scene. We must be absolutely firm and clear-sighted. My noble friend Lady Park intervened with a devastating comment, reminding us that the bloodstained killers of ETA and the equally bloodstained Colombian guerrillas are apparently in association and have connections with part of IRA/Sinn Fein. We must be absolutely frank and open about that if we want to see these people stay at the table together and not pull away in a swirl of mistrust, as has happened in the past. Until that is fully understood, the peace process in Northern Ireland will not fully go forward as it should.
We need a firm and clear-sighted view from Ministers and from the Government about what is terrorism and what is not if the full stand of the Government, which we totally support, against terrorism worldwide is to be rounded out and given full validity.
My second question concerns the next stage in the politics of Afghanistan and the changes in the Afghan leadership. I was pleased to hear that the excellent Mr Robert Cooper is turning his considerable brain to this matter. He will have his work cut out because the complexities are enormous. I suppose that question number one is: What about the Northern Alliance? Has it within the past 48 hours become acceptable in a way that it was not before? Suddenly, the news from Washington seems to have changed in its favour. Is it right? What do we think of its offer for a month's delay before it attempts to march on Kabul? Is that some kind of arrangement between the Northern Alliance and Washington? Is that wise? I do not know. The experts say that "General Winter" will sweep in and prevent anyone marching anywhere in a few week's time. Is there a danger that an initiative is about to be lost; that winter will entrench the Taliban and will by the spring leave it in a more powerful position instead of in a weaker one?
Is there a means by which the allies and the coalition can find a third way—a middle way—between what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in a very interesting article, described as "intervention and indifference"? Is there a way between those two? Last time indifference led to total tragedy. In past times too much intervention and the insertion of puppet rulers have also led to tragedy. Is there a middle way between them? Can we hear more thoughts from the Government on that matter?
Who and what will form the broad-based coalition that will not be quite Northern Alliance and not totally Taliban and will not cause too much trouble in Pakistan and somehow will satisfy the Iranians in Tehran? How will that be sorted out? Have UK Ministers met the ex-king, Mohammed Zahir Shah? I read that the foreign ministers of Italy and France and 759 a number of other countries have met him in Rome and discussed issues with him. In particular, they have discussed the development of the Supreme Council of National Unity. That may be the nexus, the formation point, for this future broad-based government. We need to know whether our Ministers have been included or excluded from that.
We have heard much about the important role of the UN. But what about the idea of a UN peace-keeping force? It is not one that immediately attracts me, but the suggestion has been around that it should be led by Muslim countries, or possibly by Turkey—part Muslim, part Christian—and that there is a role for such a force. I know that Turkey is obviously a key player in that. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary has been there overnight, seeking to keep Turkey well within the coalition because obviously it has a crucial role to play.
A host of other issues have come swirling up. I agree with the noble Baroness that they should not be directly confused with 11th September and the need to corner those who did that frightful thing. Nevertheless, they should not be neglected as they are related to the broader underlying sentiments in the crisis. There is the appalling situation in Israel as tit-for-tat killing continues. I join the noble Baroness and others in pleading and urging on Israel, despite the terrible provocation that it has had, maximum restraint. I hope that we go back not only to the Mitchell recommendations but to the Barak proposals. They went a long way toward meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people. I still do not understand why Mr Arafat and his colleagues turned them down so flatly. It would have been better if we had been able somehow to build on those.
But this is the oldest argument in the world and there is no time for it now. We know the feelings of the two sides. We share the idea of a guaranteed Palestinian state, but we also share and need to repeat the commitment of the guarantee for the continued existence of Israel and not its destruction, in which too many Palestinians are brought up to believe.
This stage in the campaign is inevitably a time when there are a few waverers and a little despondency begins to creep around. I have heard that wavering from all political parties. I have even heard one or two discordant voices from the right reverend Prelates' Bench. I certainly have heard it from the councils of the European Union where there appear to be sharply different views on the virtues of the present policy.
From our point of view the military objectives are clear. We support the Government in that. We agree with the Prime Minister that the testing time is clearly to come. People say that we are losing the propaganda war. That is a wrong phrase because it implies that what we have to say is propaganda. It is not. We have a message of truth and good intent. However, it is worth reminding ourselves that while people talk of terrorist networks there is a much bigger network of millions of selfless individuals, voluntary groups, agencies, organisations and well-intentioned governments, Christian, Muslim and secular, all of whom are 760 determined to use the vast resources of the capitalist world—that is where the wealth lies—to bring food, medicine, education, skills and, in the longer-term, better governance and better life. That is what we are trying to bring to the Afghan people and indeed to the poor people of the world generally.
Are those western values? I prefer to call them the values of common humanity. Compared with the repression, intolerance, hate, murder and depravity of those who have distorted the good name of Islam and seized it for terrorist purposes, I have no hesitation in saying that those values of common humanity are superior. If we lose faith in that, we lose everything. But if we proclaim it, then there is a chance that we shall begin to win over hearts and minds more effectively than in the past. However, to do so we need—I shall repeat the words that have been used by the noble Baroness—the utmost resolve to see the matters through to the end".Those were also the words used by the Prime Minister. We want him very much indeed to mean them.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Government on being so accountable to Parliament and on consistently allowing another opportunity for discussion of this continuing crisis. We are grateful to them and I am sure that the whole House appreciates the time that has been made available for these important debates.
I should like to follow what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, with regard to the paper provided by the Foreign Secretary. It is extremely helpful. I shall make two comments on it. First, the battle to destroy the terrorist network that supports Osama bin Laden could be a very long business indeed. The Minister made that point clearly. It is not easy to track down even the leader of a terrorist group. Furthermore, the spores of this terrorism—to use a metaphor from the anthrax threat—have spread throughout almost the whole of the civilised world.
Just before I came into the Chamber for our debate, the latest piece of news suggested that an anthrax outbreak has taken place in Kenya. One can say now that continent after continent is being caught up. I recognise that we do not yet know who is responsible for causing these attacks, but we do know that the entire world is moving into an area of deep uncertainty in which we do not quite know where the enemy is to be found, or even exactly who is the enemy. That is a different form of warfare from that which any of us has experienced in the whole of our lives. That is what will make it particularly hard for the Government to sustain public support over a long period of time. Those of us who recognise and support what they are trying to do are aware of the difficulty.
Secondly, efforts are now concentrating more closely on replacing the Taliban government. Understandably, that is a tangible and probably relatively more achievable goal. It may well be that developments over the coming few days—although I 761 am in no position to forecast what those might—be will offer some indications that very great tensions are developing within the Taliban coalition. Rumours and reports are now circulating that senior members are now beginning to break away and that junior members are starting to realise that there may be other loyalties that are more attractive to them than the Taliban.
In that context, and without wishing to embarrass the Government in any way, perhaps I may take up an aspect of a theme raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I hope that the Government can assure the House that, at least for the time being, our targets will remain clearly focused on those two ends and their associated aims. I say that because I have been somewhat disturbed by suggestions that certain elements within our own coalition would like to widen the goals of the objective without clear evidence that that would be a sensible or constructive course. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a disturbing article which appeared on 12th October in the New York Times. It reported that a letter sent by Mr Negroponte, the new US Ambassador to the United Nations, to the Security Council suggesting a widening of the objectives of this war had not been seen by the Secretary of State. If that is the case, that is a very disturbing report.
I turn now to the question of what kind of administration might succeed the Taliban. Like the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I am delighted to hear that Mr Cooper is to be associated with that effort. Perhaps I may suggest that, as well as considering the importance of representing the different tribal peoples of Afghanistan—many Members of the House with greater historical knowledge of that country are aware of how profoundly fragmented along tribal lines it is—Mr Cooper should be invited by our Minister to look at how the non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan might be brought into some kind of transitional council. Furthermore, the Minister will not be surprised to learn that, among others, I have in mind those struggling organisations which represent women in Afghanistan. They have not been included in or offered any kind of role in any government of that country since the days of the former king, who appointed several women Ministers to his administration.
Afghanistan is a country steeped in hatred and blood. It is extremely important that we hear a voice other than that of the warrior tradition bent on revenge and retaliation which has characterised the country for a period of 70 to 80 years. That means that we must look for voices in the population other than those which have traditionally represented the governments of Afghanistan. However, I fear that the traditional voices will dominate any durbar or council of the tribes. While obviously those voices must be heard, other currently suppressed voices need to be heard as well.
Like the Minister, I shall address the humanitarian crisis. None of us needs to underline how desperate the situation is. The Minister has made it plain. Let me also say that we on these Benches fully recognise the obstructions put in place by the Taliban—whether 762 official or unofficial, I do not know. Those include attempts to stop and attack convoys, harass the drivers and so forth. But we would be less than honest if we did not recognise that one of the main reasons why the truck drivers are reluctant to enter Afghanistan—many reports to this effect have been filed by the various aid organisations—is that, like us, they are human beings and understandably they are frightened of being strafed, bombed or burned. It would not matter much which side committed the attack.
Yesterday in the other place, my right honourable friend the Leader of the Liberal Democrats raised the question of whether we had carefully explored the possibility of establishing demilitarised corridors through what is largely but not entirely Northern Alliance-held territory. The Prime Minister was kind enough to give the query a reasonably affirmative response. Perhaps the Minister can say a little more about that proposal, because if the Taliban does not implode quickly, we all know that we shall encounter the desperate situation of the winter closing in. That will affect at least 1.5 million people who do not have enough food to sustain them through to next spring.
In that context, we all know that it is absolutely vital to retain a coalition of people of many different races and religions. That coalition will be profoundly affected by whether all those people believe that the twin track of the Government's policy, incorporating the humanitarian arm, is being pursued as assiduously as possible.
I should like to raise a question which has not received much attention during our debates. Here I declare an interest as a member of the board of the International Crisis Group. Yesterday I met a team which has just returned from Central Asia. I am not sure that many of us are aware of just how extraordinarily fragile is the situation in that region. A significant and important base for aircraft and other military units has been established in Uzbekistan, which is a majority Muslim country. It has a relatively small, rather weak fundamentalist Islamic group called the UMI. Until now that group has not caused any serious trouble because it is relatively small, but there is a considerable danger that, in the course of bringing into Uzbekistan more military equipment, we may begin to create an active fundamentalist movement, which has not existed so far.
A second point I should like to make in the context of Central Asia is this. They, too, have a desperate need for support and food. The International Crisis Group team, which I believe is a well-respected and professional organisation, estimates that around half a million Uzbeks are fleeing from the drought-ridden Aral Sea for lack of anything to eat. About the same number of people in Tajikistan are already filling the refugee camps there. I hate to add to the Government's burdens, but the truth of the matter is that, as well as Afghanistan, as well as the refugee camps in Pakistan, that fragile area of Central Asia on which we now depend for strategic reasons is itself moving very close to a humanitarian crisis.
763 I do not wish to delay the House, but there are a couple of other points I want to raise. The first point may not immediately seem relevant, although I believe it to be profoundly relevant. We have not talked a great deal about the way in which the Taliban is fundamentally financed by drug trade interests, although the Minister did refer to the issue on one or two occasions during the early stages of the crisis. Those drug trade interests carry on into the countries bordering Afghanistan to the west. They are not exclusive to Afghanistan.
In our efforts to root out terrorism, paradoxically we are also engaged in the effort to root out the drug trade. That is why the Minister's remarks about the extreme importance of strengthening the whole of our legislative, financial and supervisory structure go well beyond terrorism itself—terrible though that is—to another of the scourges which today confront the human race. They all hang together.
I turn now to the final part of the Minister's remarks and those of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, which concerned the absolutely vital necessity of tackling not only the symptoms but also the causes of terrorism. We have a great deal to teach in this respect from our own experience of Northern Ireland. I do not differ from the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in recognising that we have had our own terrorist problem and that in the Real IRA we still have a terrorist problem—although, thank God, smaller than it was. But, for all its weaknesses and all its qualifications, the hard and rocky road of the Good Friday agreement is the only way towards a political solution.
That brings me to one comment I wish to make on the Middle East. I fully share the condemnation of the House and many others of the unacceptable assassination of Minister Ze'evi. However, it is also true that to pursue a peace process which becomes hostage to any act of terrorism is to encourage the most extreme elements to produce such acts of terrorism. I believe that the consistent position of Prime Minister Sharon of breaking off the peace process every time there is a terrorist outrage simply puts the peace process in the hands of those who have the least conscience, the least wisdom and the least commitment to a peaceful outcome.
Lastly among the causes of terrorism, we have to address the profound inequalities in the world. This morning I was talking to no less a figure than Peter Sutherland, the former secretary-general of the World Trade Organisation and now the chairman of Goldman Sachs—not a person one would expect to say, loudly and clearly, that there must be a much more generous division of resources by the rich world; a much more generous attitude towards overseas aid; and a much greater willingness to accept a wider decision-making structure than the G7, which would include the needs of large and significant developing countries on behalf of the third world. Sooner or later we shall have to address the profound disformities in our own world if we are to produce at any time a long-term answer to some of the problems that today trouble us.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend the Minister who has, despite the immense pressures that must be bearing in on her, come again to the House to share so fully the Government's thinking and approach. It is important and we should not take it for granted. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, the Government have been very forthcoming in this respect.
It is always challenging to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. I make only one point about her speech. Of course the toughest, most exacting and demanding political challenge of all is peace-making. If I were to pick out one reason to explain why I am proud to be on these Benches, it would be the consistent determination of the Government now in power to follow through, whatever the difficulties, the cause of peace in Northern Ireland.
I should perhaps declare an interest at the outset of my remarks as a member of the Oxfam Association and as a senior Fellow of the independent charitable think tank on security questions, Saferworld.
I am glad that my noble friend the Minister placed so much emphasis on the UN. As I have said before in these debates, we have to recognise that in the world as a whole there is an anxiety, if not a growing impatience and cynicism, about what is perceived, rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, as an attempt by the privileged minority of nations of the world to run the world. If we are to build a lasting peace and stability, the world itself, if I may speak in those rather loose terms, has to be brought in on the act. The stakeholding has to be increased.
But, of course, there is another reason why that is so important. As we all know, the alliance is fragile. We are all anxious about how long the alliance will withstand the pressures as the campaign goes forward. It would be sad if all our energy went towards keeping the alliance together for the sake of keeping it together, rather than being directed towards a broader strategy of getting the world behind us, getting the world engaged, through the one organisation that represents the world, the United Nations.
There has been talk about the role of the United Nations in helping to find a political solution. It would be interesting to hear more from the Government, if that is possible, about the current thinking in this respect. Indeed, how representative will be any future government in Afghanistan? Do or do we not believe that there are even elements within the Taliban that may be involved in that government? How will we ensure that whatever government emerges will be a government that belongs to the elements it represents as distinct from being a government which is imposed from outside? My reflection on history is that governments which are imposed from outside virtually never survive. So how will that government have authenticity and authority in the context of the situation itself?
Another issue concerns the contradictions which inevitably arise as one goes forward with an alliance. How far are some of the parties to the alliance viable 765 in the long term within their own political systems? How far are we building relationships of great significance and great dependence with people who are themselves living on borrowed time? There is a question here. It is no good brushing it aside or burying it in the sand. If we do, we may find ourselves in very dangerous waters.
Perhaps I may make a personal observation. At the Council of Europe I am joint chair, together with the chair of the foreign relations committee of the Duma, of a committee trying to develop within Russia a sense of greater political responsibility for what is happening in Chechnya. I have been appalled by the disproportionate and indiscriminate action in Chechnya and the abuse of human rights. These are matters that we cannot easily accept. Indeed, we should not accept them at all.
Interestingly, I get most angry about the counter-productivity of the way the campaign has been waged. Instead of winning-over reasonable Chechens to working positively towards a future together with their colleagues m the remainder of the Russian Federation, indiscriminate and disproportionate action is all the time driving people into the arms of the extremists. This is an issue which is related to the point I have made about the complications which arise in an alliance, the need to be honest about them and face up to them.
That brings me to the question of military action. I thought that my noble friend the Minister—I hope she will forgive me for saying this—was almost moving in the way in which she addressed the issue today. I believe that one of the heaviest and most difficult responsibilities of Ministers is to commit a country to military action. There is the issue of military personnel and their families and, as my noble friend said so honestly, the human consequences that flow from military action. I was glad to hear the Government share their anxieties so openly in that regard.
But having embarked upon military action, one has to do what is necessary. It is no good just picking off bits of military action, like ripe fruits in an orchard, and saying that we like this or that. We must be prepared to go through with it. In so doing, it is important to remind ourselves of certain principles which must always be kept in mind.
The first is that military action must be proportionate, not indiscriminate. The second is that it must be in keeping with the international conventions and civilised values which we say we are defending. Yes, there is the inevitable danger of people becoming innocent victims—and it is true that the ultimate responsibility for that lies with those who made such action necessary. But to speak candidly—I hope that my noble friend will accept this point—I am never convinced by an argument that merely says, "It is their fault". Of course it is their fault; but we, too, have a responsibility. Although the terrorists created the situation that has resulted in the present action, it is our duty to demonstrate in our response that our aims are about something different. We must always face up to our own responsibility in this context. Every 766 innocent life that is lost is one too many. But every innocent life lost also offers potential ammunition to our adversaries. That is why we must keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. That should be an overriding operational priority at all times.
Bombing is a blunt instrument. It may be essential as a supporting part of a military campaign, but it must be strictly controlled. It must never be allowed to generate its own momentum or to become a substitute for other more appropriate, and—let us face the fact—more costly, military action.
Our primary objective is to bring bin Laden to justice. It is clear that bombing will not in itself capture bin Laden. Therefore, it is essential to remain clear about how bombing supports the action that will achieve that end. Indeed, we must be clear about what is the action that will achieve that end. Not least, public opinion needs to be prepared for casualties.
We are constantly reminded that the war is not against the Afghan people. We are constantly reminded, and endorse the fact warm-heartedly, that the humanitarian action is every bit as important as the military action. However, reports indicate that the bombing is making this dual approach impossible in some instances and very difficult in others.
I therefore put this question to my noble friend. What specific arrangements exist for co-ordination between the humanitarian agencies and the military for resolving any contradictions between the two approaches? As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, the urgency is underlined by the approach of winter. Having worked for most of my professional life in humanitarian agencies in many difficult situations, I can tell the House that we should not underestimate the horrors of winter that lie ahead. At this point, perhaps I may interject a genuine tribute to those aid workers in the area who operate so valiantly in such a complex situation—and especially to the nationals of that part of the world who so often support the international staff. A tremendous demand is made upon them.
I pose a further question. I am sure that the matter has been addressed and it may be difficult to spell out the detail. There is anxiety about what exactly will happen when bin Laden is captured. How will the justice to which we are committed in fact operate? The point has been well made that this was not an attack merely on the United States but on the world. It has been pointed out that it was the biggest single terrorist incident affecting British subjects. What are the implications of that? How will the matter be handled? It is rather like the issue of the UN itself. It is reassuring to hear the Government state their commitment to the UN. I am extremely glad to hear it. On that and the issue of justice, how close are we to our dear friends in the United States in our thinking as regards the answers?
My final point is not original; I make it merely to emphasise a matter that preoccupies many. In this war, the psychological dimension is very significant. Bin Laden and his collaborators clearly aim to provoke. They aim to demonstrate a contradiction between our 767 rhetorical objectives and what we actually do. We must not give them any victory whatever in that respect. We must retain our unremitting commitment to civilised values. It is an extremely difficult area, but as a former Defence Minister perhaps I may say that I sometimes find that commitment at its highest among some of our serving officers and men. It is a commitment that must always be present. Not merely are we fighting against actions that are unacceptable; we are fighting for civilised values—for peace and for justice. If we are fighting for those values, the way in which we fight must demonstrate the fact.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Lord Hannay of Chiswick
My Lords, the international crisis over global terrorism has many novel and repugnant features that distinguish it from the wars and campaigns of recent years. But it also has some similarities. One is the way in which, at the outset, most commentators were inclined to be totally dismissive of the role that the United Nations might play in its solution. Now, some five weeks later, as the complexity and intractability of the problems that we face become clearer, each day brings forth a new suggestion for United Nations involvement: peacekeeping, a protectorate for Afghanistan, reconstruction aid, and nation building. It is a familiar cycle: one day the UN is fit for nothing; the next, it can be asked to do anything. The humdrum truth and reality lie somewhere between those two extremes.
It could be useful, therefore, at this stage to focus carefully on what the UN can do and also on what it cannot reasonably be asked to do. I welcome the emphasis placed on the UN dimension by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the thoughts that she expressed in her opening remarks. I also welcome the news that my friend and former colleague, Robert Cooper, will be involved. He is renowned for his capacity for lateral thinking—a quality not always to be found in every member of the Diplomatic Service but which he has in large quantity.
Many of the most shaming setbacks for the United Nations in recent years, in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, arose from that organisation being set tasks for which it was not equipped and for which it was not given adequate resources. The war against global terrorism is far too serious a matter to risk going down that road again.
Let us consider the UN dimension. First, there is the UN's geo-political role, which resides principally in the Security Council but also in the General Assembly. The UN got off on the right foot from the very beginning. Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373 were both unanimously adopted. One is nonbinding and the other is mandatory on all states. They represent a clear condemnation of terrorism and a singularly far-reaching programme of action against all its aspects: the protection of terrorists, the provision or movement of funds and weapons and state terrorism itself. Taken together with the right of self defence in Article 51 of the charter, the international legal framework has been set for the 768 struggle ahead. It was set with the invaluable support of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which has been so lacking since shortly after the end of the Gulf war in the early years of the last decade.
The priority now is to put the instruments in Security Council Resolution 1373 to good use, to ensure that the UN has the resources that it needs to follow them up and for the international community not to flinch if that follow-up shows the need for sanctions of some sort, whether economic or military, to achieve compliance.
Secondly, there is the role of the Secretary-General and his staff in helping to put Afghanistan on a better course for the future, and one that denies it as a haven for terrorists and drugs. They must ensure that Afghanistan is neither a threat to its neighbours, nor, as has more often been the case in the past, that they are a threat to it, through meddling in its affairs and destabilising the country.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was kind enough to refer to an article that I wrote in the Financial Times yesterday. If I had to single out one of my ideas in the article to which insufficient focus has been put so far, it is the idea of somehow finding an internationally legally binding regime that would commit all Afghanistan's neighbours and major powers not to meddle in Afghanistan in the future, when this present phase is accomplished. I am thinking of something a little like what was done for Belgium in the 19th century and which was done for Cambodia after many years of meddling by far too many people.
The objective of a broad-based Afghan Government, which reflects all the main ethnic communities, is clearly much easier to wish for in this House than to bring about. The Secretary-General and his experienced and able special representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, could make a real contribution to achieving that, as long as we do not ask them to do too much too quickly. Talk of a UN protectorate is unrealistic in the case of Afghanistan and will not help to win the co-operation of fiercely independent Afghans who will not find the parallels of Kosovo or East Timor at all appealing or compelling.
The Secretary-General will need plenty of help if he is to achieve anything. Above all, he will need the unstinting political support of the main member states—the five permanent members—and of Afghanistan's neighbours, any one of whom could destroy many weeks of painstaking work in a few hours of meddlesome intervention.
Thirdly, there is the option of peacekeeping or some kind of international military presence to help Afghanistan implement a political settlement. I counsel considerable caution, as others who have spoken before me have done. Afghanistan is neither historically nor geographically an obvious candidate for a peacekeeping operation. It is not a question of keeping opposing sides apart, nor could Afghanistan's borders conceivably be policed without the full cooperation of its neighbours. If they were to co-operate fully, would we really need to police the borders? It is 769 conceivable that the UN could play a peacekeeping role of a nature yet to be defined, but my view is that it might be wise to give no great prominence to that idea at this stage.
Fourthly, there is the question of reconstruction—or rather construction as there is little enough in Afghanistan to reconstruct. Clearly a massive international effort must be made on behalf of a post-Taliban Afghanistan so that it does not simply slip back into despair and anarchy. The sooner we can set out that prospectus in outline, the sooner Afghans will realise that there is a preferable alternative to their present appalling predicament.
I have not so far mentioned the humanitarian catastrophe that looms over a country ravaged by drought and civil war. Responding adequately to that is clearly imperative, whatever happens on the other fronts—military, political or economic. Any adequate response will necessarily require the full co-operation and co-ordination of a whole range of UN specialised agencies, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme and the dovetailing of their work with that of the many non-governmental organisations already on the ground. It will surely also need the use of the military assets of the coalition allies, without which it is really hard to believe that some of the more remote mountainous regions will be reachable during the coming winter.
So far, there has been rather a lot of discord and cacophony and not too much co-ordination. That is not unusual. Much the same thing occurred in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. The capacity of often anonymous spokesmen for NGOs to go on air with contradictory political and military advice is almost unlimited, as is the appetite of the media for reporting them. The sooner the UN can get some effective coordinating machinery up and running, the better.
That is all a huge agenda for the UN, which is an organisation that is not over-endowed with resources and political support. As usual it presents us with a quandary. We can pile up tasks on the UN's back: like an overloaded donkey in a bazaar until its legs crumple beneath it, and we can then walk away washing our hands, saying, "What a useless organisation this is". Or we can proceed with realism, by not giving the United Nations tasks for which it is unsuited, or which are beyond its capacity, and then proceed with commitment, making sure that the UN gets the resources in men and material that it requires and the political support that it needs when the going gets rough. Nowhere will that quandary be felt more sharply than in Washington where there is a tendency in some quarters to allow ideology to displace a utilitarian approach to the UN.
I hope that we shall be able to get across the message that in the war against terrorism, making imaginative use of the UN's potential will be a war waged far more effectively than one that either marginalises the UN or leaves it to twist in the wind.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Moynihan
My Lords, in this debate I want to focus on one specific aspect of the coalition against international terrorism, namely, the root causes of such terrorism. Terrorism is a malignant disease, and like all diseases, prevention is better than cure. While it is important to treat the symptoms—here I am in total agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—it is critical to find the source of the pernicious infection and minimise it in the future.
I am sure that, like me, many of your Lordships listened to Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" last Thursday. I believe that Hamza Yusuf summed it up perceptively when he said:The vast majority of humanity is not extremist but in key times can easily be driven so".To attack the seemingly intractable problems of terrorism at its roots, we must address the condition that produced it and not just its ugly branches.
I agree. The attacks in America were the bitterest examples of terrorism I have ever seen. We now need to direct our resources against terrorism. We can try to understand what spawns such appalling acts in the belief that a better understanding of the underlying causes will help us to prevent them. We can, and must, concentrate our resources on eradicating the symptoms. The latter has risks: meeting violence with violence and terror with terror. It satisfies our need to punish the perpetrators, but we must seek more than a short-term tourniquet. At best it will afford a remission, but it is no ultimate remedy.
As your Lordships are aware, I fully support the Government's commitment to do everything possible to eliminate the threat posed by international terrorism, but I do so in the knowledge that the only way in which to eliminate the terrorist threat is to understand and treat its causes. To heal the symptoms alone can only ever be a temporary, albeit important cure.
It requires no great study to identify the root causes of terrorism. They are as old as humanity itself. The seeds of terrorism grow fast in the fertile soil of poverty, resentment, injustice and oppression. Poverty breeds resentment; resentment breeds hatred; and hatred breeds terrorism. In certain conditions terrorism is the response of the "have-nots". The recipe for terrorism is a simple one. If poverty is combined with the perception of injustice and oppression and then mixed with a strong dose of religious fanaticism, the conditions for terrorism to thrive are optimal.
There is no justification for what was done in America. Destitution and poverty are never an excuse for evil acts, but we cannot ignore the fact that evil often flourishes in their midst. Osama bin Laden has a lot to lose, but many of those whom he attracts to his cause have very little. They have very little in the way of material possessions, very little in the way of education and very little in the way of hope. Would there be the same level of popular support in Pakistan for the Taliban if Pakistan were not one of the world's poorest, most illiterate, most malnourished and least 771 gender-sensitive regions in the world? Thirty-six million of the 131 million people in Pakistan live in absolute poverty. Over two-thirds of Pakistan's adult population is illiterate: 60 million people do not have access to health facilities; 67 million people are without safe drinking water.
We can talk about the poverty of the Palestinians in the same way—their standard of living has fallen by some 40 per cent since the signing of the Oslo accords, while unemployment rates are between 20 per cent to 30 per cent on the West Bank. A life lived in poverty, a life of hardship, a life devoid of hope, is one where terrorism may find the support that it needs to succeed.
It is no coincidence that the seeds of the Taliban government sprang up in Pakistan in the camps of the refugees escaping from the Afghan war. Hundreds of Islamic madrasahs fed the appetite for the extreme interpretation of Islam that they advocated by providing Afghan refugees and young Pakistanis with free education, food, shelter and military training. In other words, they offered something that looked like a better future. But the hope offered by terrorism is no more than a malevolent mirage. Perhaps the Minister will confirm in his response a point well made by the noble Baroness who opened the debate; namely, that the Government's humanitarian goals—the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the protection of the vulnerable—remain as high on the agenda as the military action, so that the young men of Pakistan, Palestine and Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, are offered real hope for a better future. Only then will the siren call of terrorism and violence fail to beckon them.
At this point, it is clearly necessary to address the fact that the perpetrators of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks did not fall into this category of the poor and the hopeless. We have yet fully to understand the motivation of these young men. But one thing we know for sure: it was rooted in a combination of hatred and religious zeal. Hatred is the second string of terrorism's bow. September 11th brought it home to the heart of America that there are many in the Muslim world who hate what America and the West stand for and who wish us harm. To understand the hatred that has fuelled such evil, we must see the world through Middle-Eastern eyes. Those eyes are as likely to see hypocrisy and self-interest instead of the benign and responsible superpower we see.
For the West, September 11th was a milestone in the infamous history of terrorism. It caused us to hold up a mirror to our civilisation and to resolve to create a better world. But for many in the Middle East, September 11th was a milestone for another reason. It was the day that the war which has raged across the Middle East for decades, and which has claimed so many victims, was finally brought to America's shores. For years, people in the Middle East have lived with countless images not unlike the appalling scenes in New York, albeit never on such a concentrated and vast scale. While I have no doubt that there was a great and deep well of sympathy for the individual tragedies, 772 some in the Middle East have expressed the nagging sense that decades of amassed hatred somehow found a most fatal and poisonous expression on 11th September.
We must find the way to draw the venom from that poison, to melt away the anger, to end the despair and to remove the sting from the hatred—be it through fresh efforts to bring peace to the region, or renewed strategies to exchange a future of poverty for one of prosperity. The two are inextricably bound. It is a simple truth that, without prosperity, peace cannot take root; and without peace, prosperity cannot grow.
Peace was dealt a blow yesterday with the assassination of the Israeli Tourism Minister, but we cannot, and must not, allow it to be a mortal blow. I believe that it is time that we vigorously renewed our efforts in the Middle East and persuaded our colleagues and friends in America to do likewise. Can the Minister also confirm whether such an assessment of our foreign policy will form part of the wider campaign against international terrorism? I hope so.
We are now engaged in a military operation against Afghanistan. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd. It is intended, rightly, to be part of the first phase of a campaign—an important phase—to remove Osama bin Laden, destroy his Al'Qaeda network and, as is looking increasingly necessary, to topple the Taliban from power within the context of the wider goal of ridding the world of the scourge of international terrorism. I am sure that the Minister will tell us what he can about the next phase of this operation, for, on both the military and political levels, the only point upon which I take issue with the Minister—the only one in all the speeches that she has given in the past four debates—is my absolute view that speed is of the essence before the harsh Afghan winter sets in, and before unease risks splitting the international coalition.
There are those who find it difficult to distinguish where the fine lines lie between justice and revenge; and between righting the wrongs of the guilty and wronging the rights of the innocent in the most conventional of conflicts—let alone in this new kind of campaign waged in an already wretched and war-torn country, brought to the brink of destruction by the internal conflict of its warlords and the external aggression of its neighbours and its sheltering of Al'Qaeda. In London and Washington it is easy to differentiate between a war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and a war against Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it is not so easy. That will make the formation of a new government a huge task.
Because we do not distinguish between the terrorist and the state sponsors of terrorists, the Taliban is now our enemy. The use of force against terrorism thus becomes a campaign that we understand—a campaign against targets within clearly defined geographical borders, even though the terror it fights knows no borders.
The operation against Afghanistan bears all the hallmarks of a conventional war, yet this jars in a reality where the conventional language of war is 773 redundant. Clear objectives and exit strategies do not exist in a world of suicide bombers and terrorism, in a world where, suddenly, the sight of white powder instils panic, lest it is lethal anthrax, and in a world where normal life is gradually being rendered abnormal by the contagion of fear.
In this new reality, it becomes all the more difficult to judge the effectiveness of a conventional military operation. The military action is the first phase of the campaign. It has my full support. It is by this means that we can bring bin Laden to justice, root out his network and destroy its training camps and infrastructure. But, when we have done that—it may take a long time, as the Minister said earlier—it will close only the first chapter in the coalition against international terrorism; it will not be the end of the story. We will not have ended terrorism; we will not even significantly have decreased the threat of attack from any one of the many proscribed terrorist groups born out of hatred and religious fervour. We will not have touched our wider objective to do everything to eliminate the threat posed by international terrorism.
We are all agreed that the events of 11th September stained humanity's record with a new evil and left our civilisation, for all its advances, vulnerable. I conclude by saying simply that if we are to succeed in the coalition which has been built, fighting terrorism must go hand in hand with fighting injustice and poverty. We must send the positive message that the coalition is a constructive one and that it aims to spread and share our vision of a more secure and equitable world.
The endgame of this military action must be to make the world a safer place. The bombs must place a greater distance between us and terror. The only way to do this s to tackle the causes of terrorism hand in hand with the military action. Then and only then will this campaign be judged a success.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lord Sandberg
My Lords, I think we have always realised that a terrorist to some of us is a freedom fighter to others. The appalling events of 11th September were so clear that there could be no other view. It is therefore disturbing to find the number of people who are cheering, if you like, the events of that day all the way from Indonesia to Morocco with Pakistan in the middle. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has just said, we have to consider the causes of that and what is bringing that frightening phenomenon about.
I suppose the major underlying cause is the political problems in Israel/Palestine over many years. We all say that we do not want to take sides but we are all horrified at the tit-for-tat assassination of the Israeli Minister a couple of days ago. A few days before that we were horrified at what happened to Palestinian refugees. Tomorrow God knows what the problem will be. We must consider the causes behind these problems and consider what on earth we can do to try to prevent them occurring. Here, again, the United States has an enormous role to play as its influence is so great. However, it behoves us all to consider the matter.
774 It also behoves us to consider the nation in the middle of all this. I do not mean Afghanistan but Pakistan. One has to accept that Pakistan has taken a brave step in agreeing to support the coalition in all it does. When I was in Pakistan some months ago, President Musharraf wryly stated that he could not understand why he was thought to be a supporter of the Taliban and that he was no more a supporter of the Taliban than anyone else. He abhorred its attitude towards women's rights, its policy on torture and other matters. However, as he correctly pointed out, all that time he had a large enemy to the east—he meant, of course, India—and he did not want another to the west. Now he has taken the brave step of supporting the coalition against the Taliban. We therefore should consider our duties towards Pakistan.
It is rather strange that under the conventions of the Commonwealth Pakistan is now suspended from membership whereas, not too many thousand miles away, Mr Robert Mugabe, who has flouted almost every rule of civilisation one can think of, is allowed full membership because he is, apparently, a democratically elected leader. We need to consider some of the rules with regard to the Commonwealth and consider how we can help Pakistan. Pakistan has enormous debts around the world, most of which Musharraf inherited from previous governments. Pakistan has a debt of about 35 billion dollars. Much of the debt—over 5 billion dollars—is owed to Japan and over 3 billion is owed to the USA. A large debt is also owed to the EU. We have a sovereign debt in Britain owed by Pakistan of about £400 million to £450 million.
Not so many months ago in this House we heard of the steps that were being taken to help heavily indebted third world nations. Many of those debts have been written off. Will the Minister approach the Treasury on this matter? Some £400 million to £450 million is not a small amount and would certainly keep some of your Lordships over the weekend, but it is not a huge amount in the context of international debt. We could take the practical measure of writing off that debt to help Pakistan.
Mention has been made of recent wars in Kosovo and the Congo. The difference between those wars and the war against the Taliban is that the latter is not a political war so much as a religious one. We all know that religious wars can last, sadly, for many years. We must tackle that issue.
Terrorism in the context of this debate is rather focused on what is happening in Afghanistan, but there are problems with terrorism all over the world. Earlier this week a Starred Question was raised in the House about the IRA. We were given a rather evasive and, if I may say so, a rather foolish response. No one is against the peace process in Ireland. We all hope that it will make progress. However, we have, quite rightly, given unqualified support to the USA in the present crisis. We should seek support from them as regards Ireland. For many years some people in the LISA have supported the IRA by raising funds for it. They claim the funds are raised for all kinds of reasons but often those funds are channelled into terrorist activities.
775 Perhaps the recent news of the IRA's connections with Colombia has made the use to which that funding is put more apparent. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to talk seriously about that matter in Washington in terms of obtaining support to combat that problem.
I congratulate the Minister on introducing the debate as we need to discuss the matter. I am sure that we shall discuss it again as we need to keep track of it constantly. All we can do is to support the Government in what they are trying to do.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to offer my support for the initiatives undertaken by Her Majesty's Government in promoting the coalition against international terrorism. There are three issues on which I should appreciate some clarification—issues not so far raised this evening. I delete from my notes issues which have already been comprehensively covered by other noble Lords.
The first concern is whether measures proposed by Her Majesty's Government will prevent penetration by terrorists, or those who have terrorist sympathies, into the financial systems of key strategic organisations. I give one example which has already been mentioned in your Lordships' House. However, new information has since become available. I refer to reports relating to the Sudanese businessman Salah Idris, who allegedly had links with terrorist Islamists such as Osama bin Laden and who also had financial investments in Sudan, where the Islamist National Islamic Front regime is widely known for its support of terrorist activities.
Recent reports indicate that Salah Idris—this businessman with such interesting connections—owns 75 per cent of the shares of the firm IES Digital Systems, which specialises in high technology surveillance and security management. Reports also indicate that the company has contracts with the British Army, the Foreign Office and the Houses of Parliament. Additionally, Salah Idris owns 20 per cent of the shares of Protec—a security company with special security projects with the Ministry of Defence and the nuclear power plants at Sellafield and Dounreay. Is there any truth in those reports? If so, is there any cause for concern?
I also have a wider question. Do the recently announced measures for imposing financial constraints on funding terrorist activities deal with the risk of infiltration by shareholders with terrorist sympathies into firms with strategic significance, such as those involved in security, defence, nuclear energy, public utilities or other key political and financial institutions? If not, might that not merit urgent consideration?
Since the tragic events of 11th September, there has been great media interest in the activities of extremist Islamists in this country who originally came from abroad, such as Skeikh Omar Bakri Muhammad and 776 the Afghan veteran Abu Hamza. It has been suggested that they might be liable to prosecution if evidence were found of their involvement in inciting violence or religious hatred. However, I have repeatedly pointed out on previous occasions in your Lordships' House that there has been ample prima facie evidence, including a "Dispatches" film broadcast in 1999, which clearly showed them inciting violence and teaching terrorist activities here in London, such as methods of bringing down aircraft coming into London airports. I have asked previously whether there had been any prosecutions or convictions for such offences, but I have not yet received a reply.
There is real concern, particularly among moderate Muslims who fear that the activities of the Islamist terrorists will generate a backlash against them. They fear that such extremists have been allowed to carry out their activities with impunity. I ask again whether that is the case. If so, why has no action been taken?
I greatly respect the Prime Minister's tireless endeavours to promote the coalition, but I am concerned about the need for balance between obtaining international support and the price being paid to certain regimes for their co-operation. My specific example is Sudan, which is ruled by a brutal, violent, extremist Islamist military junta with a long record of complicity with international Islamist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, of harbouring Islamist jihad warriors and of providing terrorist training camps inside Sudan. It was also reportedly one of the sponsors of horrific terrorist attacks such as those on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
One of the prices paid for Sudan's co-operation with the coalition has been the lifting of sanctions against the Sudanese National Islamic Front regime. That has caused acute distress to the Sudanese people, the vast majority of whom hate and loathe the regime and suffer at its hands. The toll of human suffering in recent years is 2 million dead and 5 million displaced—greater than the toll of suffering for Rwanda, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia put together. I was speaking at a meeting convened by the Sudan Human Rights Organisation last Saturday. Those present represented the whole spectrum of the diverse population of Sudan, including Arabs and Muslims from the north, the Beja Muslim people from the east, and African people from diverse tribes and regions in the south and the Nuba mountains. They all gave abundant evidence of the enormity of violations of human rights being perpetrated by the National Islamic Front against its own people. In addition to first-hand evidence from on-site visits by me and others from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, there have been numerous authoritative reports from many organisations, including Christian Aid and Amnesty International. This week a new report was published, An Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan, which documents the continuing attacks against civilians by the National Islamic Front, the forcible recruitment of young teenagers into the government of Sudan armed 777 forces to attack their own people and an increase in military expenditure by the government of Sudan consistent with increases in oil revenue.
It is imperative to ask: what price coalition? Are the alleged benefits to be expected from lifting sanctions against Sudan's military junta worth the costs, not only in terms of human rights abuses, but in terms of threats to international security? Excerpts from a recent statement by one of the main Sudanese opposition groups, the SPLM/A, summarise some of those concerns:The Government of Sudan (GOS) popularly known as the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime, has been issuing false statement to the effect that the regime is not only fighting international terrorism, but has completely dissociated itself from sponsoring and harbouring terrorists. On Monday 1st October 2001, the titular head of the National Islamic Front regime, General Omer El Beshir, reiterated the same position. El Beshir also claimed that the regime was becoming democratic and is promoting national reconciliation in the country.This of course is not true. The NIF is part and parcel of the international terrorist network … It has declared Jihad against its own people … in a Fatwa they issued in El Obeid in 1993. It is the same Jihad the Al'Qaeda terrorists invoked when they attacked the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. The National Islamic Front regime is part of Armed Islamic Movement and of the Al'Qaeda network, which was forged in Khartoum in an international conference of Islamic fundamentalist organisations held in the Sudanese capital in 1993.The top leadership of the NIF government are associated with international terrorism and Islamists such as Hassan al Turabi, whom they released from gaol the day after sanctions were lifted. When an assassination attempt on the life of the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, was made in Addis Ababa in 1995, the government of Sudan and its senior ministers were implicated. These include the then Foreign Minister who is now the first vice-president, the then Chief of National Security and the then Minister of Information and official spokesman of the regime, now the regime's advisor on peace affairs. These three and President Beshir wanted an Islamic Government in Egypt similar to the one in Sudan. With the assistance of Osama bin Laden's Al'Qaeda, the NIF trained and financed members of Egypt's Gamaat E1 Islamia, who carried out the plot to kill President Mubarak …The GOS also enabled bin Laden to establish extensive networks of businesses and investments for Al'Qaeda in Sudan to fund international terrorism, as well as training camps for terrorists. Sonic of these businesses are in the areas of agriculture, banking, tannery, heavy construction, trade in gum arable and the oil industry. These businesses and training camps are still in Sudan. Al'Qaeda is the brainchild of the NIF in association with bin Laden. II is a fact, most prominent NIF leaders are members of the board of directors of Al'Qaeda, including the first vice-president, Ali Osman Taha. Many cadres of the NIF regime are indeed members of Al'Qaeda …Although Osama bin Laden left Sudan in 1996, he left behind a large number of his Al'Qaeda members to run the training camps and businesses that are fronts for terrorist activities. The NIF government provides safe havens and diplomatic passports to members of Egyptian Gamaat al Islamia, Algerian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The GOS also trains, arms and harbours terrorists operating in the East African region, particularly in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Some of these terrorists are involved in the Jihad in Sudan. Khartoum therefore is still heavily involved in terrorism … It has not abandoned terrorism and what the regime is now doing, in the form of co-operating with the US, is tactical and designed to hoodwink the international community … They remain terrorists to the core".I hope that those harsh realities about the NIF's true nature will be taken into account in the Government's foreign policy and that neither the NIF's charm 778 offensive nor lucrative oil deals will entice the British Government into false complacency or the pursuit of short-term benefits at the cost of longer-term security risks. It seems a little bizarre that, in the interests of fighting international terrorism, sanctions have been lifted and closer links forged with one of the major terrorist sponsoring regimes in the world today.
If any redemptive good can be salvaged from the carnage of the 11th September attacks on New York and Washington, it may be a realisation by the West of the nature of international Islamist extremist violence. That violence has inflicted a huge toll of death and suffering, not only in the United States but also in other countries such as Sudan and Indonesia.
It is to be hoped that that realisation will result in a sustained determination to contain and, ultimately, to eradicate this menace of terrorism. As a result, innocent people will no longer have to live in the fear, as the Psalmist put it so well, of the terror by night nor the arrow or pestilence which destroy at noon-day.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I am sure that we need to look not only a broad, at the rest of the world, but at what is going on within our own country and among our own citizens. In order to prepare myself for this debate, I had quite a long conversation this morning with my adviser in Birmingham for relations with people of other faiths. He has close contacts with the various Muslim groups and organisations in Birmingham. This, more or less, is what he told me. I am sure that what he said about Birmingham will apply largely to other cities.
He said that five things are burdening the Muslim community so far as concerns the present conflict. First, the people of that community are worried by what they perceive as the uncertain ends and limits of the present campaign. They ask: what are the objectives of bombing and of any possible further military action? How is it that bin Laden is supposed to be brought out of the woodwork?
They also ask about the limits of the campaign. They have to be persuaded that it is limited only to Afghanistan. Things are said; they are not heard or believed. Again, what about the relationship—a question already asked this evening—between military action and humanitarian concern? If it is, indeed, the case that some 2 million people inside Afghanistan are in danger of starving to death this winter and that more are in serious danger, what are the real American and British priorities? And what, in particular, is the relationship between the humanitarian and military objectives? Islamic Relief, a Birmingham-based charity, has spoken to my adviser about the difficulty—we have heard about this already—of finding drivers who are willing to take lorries into the country in the present circumstances.
Secondly, he said that there is concern about Pakistan. The longer the conflict goes on, the greater the concern about the possible destabilisation of Pakistan. They note the demonstrations that occur every week, especially on Fridays, in Quetta and 779 Peshawar. Muslims in Britain are also concerned about the burden of refugees—some 3 million or 4 million—on Pakistan, a country of whose deep poverty we have already been reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. When thinking about our cities, we must remember that there is, so to speak, a very short umbilical cord between Pakistan and the Muslim communities in Britain.
The third point is linked to the first. Some Muslims in this country are asking themselves: is the western action merely an attack on bin Laden, the Taliban or Afghanistan, or is it really an attack on Islam? Whatever we say, that question is asked. Our Government and the American Government have said that it is not an attack on Islam. Muslim leaders want to believe the Government, but the message is widely disbelieved. In that section of the community, I am afraid that this is a point on which the Government are not winning hearts and minds. Muslims point again and again to the West's perceived tolerance of what they see as the state terrorism of Israel.
Fourthly, the widespread Muslim demand for the production of evidence against bin Laden has not gone away. Assertion that, for security reasons, such evidence cannot be produced cuts no ice. Speaking personally, what strikes me in this connection is that the issue is not so much about evidence as about the lack of trust that many Muslims feel, especially towards America. Yet again, it is a case of hearts and minds.
There is also a demand for justice and for justice to be seen to be done. It is not only that justice should be done but that the processes employed should be manifestly just. A Muslim leader said to me quite forcefully: "One of the things that we value in Britain is its justice, and we do not wish to see Britain betraying itself in this respect". Therefore, I am afraid that, so far in that area, the noble Baroness's assertions in her opening speech about the justice of the Government's cause have failed to convince. And we are talking about our own citizens.
Fifthly, my adviser tells me that, since the beginning of the military action, there has been a slackening of support for the American-British line. When I heard him say that to me this morning, I recalled the Muslim leader, totally opposed to bin Laden and terrorism, who had pleaded with me a fortnight ago for more patience. I find myself asking whether the Government have lost support through impatience.
If it is true that the issues at stake are primarily political and not military and that the purpose of any military action must be to serve political ends, then I believe that we must ask ourselves a quite sobering question: has the use of military force, with consequent civilian casualties, however few they may be, served to divert attention from terrorism to the conduct of America and its allies as the focus of public concern? That is quite a serious question. I hope that we shall not see yet another demonstration of the impotence of power in the face of a weakness that has little or nothing to lose.
780 I conclude by returning to Birmingham and my conversation with my adviser this morning. He is quite clear that, the longer this conflict goes on in its present form, the greater the fear for the radicalisation of Muslim youth in our cities and the more difficult for the voice of moderate Muslim leaders to be heard. I have also heard reports from church-run play groups about the fears expressed by Muslim women—fears for their families and for themselves. One might say that, if the young men are carrying the anger, the women are carrying the fear.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Lord Skidelsky
My Lords, my intervention this evening is directed to the question asked both by the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. What does the bombing of the World Trade Centre on 11th September tell us about the nature of contemporary terrorism? Is there anything new here beyond the new technique by which it was carried out?
It is widely believed—it is certainly widely said—that the bombing was not only a wicked but also an insane act: one with no tangible political object, or at least not one that could not be brought within the ambit of a political response. One popular line of argument sees the bombing as the expression of the generalised rage of Islam against the West. That is an echo of the famous clash of civilisations thesis of Samuel Huntington. On that thesis, the rage cannot in principle be appeased, short of the destruction of everything that we stand for. There is therefore no alternative but to extirpate bin Laden's organisation and ruthlessly cut down all of its successor shoots.
We are therefore apt to distinguish the newest type of terrorism from the familiar, "old" sort of terrorism, which does seem to have a tangible political object. Such terrorism is represented by the IRA in Northern Ireland or by ETA in Spain. We know—or we think that we know—what they want. In face of their stated aims, governments of our kind sensibly respond with a dual or a twin-track strategy that aims to catch and to punish the terrorists and to address or minimise the political grievances on which they feed.
It is a great mistake, I suggest, to believe that because the attack of 11th September was global and not national in its implications it was not rooted in a set of specific political grievances; in other words, it is a phenomenon with which we are familiar, despite the new technology, and a twin-track strategy is therefore equally appropriate in this case. If that is so, I suggest that our response should start from three propositions. First, peaceful coexistence between the West and Islam is necessary and attainable. Secondly, if the coalition against terrorism is to succeed, it has to be global; and to be global, it has to include the Muslim world. Thirdly, whatever bin Laden's motives—if, indeed, he was the mastermind—the Islamic world has one mighty grievance against the West, particularly against the United States; that is, the asymmetrical, virtually unconditional support that it gives Israel in its occupation of Palestinian territory, and its denial of 781 Palestinian status. That is not an assertion—it is what every Muslim leader says and has said repeatedly over the past month.
Unless that grievance is met, the global coalition will not hold for long. Even if it does hold together for long enough to sniff out bin Laden, his successors will find new bases of operation. Both President Bush and our Prime Minister have publicly accepted the principle of a Palestinian state, which I greatly welcome. In itself, that is not new. I hope that it will not turn out to be simply a verbal gesture that will be discarded as soon as the emergency is over. Within a few weeks we are promised a plan. We shall then have a better idea of how much pressure the West is willing to bring to bear jointly on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to make peace.
The kernel of the problem, as I see it, is the Israeli settlers—500,000 of them on the West Bank and in Gaza. To settle territories won in war and held in defiance of United Nations resolutions and most of world opinion never made any sense, unless Israel intended to hold those territories by force. Since 1967, no Israeli government has been prepared to accept any peace treaty that involves the removal of those settlers and no Palestinian leaders have been prepared to accept any peace treaty that does not involve their removal. That is the nut that has to be cracked. The geographical distribution of the settlements would make a Palestinian state in which they were embedded little more than a collection of Bantustans, which is not an encouraging precedent.
I have little doubt that an enduring peace requires the following four elements: first, the withdrawal of the Israeli settlers and their replacement by those whom they dispossessed; secondly, a generous international fund to finance the process; thirdly, an international status for Jerusalem; and, fourthly, an international guarantee of the Israeli-Palestinian frontiers.
That would be a very difficult solution for the West to propose and for Israel to accept, for historical reasons with which we are all too familiar. But what is the alternative? For Israel to go on fighting to hold on to what it has won, with the escalating bloodshed and brutality that that would undoubtedly bring? For the West to support it whatever the terrorist threat it thereby lays itself open to? If so, what is to become of our hope of creating a law-governed international society that is based on the United Nations charter?
It is vital that a Middle East peace process be promoted and started simultaneously with the war against terrorism. Indeed, it is part of the war against terrorism. I beg the Government to seize the opportunity created by the terrible events of 11th September to lead a crusade—I use that word advisedly—for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. If we succeed in that, some good may have come out of evil.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I begin by saying that it is a great pity that the noble Lord, 782 Lord Skidelsky, is not speaking from the Conservative Front Bench on foreign affairs, however excellent a job my noble friend—I use that word in both of its senses—Lord Howell of Guildford has done. The noble Lord gave one of the best analyses of the terrorist threat that I have heard.
I want to add a little to what was said by my noble friend Lord Moynihan. I was in Oman a week ago in an Arab restaurant, where I talked to two European-educated Arabs. First, they established that I was English, not American, and they were pleased about that. They were enormous fans of their Sultan and of the work that he had done to drag Oman into the modern world. One of them asked me a question and the other was not surprised by it. He asked, "Are you sure it wasn't the Jews who bombed the World Trade Centre and pretended to be Arabs?" That shows the depth of suspicion in the Arab world towards the western world.
I want to discuss why terrorism in the Muslim world should have happened. I start with that enormously grand figure of the Enlightenment, Gibbon, and his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He wrote:The age of Arabian learning continued about five hundred years, till the great eruption of the Moguls, and was coeval with the darkest and most slothful period of European annals; but since the sun of science has arisen in the West, it would seem that Oriental studies have languished and declined".They do not write like that any more.
The great period of Arab—Muslim—civilisation was from the time when Umar the Tolerant refused to enter the Church of the Nativity in case it was turned into a mosque, to the time when the Marmelukes were conquered by the Turks. It peaked probably during the reigns of Harun el Rashid and of the splendidly named Motassem the Octonary, who was the eighth caliph of the Abbassides. He reigned for eight years, eight months and eight days; he had eight wives, eight sons and eight daughters; he won eight victories; he had 8,000 slaves; and he left 8 million pieces of gold in his will. That is why, unsurprisingly, he was called the octonary. That period continued through the great civilisations of Baghdad, where there were libraries, national health services and great irrigation schemes on which they improved, which unfortunately were destroyed by Tamerlane and the Mongols. The period peaked and stayed constant.
The Turks appeared on the scene. There is an Arab saying which states that where a Turk has sat, no grass grows. From then on the Muslim civilisation regressed, became stultified and, I would suggest, contributed little to western learning or any learning. In 1800, 300 or 400 years later, Napoleon erupted into the Muslim world, dragging with him the great scholars. Suddenly, the Muslim world realised that the western Christian world, to which it fully believed it was superior, had overtaken it. From Napoleon's time until now it has had the great problem of how to catch up without divorcing itself from its Muslim inheritance.
783 The improvements have all been from the top down. It does not matter whether they were Muhammad Ali, or an Albanian sergeant hooked out of the disaster of the second battle of Abukir by the bosun of Sydney Smith's gig, who then became hereditary King Khedive of Egypt. It does not matter whether it was the young Turks, Kemal Atatürk or the Shah of Persia's forebears. They all tried to impose modernism from the top down.
Our civilisation has been one of growth from the bottom up. The terrible inferiority complex—I think that is almost the right word—which the Muslim society has had vis-à-vis the west, is shown by what Osama bin Laden did. He did not use Muslim inventions. Aeroplanes were invented in the West. The watch that we see him wear on television is a western invention. The coat he wears is an American-style camouflage jacket. They are using western world inventions to try to destroy the western world's values.
The contrast between the primitive reactionary Muslim world and the advanced western world gives us an opportunity, both in Baghdad and Damascus. Those are secular states. They may be horrid. One may be more horrid than the other and one, I suspect, is trying to get a little better, but if we can separate the secular nasties from the religious fanatical nasties, we might improve the secular nasties. It requires serious lateral thinking from the former Foreign Office colleagues of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.
I turn to military matters. The Australians have announced that they are sending 1,500 troops. During the Gulf War we asked, "What troops are you sending?" It was a known fact that we had a division in the Gulf. The names of the regiments were known. The same was the case during the Falklands War. This time we have had no information.
Last Sunday I happened to be in King Offa of Mercia's summer capital—I shall give a fiver to any noble Lord who knows what that is—and met a former Foreign Legionnaire. He informed me that he had been to his old comrade association and that his Foreign Legion regiment had been sent to Uzbekistan. Whether or not that is true, I do not know, but the source seemed to be good.
I hope that our Government will tell us, without imploding security, what forces will be involved if and when a ground war starts. There are things happening in the Armed Forces which are extremely worrying. As I have said, I have just returned from Oman. Sixty-eight tanks were sent to Oman. Before the main exercise started, 17 were sent back because the tracks were not working, the filters were ruined and they had refused to decertify so, not surprisingly, the tanks did not work in the desert.
There is overstretch in the Armed Forces. At Brize Norton, they state, "Yes, we can just cope provided nobody is on leave or off sick". I sincerely hope that if soldiers are involved, they will have the modified SA80 rather than the one that does not work either in hot or 784 cold conditions. We know that the communications of the modern Armed Forces are wildly out of date. That problem has yet to be cured.
Her Majesty's present advisers may say, "This is the fault of the Tories", but they have had five years to put it right, which they could have done, or they have had five years not to notice that it was wrong. Either way, they cannot blame that on the Tories. If ground troops are to be involved, they must be properly equipped. In Oman, for instance, the tents were sent out in one container, the tent pegs in another and the tent poles in a third. Have we not learnt from the Crimea, when the left-footed boots went out in one ship and the right-footed boots in another? On this occasion, all the containers arrived. In the Crimea, one ship sank. Such things should not be allowed to happen. The soldiers must be properly equipped. If there is to be a ground war, the Treasury must be made to turn off the tap. It is unfair to allow our soldiers to have anything other than a completely proper, decent kit. We owe that to them.
Otherwise, the Government are to be congratulated on the attitude they have taken. I do not mind saying that. When people do well it is right for us to congratulate them as it is right for us to say they have done wrong if they have done wrong. With those few words I shall sit down and wait to hear from anybody who can say what was King Offa's summer capital. That does not include the Civil Service.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble and erudite Earl, Lord Onslow. However, I must comment that I am rather surprised that his Arab friends had difficulty in deciding whether he was English or American.
I have not spoken hitherto in the debates in your Lordships' House following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11th September. So many noble Lords wished to speak that I hoped someone would express some of the views which I would have put forward. However, no one seems to have done so. Therefore, perhaps I may take a few moments of your Lordships' time to suggest, with my customary diffidence, that we may be missing, or even consciously avoiding, the true significance of what is happening today.
Before I begin my main theme, perhaps I may ask the Minister to solve one problem for me. It concerns the use of the curious phrase "proportionate response", which the noble Baroness used in her opening remarks. What is a proportionate response to the murder of 7,000 men, women and children? No one has yet been able to tell me that. I should be most grateful if the noble Lord could help me when he comes to reply.
The case I want to make begins towards the end of the last century. A study was carried out at Harvard University into the future pattern of world conflict and the changing security environment in the post Cold War climate. It resulted in a report, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, by a Harvard 785 professor, Samuel Huntingdon, entitled, The Clash of Civilisations. Its hypothesis was that future conflict would not be primarily ideological or political or economic; it would be between nations and groups belonging to different civilisations and different religious faiths.
At the time Professor Huntington's critics—I was one of them—tended to dismiss this thesis as the work of an unreconstructed hawk who was just looking for a new enemy to replace the vanished spectre of international communism. But after the events of 11th September in the United States it may be in order to engage in a reassessment of Samuel Huntington's thesis and ask ourselves what we believe the future pattern of conflict may be.
The first point may be to blow away some of the nonsense that always resurfaces at such times about the definition of a terrorist. At such times the cliché, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is always mentioned, as though there were any sense in that at all. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, hinted, I suggest that a reasonable working proposition is that one useful definition of a terrorist is a person who commits an act of terror. There should be no difficulty about recognising that after what happened on 11th September.
There is something strange in this talk about a war on terrorism. It is rather like talking about a war against tanks or ballistic missiles. Terrorism is a weapon; terrorism is an instrument of war and suicide bombers are the foot soldiers in that war and Osama bin Laden is one of the field commanders. I believe that we should ask ourselves who is using this instrument of war against us? Who is behind it all? If we are honest with ourselves I do not believe that question is too difficult to answer, especially if we can overcome our natural reluctance to believe that people who say that our western civilisation is evil and must be destroyed may actually mean what they say.
We talk rather earnestly of the need to understand other cultures and civilisations and to respond to their worries and concerns. There appears to be much less emphasis placed on their need to understand us. Many of them have a deep hatred and hostility towards our values and to all that we stand for. Let us not be mealy-mouthed about this: many of them are intent upon destroying our civilisation and terrorism is just one of the weapons that they will use. The use of civil aircraft as cruise missiles is only one threat. If our enemies can acquire weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical or biological—and the means to deliver them—by suitcase or any other means—they will not hesitate to use them.
In the aftermath of the events of 11th September there has been much talk of the war against terrorism together with loud protestations that that does not mean a war between civilisations. Our political leaders and media gurus have been very pontifical about that. We may not believe that this is a clash of civilisations, and we may not want it to be, but it is important to realise that not everyone sees the situation that way. 786 Perhaps I can quote a recent opinion from an Indian writer, Mr M J Akbar. He writes:The West's next confrontation is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of the Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin".That comes not from some wild, western, right-wing fanatic looking for a new enemy, but from a respected Indian observer.
As I said, we should be aware of a failing to which we were all too prone in the days of the Cold War. That is a reluctance to believe that people who say hostile things about us may actually mean what they say. In my view, we should be very foolish indeed if we believed that all we face is a network of terrorist cells controlled by a murderous fanatic.
Bernard Lewis, the distinguished Arab scholar, said:We are facing a mood and a movement for transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than"—and he used this phrase—a clash of civilisations—the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judaeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the world-wide expansion of both".Before we dismiss that proposition as apocalyptic and provocative, let us look at it coolly and seriously. There has been a simmering conflict between western and other civilisations for most of the past millennium. In recent years it has come to a head in Algeria, the Lebanon, Libya, Iran and of course it culminated in the Gulf War in 1990. It was possible to construct a political and ideological casus belli for each of those confrontations, but basically, if we are honest enough to face it, they were clashes of civilisations. Saddam Hussein, for example, immediately and openly played the Islamic card and during the Gulf War one of his supporters, the Dean of Islamic Studies at the Umm-Al-Qura University in Mecca, proclaimed that this,is not the world against Iraq, it is the West against Islam".Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called for a holy war against American aggression, greed, plans and policies.
My proposition is that the West must be prepared to face this developing clash of civilisations which we may not seek, but which we may not be able to avoid and which will threaten the very concept of freedom on which the whole of our civilisation is based. Of course, our immediate concern must be to respond to the murderous events of 11th September. I have no hesitation in saying that the United States is right to regard that as the first priority and we are right to support them in every way. But this will not be the end of the matter; it is only the beginning.
That is not to suggest that we are on the brink of anything like a third world war, but it is to suggest that we may have to contemplate a future in which the whole structure of world power is based on a calculation of interests in what has sometimes been called the "West and the Rest"; in other words, western civilisation and values against those who would like to destroy them. That may run counter to some utopian concepts of a universal civilisation of 787 brotherly love, which largely is a western pipedream, but the events in New York and Washington must surely cause even the most enthusiastic do-gooder in any society to modify his or her enthusiasm.
In my view, we are now threatened with a stark choice. Are we prepared to defend our values of democracy, tolerance, compassion and individual freedom, or are we prepared, in the long-term, to see them destroyed and replaced by something else. If, as I hope and believe, we are prepared to defend our civilisation, it will not be enough to issue ultimatums to the Taliban regime, or to neutralise murderous fanatics like Osama bin Laden. We shall have to have a long-term and sustainable strategy. It will depend upon a number of clear objectives and some practical strategies. I want to conclude with a few comments on what those practical strategies may be.
First, we shall have to reconsider our attitude to the organisation and use of armed forces. I would go further than the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, because I believe we need a radical assessment of the use of armed force and the organisation of armed forces. In my view it is axiomatic that there must be no further reduction in our military strength, but we also need to do some original thinking about how our Armed Forces are organised and equipped. To meet the new threat, do we still need armoured divisions and heavy artillery; and, if so, how much? What do we need in the way of rapid reaction forces, not to hand out food parcels in the Balkans, but to deal with terrorist attacks at home? Can we afford to cut the strength of our Territorial Army, given the real and potential threat to the security of our home base?
Finally, of course, there is the resource without which none of those measures can be effective—intelligence. We shall need to spend much more on an effective intelligence system in this country and in the West generally. That means more than electronic and satellite surveillance systems. As most of your Lordships will know, the two main elements of the intelligence assessment of an enemy are his capabilities and his intentions. Capabilities can often by judged from satellite photography; but the judging of intentions, that is, getting into the mind of the enemy, requires human intelligence—a very precious resource that deserves far more attention than it gets.
This will not be entirely or even principally a military conflict. We must politically nourish and strengthen the transatlantic axis and the Commonwealth framework on which the strength of our democratic civilisation rests. We must look with a cold and disillusioned eye at the balance between security and individual freedom and recognise that we may have to make some sacrifices in that context. We may even have to suppress some of our more liberal instincts and take stronger action against violent demonstrations in our own streets. With all that, we shall have to increase our efforts to understand the psychology of other religions and civilisations and the bitterness, hatred and hostility that they manifest towards us. But, if in the pursuit of some ideal of 788 tolerance and universal harmony we refuse to face the fact of that bitterness and hatred, we shall make a terrible mistake.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, my contribution consists of a few questions for my noble friend regarding the humanitarian side of the operation and a few points about combating and confronting terrorism, in which I shall follow some of the thinking of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky.
I expect that my noble friend will say, as the Prime Minister did in Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, that it is not possible to suspend military action until the winter, as requested by Oxfam, Christian Aid and a number of other aid organisations. Since the forces of the coalition have not yet been involved in action on the ground, this surely would be a possible time for a cessation. However, I accept that the Taliban might not allow the free passage of large numbers of heavy lorries throughout the country, even if the bombing ceased.
Can my noble friend give us a convincing picture of how supplies are now being brought in, as the noble Baroness suggested, while hostilities are taking place, bearing in mind that in the present conditions drivers apparently are not very happy or refuse to take their lorries in? Would not an adequate humanitarian operation have to wait until a land war had cleared the roads sufficiently? It seems to me highly unlikely that that can be done, even if there is a collapse of the Taliban, until well after the winter sets in. If in two or three months' time we do succeed in making big inroads into Taliban-held territory, how can food be delivered to the remote villages in side valleys or on mountainsides, where the roads will be blocked by snow?
Does my noble friend have any knowledge of the contingency planning necessary to provide the large numbers of short take-off and landing aircraft and helicopters needed to deliver the food that may then save perhaps half a million or 1 million people from starvation? Does my noble friend have any figure for the additional number of civilians who have fled the large cities since hostilities began and reached the borders of Afghanistan, and are there sufficient tents, blankets, food and water sources available to them in the neighbouring countries?
I turn to the subject of the debate: international terrorism. A number of noble Lords have suggested means of tackling international terrorism, and some of my thinking has already been covered, perhaps rather more eloquently. However, I should like to consider the immediate conflict in a wider perspective. For this purpose I define terrorism as violence against persons or property in the name of a cause or ideology, rather than as action taken by groups with a purely destructive agenda. It is very tempting to counter acts of terrorism by reciprocal acts of violence. The enormous anger, as well as sadness and grief, felt by the American people towards the perpetrators of the 11th September outrage is almost palpable in the United States and is very understandable.
789 The drive to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy the Al'Qaeda organisation, as the most likely perpetrators, serve to channel much of that anger. However, as we bomb the Taliban in Afghanistan, we must not forget that ordinary Afghans did not invite Osama bin Laden to their country, nor do most of them like the Taliban. Bombing from a great height has given the Americans a very bad name since the days of the Vietnam war. However smart the bombs, there will always be civilian casualties. We need only look at Serbia and Iraq for examples of that. The number of dead in those countries was not, thank God, as high as in Vietnam and Cambodia, where tens of thousands were killed from the air, but was still sufficient to cause misery and destruction of people's lives. Humanitarian targets are also sometimes hit, as was the Red Cross food warehouse in Kabul and the four UN guards of a demining team, as well as the villagers of Khorum near Jalalabad and, we are led to believe, others.
Now that this war is in full swing, I hope that the military intelligence behind it will be adequate to cope with the very difficult task ahead. I also hope that the land war that is to come has been better planned than that of the Russians in 1979–89. We have a great advantage over the Russians; namely, that there is not an unlimited supply of arms coming from across the Pakistan border to the Taliban and bin Laden's Mujahadeen, as it did when he was on our side in those years. We should be well aware that the Mujahadeen who surround him now—one report suggests that there are 25,000—are more determined and better trained than the Taliban's own troops, many of whom were recruited under duress. As my noble friend knows, it is reported that some are already defecting.
However the war goes, whether or not bin Laden is captured dead or alive, as the President of the United States put it, and tried by a suitable court, that will not in itself end terrorism, as a number of other noble Lords have pointed out. A dialogue with terrorist organisations usually has to take place and the root causes faced before terrorism subsides. Our own problems in Northern Ireland, and problems involving terrorism in our other former colonies, have been approached and settled, or are at least on the way to being settled, in that way. At this stage there is no question of such a dialogue with bin Laden, but it is worth considering the three main problems that he mentioned in his rather cleverly timed videotape broadcast last week first, the presence of United States troops in Saudi Arabia "polluting" Islamic holy places; secondly, the bombing of Iraq and the continued sanctions against it; and thirdly, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
I am greatly heartened that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have spoken of the desirability of a viable Palestinian state. President Bush has done the same. Mention by the Prime Minister of Security Council Resolution 242 is also of great significance. In pursuing the peace process in Palestine and Israel and taking it much further, we will have the best possible chance of reducing the danger of terrorist attacks in 790 the future. As other noble Lords have said, a two-pronged approach is possible: to try to bring the main suspects to justice, hurting as few innocent people as possible in the process, and at the same time to put right the long-standing injustices suffered by the Palestinian people for more than half a century, as was pointed out by the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Skidelsky. A map of the West Bank on which the settlements have been marked in red looks very much like a child with a bad case of chickenpox. In-between the settlements, all roads are patrolled by the Israeli military and there are frequent checkpoints. It is therefore difficult for Palestinians to move from one Palestinian controlled area to another—that was the case even before the intifada and it is much worse now—without suffering the indignity of being stopped by many road blocks.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, made the point that the Prime Minister's visionary, perhaps Utopian, speech at the Labour Party conference also made: creating a better, fairer world might be the answer to terrorism. It would also be a proper memorial to those who died on 11th September.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, having returned from the West Bank and Gaza only a few days ago, I, too, am bound to bring this prolonged series of debates on anti-terrorism back to what I believe is the fundamental dispute in that region of the Middle East. Before doing so, perhaps I may congratulate the Front Bench team on achieving a remarkable series of debates, which we all hope will be the last but may not be, and on their perseverance. I want to thank in his absence my newly arrived noble friend Lord Skidelsky for his remarks about Israel. My remarks coincide with many of his.
We must remember that terrorism on both sides has been an inherent feature of the struggle in the Middle East from the beginning. Every killing, such as those about which we have heard in the past day or two, deserves sympathy and grief. But let us not be deceived that yesterday's attack or today's response was worse than the last. And it is not always tit for tat.
The day I was in Gaza coincided with the funeral of one of the three Palestinian demonstrators shot dead by their own authority. That was a terrible reminder of the precarious position of Chairman Arafat today. He has to walk a tightrope between Israel and his own militants. He is routinely blamed for atrocities on either side, as he was again this morning by Mr Netanyahu on the "Today" programme when he tried to caricature him as a terrorist. I ask only: without Arafat, what then?
We are all getting a bit free with the word "terrorist" because of the events of 11th September. The use of terror is a tactic not confined to one side or another. Let us not forget, as we easily do in this propaganda war in Israel, which side is the occupying army and which side the resistance. If you travel in the West Bank around Jerusalem, as my wife and I did for 791 several days last week, you quickly appreciate the balance of power. As my noble friend Lord Skidelsky said, it is not merely an illegal occupation but a creeping colonisation by waves of new settlers along the high ground surrounding Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Those settlements and their ring roads are still expanding, usually at the expense of Palestinian farmers whose olive groves are bulldozed routinely and homes and livelihoods destroyed. Access roads to villages and farmlands have been sealed off and we, too, had to make long detours to visit the water conservation projects, clinics and women's groups on our itinerary.
Those settlements also disfigure the landscape. When the Christians finally return to the Holy Land as pilgrims—there are few of them to be seen now—they will be amazed at the transformation. It is a gradual but deliberate and cynical policy of the Israeli Government which they pretend or imagine will safeguard their security. It will not.
I am not sure that Israel's policy of intimidation, which is the cause of the present intifada, is fully understood in Europe even by our Jewish communities who travel to their families in Israel. It is an intolerable imposition on Palestinians who, because of checkpoints and road blocks, cannot even travel home by normal routes, if they are allowed to travel at all. Family life is everywhere under pressure. Children have to rise before dawn to pass through checkpoints on their way to school. The young Israeli soldiers, as we found, not trained, not in any formal educational sense, but to cause maximum harassment and delay to Palestinians. It is not unusual to see at a checkpoint ambulances, with sirens blaring, held up by soldiers with the inevitable tragic consequences before they can reach hospital.
In the Christian community near Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, we learnt again last week what the Israeli Government mean by "security". We saw houses which had been shelled from four different positions in one settlement on 27th August. We met families who had been displaced and saw the charred remains of their furniture and paintings. We visited the Lutheran church and the orphanage which had been occupied by Israeli troops during that attack. All that was the result of a so-called "defence of Jerusalem" against unidentified snipers, or perhaps no one at all. That is another example of the settler-driven sledgehammer in action. It was only an appeal by the Lutheran bishop which alerted the international community and called the army off.
I know that I am not the only one to feel frustrated not only at Israeli and Palestinian extremists, but at the failure of Europe over so many years to bring the parties to a satisfactory settlement. Whatever the true causes of the events of 11th September, which we may never learn, none of us can doubt that a lasting peace in the Middle East would be the touchstone for a new era of understanding throughout the Arab world.
792 Yet, reading through Tuesday's terrorism debate in another place, I did not detect any sense of urgency in Westminster. I am glad that this House has made up for that today. In fact, only a handful of speakers mentioned the Middle East, perhaps because the Foreign Secretary was able to report satisfactorily on progress during Chairman Arafat's visit. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his achievement but I do not believe that it is a separate issue. That is why I wanted to speak today. I believe that it is part of the wider problem of our relations with the Arab world and the urgent need to hold together the coalition.
I fully understand that the Government do not want to link the Middle East directly with the events in America and I recognise, as the noble Baroness said, that new proposals were being put forward before those events took place. Nevertheless, in the language of realpolitik, we must not relax in our commitment to a peaceful settlement. Nor must we allow any one event to delay our determination.
Regrettably, there have been many such delays in the past. While our diplomats in Tel Aviv and Brussels are anxious even now to move forward—and I met several of them—European governments keep postponing the day when they will give it adequate attention. In Europe, there is not nearly enough public interest, which is one of the main causes. People are weary of the Palestinian issue because of the attempts over so many years which have come to nothing. It is often hard to disentangle the rights and wrongs on either side, and people are afraid to antagonise one or other lobby. Yet, when one visits Israel and Palestine one is left in little doubt that the time has now come for a solution. Most of the Palestinians I met, who work in the non-government sector and see the problems at first hand, are certain that there is now a window of opportunity. We must climb through it before it is too late, because the injustices of the status quo are only too clear. They are also clear to a large number of Israelis who would like to move beyond the "ceasefire" mentality towards an enduring settlement. I have met Jewish human rights organisations which feel the same outrage about the system as their Palestinian counterparts. It is often forgotten how many people in Israel are behind the peace process.
In conclusion, I permit myself one question, albeit a difficult one, of which I have given the Minister notice. What is the precise nature of a "viable Palestinian state"? That phrase was used by the Prime Minister, repeated by the Home Secretary on Tuesday and used again today by the noble Baroness. That phrase was used in the declaration of the Berlin European Council on 26th March 1999:The European Union is convinced that the creation of a democratic, viable and peaceful sovereign Palestinian state on the basis of existing agreements and through negotiations would be the best guarantee of Israel's security and Israel's acceptance as an equal partner in the region".Therefore, that phrase, which is a good one, has been around for a couple of years, but what does it mean?
I suggest that it means something more fundamental than the Madrid and Oslo agreements which are often quoted. I hope that it will mean a return to first 793 principles—United Nations Resolutions 242, 338, 425 and 194—and an end not only to the illegal occupation but to colonisation through illegal settlements. As has been said, that is the nub of it. If so, we may also need a new definition of the necessary guarantee of Israel's security.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
My Lords, this has been another sober debate on a very sobering subject. The Government have reminded us again that the current conflict is being conducted with restraint both in the use of force and the geographical spread of the conflict. We welcome the success of that policy so far. It is very important that we maintain both strategic patience and tactical caution in a situation where our public and press would like to see some spectacular action—captures and the kinds of things that would satisfy the sense that something must be done to avenge the crimes of 11th September.
We all welcome the calm restraint with which the Bush Administration has so far reacted and also the British and other allied influence we have seen in Washington. We should, however, like an assurance that that will be maintained. As one or two noble Lords have suggested, we are conscious of the dynamics of conflict. Once force is used it carries its own logic. In particular, when one has a huge number of forces in the region one feels that one must do something with them. I very much hope that British influence will be used to ensure that where there are no targets bombs are not dropped and where there is nothing to be destroyed force is not used just because it is there.
I commend the restraint that we have seen in official Washington. We continue to see the damage that results from careless talk in the hotbed of Washington think tanks inside the Beltway. The other day one heard some very silly remarks about spreading the war against terrorism to east Asia, which caused alarm in the governments of the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere. That is not authoritative Washington policymaking but think-tankers who look round for other things to do without appreciating that the roots of terrorism within the Philippines and Indonesia are in no sense part of the Al'Qaeda network, although no doubt some loose links have been maintained.
The dominant discourse of Washington in the past 10 years is part of the reason why we are in this mess. I refer to the use of such loose terms as "rogue states" and the taboo about referring to the underlying roots of the Middle East conflict. The first matter that one should aim to get out of this conflict is a stronger European voice on a number of issues. I suggest that a stronger European voice in Washington, and in the unofficial debate, is an important part of it. As an academic who goes to Washington quite often professionally, I am struck that over the past 10 years the German Government have put a good deal of money into promoting studies of Europe in Washington and around the United States and sending unofficial German thinkers and intellectuals to Washington. The British Government have not 794 thought that necessary so far. I suggest that what in Asia is called second-track diplomacy—getting journalists and other experts to talk together to influence the broader public debate—is something to which we need to pay much more attention and in which it is worth investing public funds.
The second matter that I hope we get out of the conflict is a stronger European voice in the United Nations and its reform. We heard powerful speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Judd, about this very important question. I very much agree with everything that they said about neglecting the UN until a crisis comes along and then expecting it to do far too much. There are underlying weaknesses in the UN structure. Every time I hear the name of Mr Brahimi I think of the weighty report that he produced last year on the immense weaknesses in the UN's department of peacekeeping operations. It referred to lack of staff and authority and all the things that needed to be done to make the UN more able to deal with major long-term peacekeeping operations.
The 15 member governments of the European Union contribute nearly 39 per cent of the UN's budget. They have 15 votes—following enlargement, they will have 25—out of 190. There is a great deal more that could be done. I ask the Government to accept that, if promoting a stronger common foreign and security policy is now very much part of their agenda, more effective common European action to strengthen the UN is one of the matters that is clearly needed.
Thirdly, we need a stronger European voice in the Middle East, as a number of noble Lords have said. We have heard some very powerful speeches on the Arab-Israeli conflict by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and, in the previous debate, on very similar lines from my own Benches, including my noble friend Lord Carlile. We should not have started from here in the Middle East as a whole, either in the Gulf or the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have lost 10 years since the Gulf War, and longer in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with an overdependence on military force, massive and unwise arms sales to various states in the region and the labelling of too many states as rogue states—Iran as well as Iraq. Unwisely, there have also been troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia, as a number of us have said in Washington for several years and have not been heard.
Now is the time when we need to encourage the Israelis and Americans to stand up to their own fundamentalists, Jewish and Christian, who believe that the Bible says that the Jews should inherit the whole of the land of Israel, as a Republican adviser to the previous Bush Administration once told an astonished audience all the London School of Economics two or three years ago. We also need a broader reflection on European civilisation and Islam. I become extremely nervous when I hear people talk about western civilisation as being qualitatively superior to any other. I recall some years ago reading Martin White's wonderful chapter on the Second World War in one of the volumes produced by the 795 Royal Institute of International Affairs in which he talks about the clash of views between the western liberal approach to foreign policy and the Nazi fascist and Soviet approaches to it. That was as good a clash of world views as one could expect among European countries. European history over the past 100 years is not without the odd blemish. If one goes back a little further, there is the mixed record of Catholic and Protestant fundamentalism. They enjoyed killing each other. We need therefore to understand our own history.
I agree very strongly with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that we need to remind ourselves that over the past 500 years Muslim history has not entirely been a blank page. There have been periods of Muslim civilisation which have made a major contribution to our civilisation.
Some years ago when the Moroccan Government submitted its almost unnoticed application to join the European Community, the letter began by reminding the European Commission of what it described as "the Moroccan contribution to European civilisation". That is a fairly large jump from the medieval kingdoms of Spain. Nevertheless, it reminds us that western and eastern civilisations are not entirely in counterpoint unmixed from each other.
If we are going to deal with that, we must also deal, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said, with the relationship between those of Muslim origin and those of Christian and secular origins within our own country. Perhaps I may disagree a little with the right reverend Prelate. I think that it differs quite a bit from one city to another. I spend some of my time in Bradford. I have done politics in Manchester. My children went to school in south west London. I must say that the Muslim communities in all those places are as different in some ways as I imagine a couple of hundred years ago the Plymouth Brethren were from the Congregationalists and from the Methodists, let alone the broad church Anglicans. That is part of the way in which we have to deal with these different affairs.
Perhaps I may say to the Government that, if we are dealing with relations with our Muslim neighbours and partners, relations with Turkey—a modernising Muslim secular state—are extremely important. I am extremely glad that the Foreign Secretary is there now. I hope that we shall see other British Ministers pursuing that relationship in the months ahead.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I should like to make it clear that I did not wish to suggest in any way that the Muslim communities in this country are homogeneous; they are various. But the fact is that the Pakistani community, particularly of Miripuri origin, is probably the largest and the one with which at the moment we are most concerned.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
My Lords, of course I accept that. Several noble Lords mentioned the question of how we now review our Armed Forces. 796 I welcome the expert contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. We need to consider carefully what sort of resources we need and how flexible those Armed Forces need to be. I also strongly agree with him that we need a great deal more reflection on the question of what sort of reserves we need and how in many instances, including the current one, there is the need to call up different expert reserves from the usual ones.
Then we must talk about Afghanistan itself and the immediate humanitarian needs on which my noble friend Lady Williams spoke very powerfully. I hope that the Minister in replying will talk about the possibility of opening up corridors through which humanitarian aid may go before the winter closes in. I hope that it will be possible for the noble Lord to say a little about how the British Government are contributing to thoughts on longer-term development. I hope that Robert Cooper, who many of us know and have a great deal of respect for, is thinking about how Britain and others may contribute towards training the next generation in Afghanistan in a different kind of state, as well as the position of women.
A number of noble Lords have talked about the region around Afghanistan and how difficult it will be to make sure that both Iran and Pakistan are on board. In some ways in the last 10 years the British Government have neglected relations with India and Pakistan. We are also now very conscious—I am sure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham also knows—that British relations with South Asia reverberate within British cities. Therefore, our relationship with both India and Pakistan, particularly where we have Kashmiri populations, is something about which there is a great deal of sensitivity.
Lastly, I want to talk about the problem of the level of rhetoric and promise in this crisis. I was one of those who was nervous about the tenor of the Prime Minister's conference speech because we do not have to pitch our expectations too high, we have to respect the limits of the possible. I well remember President Bush and his promises of a new world order. That ran rapidly into the sand. It would be unwise to promise another new world order unless we are sure that we can deliver it. We must be extremely careful not to suggest that there is another sense in the West that we are taking up the white man's burden and that we will resolve the problems of the world. It is therefore extremely important that we get the Asian countries as actively engaged as we possibly can in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its neighbours, including China.
We should recognise the mistakes made in the past 10 years and more and make a sustained effort to overcome them. We should not have abandoned Afghanistan after 1989. We must make absolutely sure that we keep a long-term effort there after this conflict is over. We allowed western policy in the Middle East to drift. We now must take a very firm grasp on the inter-connected problems of that region as a whole. We have failed to reform the United Nations. We now must take on board much more actively what we do about strengthening global institutions. We gave a low 797 priority for economic development and for broader assistance in nation-building throughout the rest of the world. I welcome the extent to which within the Government Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, has done a great deal to raise its profile. That is what we need to sustain for the long run.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Lord Vivian
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for not being able to be present for the previous three emergency debates, but I can assure the House that I have read very carefully the three Hansard reports of those debates.
At this late hour I shall be brief and confine my remarks to the situation in Afghanistan. We have had a high quality debate with interesting and constructive contributions from all sides of the House. It is now my duty to wind up for these Benches. The Minister has brought us up to date with the current situation in her usual clear and concise manner. For that we are all most grateful. My noble friend Lord Howell made excellent and relevant points and asked questions which require answering; and there have been other contributions on which I shall touch later.
Perhaps I may say from the outset that it is essential that we do everything to minimise civilian casualties, but in time of war there will always be some risks to civilians even though the utmost care is taken over targeting. Regrettably, on occasions the precision systems in bombs and missiles may not function correctly causing them to go off target.
Counter-terrorism is a very complex subject. During this wind up speech I thought it might be useful to the House to repeat once again to your Lordships the stated aims of the coalition forces and to cover the military objectives and what has been achieved so far. I shall also include a brief comment on the points raised by my noble friend Lord Onslow about Exercise Sail Sareea in Oman.
However, may I say that this is not a time for the faint-hearted nor for any wavering of support for the United States of America. As already agreed, it is essential that the United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with our American allies. I am sure that your Lordships need no reminding that we are only in the second week of air strikes and missile attacks, which have been very successful and which have been essential for gaining air supremacy at medium and high levels over Afghanistan. President Bush and the Prime Minister have both warned that this is likely to be a long, drawn-out affair lasting for many months. In my opinion, the defeat of terrorism will take many decades.
Some of the aspects that involve counter-terrorism are denial and deterrence. These cannot be successfully implemented without accurate and timely intelligence. Therefore there is an imperative need to increase our flow of intelligence as quickly as possible. Without that intelligence, casualties will be far more likely and the wrong objectives might be targeted. I read with some care the comments made by the noble and 798 learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and I support strongly what he said in the terrorism debate held on 4th October:We need more intelligence, better intelligence and intelligence on an entirely different level".—[official Report, 4/10/01; col. 152.]We need more human intelligence sources, people who can infiltrate the terrorist organisations and find out who they are, what are their plans, and then to be able to pass information back in time for the correct action to be taken to prevent the terrorists from implementing their mission. Clearly we need to inject massive funds into our intelligence organisations in order to recruit more people to become effective, not simply an increase in funding, which has been mentioned by the Government.
My noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, mentioned the political and military objectives which bear repeating, even briefly, in this wind-up speech. First, we want to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks on 11th September. Secondly, we want to ensure that Osama bin Laden and the Al'Qaeda network are never able to pose a terrorist threat again. Thirdly, we wish to prevent Afghanistan from harbouring and sustaining international terrorism and terrorists.
To achieve the political ends, it is necessary to have clear military objectives, which I understand to be: to destroy the enemy training camps and the equipment within them; to destroy the Taliban and its military forces, which force it into capitulation, ending its support for Osama bin Laden and Al'Qaeda; and to create the right conditions for sustained pressure to be applied for as long as it is necessary.
So, what has been achieved so far? The coalition has attacked more than 60 military targets, which have included terrorist training camps, the Taliban's military infrastructure, including their early warning and air defence capabilities, their military command and control sites, airfields, surface-to-air missile sites, military aircraft, garrisons and military maintenance bases. Nine airfields have been attacked and the vast majority of those have had their operational capability destroyed or degraded. The majority of the Taliban fighter planes, helicopters and transport aircraft have been destroyed and no longer does the Taliban airforce pose a threat. All our military objectives have not yet been achieved, but Al'Qaeda will now find it very difficult to train its terrorists, as nine of its camps have been attacked. Many of them are not useable and others have been badly damaged.
The future is not at all clear and it would be very wrong of me to gaze into a crystal ball and predict what may happen. If we are to have security of information we should not be told about future plans. The press and television should stop speculating on the future and confine themselves to reporting facts and what has actually happened. However, I think it is reasonable to say, first, that the severe 'winter conditions which are only a few weeks away will have a hearing on the timing of future operations; and, secondly, that in counter-terrorist operations, small search and destroy 799 groups from units based inside secure locations and combined with the latest intelligence are used to destroy an enemy of this kind.
I have noted and agree with the interesting points and comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I was also grateful to hear the interesting views of my noble friend Lord Moynihan on the causes of terrorism. Likewise, I agree fully with the points made by my noble friend Lady Cox.
I shall now turn briefly to the comments made by my noble friend Lord Onslow on the current exercise in Oman Saif Sareea. In the main, I agree with the points that he has made. After all, as he has told us, he was on that exercise recently. I believe he said that he went last week. But I would not like your Lordships to go away with the impression that the Challenger 2 tank is useless. That is not the case at all. The fact of the matter is that the version of Challenger 2 possessed by the Army is the one that was designed automotively for European climates and terrain. There is a different version, known as Al, which operates in temperatures above 49 degrees. The gun control equipment has worked perfectly.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend very briefly. The tank itself is absolutely smashing. Everyone says that, but advice was given before the exercise that the tank was not equipped for desert warfare. It would not work in the desert. The RDGs were sent out on one night exercise. Some 51 tanks went out and only three came back.
There is nothing wrong with the tank which cannot be put right, and it is no good the noble Lord, Lord Bach, saying anything else. The colonel told me so on the morning of that exercise. Everyone was advised and told about this. If 68 tanks are sent to the other side of the world to take part in an exercise, it is fatuous not to make them work, despite having been warned.
§ Lord Vivian
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for those comments. I was going to develop a little of what he has said. Severe problems have been encountered with the air filters, the tracks with their rubber pads were torn to shreds and the road wheels were stripped of their rubber coating. I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that the request for money to make the tanks fit for warfare in the desert was rejected by the Treasury. However, it should not be forgotten that the current exercise in Oman is designed to test the equipment and vehicles that we have at the moment. It is clear, as my noble friend Lord Onslow pointed out, that without converting the vehicles for desert conditions, they will not function. It is worthy of note that the Omanis have Challenger 2 tanks and that they work perfectly well in the desert.
In conclusion, I again pay tribute to our superb Armed Forces and their families. Our servicemen and women face danger frequently and have executed their missions meticulously in the Falklands, in the Gulf War, in Bosnia and Kosovo, in Macedonia, in Sierra Leone and in Northern Ireland. We have a great 800 number of troops in Northern Ireland dealing with the Sinn Fein/IRA terrorists—and terrorists they are—and this is a very dangerous area for all of them. The fight against Al'Qaeda and Osama bin Laden must not allow us to forget our brave and courageous troops there.
We owe a great debt to our servicemen and women, who are prepared to make the final sacrifice of laying down their lives for us and their country. It is our duty to support them and to look after them.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Lord Bach
My Lords, of all the debates on this issue in which I have taken part—that is, in three of the four which have now nearly been completed—this has been the best. There have been some extremely powerful speeches from all sides of the House which have reflected the depth of experience and expertise that this House offers in subjects such as this. I am not one of those who believe that the House offers expertise and experience in all the subjects that it debates—there are some noble Lords who believe that it does—but on these issues it can do so, as it has shown very clearly today.
The Government will consider very carefully the points raised by noble Lords on a variety of subjects, most of them concerned with the subject of the debate—that is, international terrorism. I do not think that the issue of Challenger tanks and Exercise Saif Sareea have much to do with what we are supposed to be discussing; I am a little surprised that it has been raised. However, putting that on one side, most of the contributions today have been to the point, even if that was not.
My duty in standing at the Dispatch Box as a defence Minister is to tell the House what has been done so far and to state, as far as I can, the Government's intentions in the near and far future. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not go down some of the important avenues that they have pursued, but deal, in the limited time I have available, with what has happened and what may happen in the future.
The Government are extremely grateful for the widespread support that they have received in the House—from the Official Opposition, from the Liberal Democrats and, indeed, from all parts of the House. That support makes our standing that much stronger in these difficult times. We are extremely grateful for that support, which has been so strongly expressed, for example, by the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, in the past few minutes.
The whole world, effectively, has come together in a campaign to defeat international terrorism. The United States leads that campaign and it is appropriate that it should do so. It has many unique military capabilities, just as it has a unique role in the world's diplomatic and economic affairs. But let us not forget that it was that country which suffered far and away the greatest losses on 11th September—more than 5,000 people killed, most of them Americans, and two great cities of the world, both in the United States, 801 subjected to acts of terror and a complete disregard for human decency. In the past few days there have been reports that it has perhaps been exposed to a new horror—biological warfare.
It was not only the United States that was stung by these events; we were stung and the world was too. Citizens of some 80 countries died and people from right across the world were murdered without thought to their nationality, their colour or their faith. In the case of our country, we lost at least 100 of our citizens—the greatest ever loss of British lives to terrorism.
In another place, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister gave his conclusions—conclusions which have, frankly, convinced nearly every government in the world about who was responsible. Within the constraints imposed by security considerations, he offered a cogent and compelling case for calling Osama bin Laden and his Al'Qaeda network to account for these crimes. The video footage released by Al'Qaeda last Sunday containing threats to attack more aircraft and more skyscrapers has strengthened the force of my right honourable friend's case, as well as providing a terrible warning that future atrocities cannot be ruled out. Is there really any serious opinion left that does not believe that the main perpetrator of the activities of 11th September was the person named and the organisation that he runs?
It is equally clear now that that organisation shelters behind the Taliban in Afghanistan. Without the Taliban, Al'Qaeda could not train or plan and prepare its barbarities. In return—because there is a deal—Al'Qaeda fights for the Taliban in Afghanistan's seemingly endless civil war. Both organisations cooperate and profit from trafficking in heroin—in other words, their activities lead to deaths on the streets of Britain.
The United Kingdom, like the United States and so many other countries, has been attacked. Now we are taking measured, proportionate action in self-defence, in full accordance with international law. It is important to remember that.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in a powerful speech, almost quizzed me about the use of the word "proportionate". I do not want to go too far down that avenue. The best definition I can give is that in this context it means "reasonable"—in the sense that self-defence in English law must be "reasonable". The noble Lord's point is that when such horrific things are done, in one obvious sense it is difficult to think of any "unreasonable" response. Perhaps I may put it in these teens: it is not to kill for the sake of killing, and it is not to act in pure revenge. Those would not be reasonable or proportionate responses. I do not want to say more on the matter this evening.
My noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean spoke about the wider strategic objectives in the campaign against international terrorism. I shall reiterate them briefly, because they are a major factor in shaping our military aims. The strategy is broad and covers many aspects, embracing action in the diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, legal and 802 military spheres. We have made it clear that we seek: first, to bring those guilty of the attacks on 11th September to account; secondly, to ensure that Osama bin Laden and the Al'Qaeda network are never able to pose a terrorist threat again; and thirdly, to ensure that Afghanistan no longer harbours and sustains international terrorism. Fourthly, if Mullah Omar does not comply with our legitimate demands, we shall also seek sufficient change in the leadership in Afghanistan to ensure that the country's links with international terrorism are broken. These objectives are set out clearly and expertly in the paper that has been placed in the Library. I hope that noble Lords have had an opportunity to read it.
As I have said, military action is only part of our approach, but it is an important one in the achievement of these objectives. But as noble and gallant Lords among us would be quick to confirm, military action is not, and should not be, an end in itself. It must be undertaken with a clear set of goals from the outset. These we have. They are: first, to destroy the terrorist camps; secondly, to pressurise the Taliban regime to end its support for Osama bin Laden; and thirdly, to create the right conditions for future operations in Afghanistan.
The coalition has now attacked over 70 separate targets. All have a clear terrorist or military significance. They range from terrorist training camps to early warning and air defence capabilities, such as airfields and missile batteries. They cover military command and control sites, garrisons and, increasingly, Taliban and Al'Qaeda units in the front line.
We are making good progress towards achieving our military objectives, although we are not there yet. The terrorist camps received a good deal of attention from the coalition. The damage is extensive. Many of the camps have been placed beyond use. In addition, the Taliban's command and control facilities have been hit hard. Their early warning and air defence systems, their radar systems and surface-to-air missile sites lie devastated so do the nine airfields struck by the coalition, as has already been said. The vast majority have had their operational capability degraded or destroyed, and with that most of the Taliban's air force. We have achieved air supremacy at medium and high levels over Afghanistan.
An essential task now is to ensure that we build on these gains. The terrorists must not be allowed to recover if the coalition is to operate as freely and safely as possible. The coalition is prepared to repeat such strikes to make sure of that in a very obvious demonstration of our resolution. I do not suppose that anyone is in any doubt about what we mean when we say that our commitment is long term. We shall be there until the Taliban regime surrenders Al'Qaeda's leaders and renounces its support for terrorism.
The United Kingdom has played a full role in all of this. The Royal Navy has twice launched—most recently last Saturday—salvoes of Tomahawk Cruise missiles against terrorist training camps. We have authorised the United States to operate out of the base 803 at Diego Garcia. Since 9th October, the Royal Air Force has flown about 70 reconnaissances and air to air refuelling sorties in support of American strike aircraft, including nine sorties last night. These are vital missions and ones in which the RAF excels, as the United States knows because they asked us to deploy them. Some 150 reservists, all with very specialised skills, have been called out initially, at least, on a voluntary basis. They demonstrate the great reservoir of commitment and ability that the reserves represent.
We are not limited to only military functions. We shall also use our Canberra PR9S, which are remarkable and sophisticated aircraft, to find the thousands of refugees who are stranded inside Afghanistan as they try to flee the regime. That will enable us to provide important information to the World Food Programme and others who are delivering humanitarian aid, allowing them to bring some relief from suffering.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis is huge and we certainly do not underestimate that fact. However, it is appropriate to stress that this terrible crisis predates the events of 11th September and is a result in large part of the actions of the Taliban regime. The United Kingdom is responding with large aid programmes, for which my noble friend gave the figures earlier. We are working closely with the United Nations to see what further steps we can take.
I am aware that some aid agencies have called for the air operations to be suspended to ease the flow of aid into Afghanistan. I understand that view and no one doubts the absolute sincerity of such views. We have no alternative to taking the most rigorous action against those who carried out the attacks of 11th September. To suspend such action regardless of the reason given would be interpreted by those whom we seek to bring to justice as a contemptible sign of weakness.
The Taliban have been given ample opportunity to accept the demands of the international community for justice. They have not done so and there is no sign that they intend to do so. Our only option is to act decisively to achieve our aims as quickly as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, made the point that speed was of the essence.
§ Lord Judd
I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for giving way. His response to the debate has been very helpful. Will he enlighten us as to whether it is a matter of either/or? If we say that the humanitarian operation is as important as the military operation, are there effective co-ordination arrangements in place to ensure that there is full consultation between the humanitarian agencies and the military on how both objectives can best be achieved?
§ Lord Bach
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I believe that we have; but, if we have not, we are working towards that aim. However, in such a situation it takes time and sometimes such mechanisms are not available at the very start of the process.
804 I was asked specifically by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, about the Government's attitude in this respect. The humanitarian part of the project is every bit as important as any other part. Indeed, in answer to other questions raised, especially by my noble friend Lord Rea, as to how the supplies were actually getting into the country, I can tell the House that there are already stocks within the country; namely, 9,300 tonnes. Food convoys are still getting through, although they are being hindered by the Taliban, and by other problems. They average about 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes a day. They cross at various points. I am sure that the names of the towns and cities will be well known to noble Lords. The World Food Programme is planning to transport 12,000 metric tonnes into Afghanistan next week.
There is a growing problem with disruption, which lies at the door of the Taliban. There are also air-drops by C17 planes. I do not want to make more of those than I have. They exist and they are part of the food programme. However, it needs to be said that the air strikes enable the coalition to drop these supplies to refugees trapped inside Afghanistan. We hope that our actions will lead to a country that is stable, prosperous and at peace.
Let us compare that prospect to the behaviour of the Taliban. Before 11th September the Taliban interfered with the work of aid agencies. Now—scandalously—it diverts humanitarian aid supplies to its own troops—"theft" is the word for that—imposes absolutely arbitrary tariffs upon them, or loots them. That, again, is theft. As has been said, the Taliban is the biggest obstacle to the distribution of humanitarian aid. Indeed, it is worth noting that it would be impossible for the C17s to drop aid if the air defences of the Taliban were still working. It just would not be possible to do so.
We have said before that this is a new kind of conflict. We are not fighting a formidable, conventional standing army, such as we faced in Yugoslavia. Al'Qaeda and the Taliban are relatively ill equipped. Their military infrastructure is limited. They are not military powers in the traditional sense, but respectively terrorists and their protectors. We need to operate in different ways to defeat them. The scale of our operations is markedly smaller than that we would use against a conventional opponent.
I urge noble Lords not to assume that because the campaign began with air strikes it is the same in some way as our operations over Kosovo. It is not. That was then, and now is now. We are not limited to one way of thinking or to one way of operating that, put at its most plain, might be described as, "bomb until we can enter on the ground by consent". This will be different. It will be longer, more arduous, more varied, stranger, and may perhaps involve more military casualties. We have committed ourselves to this long haul, but that does not mean that operations need necessarily continue at the current level. The tempo will change; it will fluctuate. It may slow or intensify, perhaps seem to halt on occasions. Everything will depend on these 805 two questions. How can we best meet the military objectives that I set out? How do they join with the other pressures applied on the Taliban regime?
It follows that air strikes need not be the only option. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said on 11th October that we have always been aware that we have to back up air strikes with other forms of proportionate and targeted action. That could include the use of ground forces. But I should stress that the options are many. We have made no final decisions. I shall, of course, keep noble Lords informed.
I realise that there are worries in some quarters about the targets of the air strikes. Our targets are terrorist and military installations. The targeting processes are rigorous. We must comply with international law, and we do. We have no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan, nor with Islam. Enormous effort is made to minimise civilian casualties and to avoid exposing them to unnecessary risk. But accidents and errors can never be eliminated altogether, although we try very hard to do that.
When the coalition knows it has erred in terms of targeting, we admit it. We do not bomb indiscriminately. Aircraft will return to base with their bombs if they cannot strike their targets. I hope that is of some reassurance to the House in a sombre and serious situation. We do not seek to destroy the country or her people, quite the reverse. We want the country to be free from occupation by a foreign terrorist group that shelters cuckoo-like among them. We, and their friends around the world, want to help the Afghans rebuild their shattered country to create the conditions where the refugees feel safe to return home and to help that country prosper.
I should like to finish by referring to the strength of the international community's adherence to the coalition and support for military action. Before I do that, bearing in mind there has been much talk about Pakistan, I tell the House that the Secretary of State for International Development, who is, as I understand it, in Pakistan today, has announced an increase in aid pledged to that country of £15 million to the government in Islamabad, an increased bilateral aid programme to Pakistan up to £45 million per year for the next two years and discussions about other outstanding moneys and debts. I tell the House that as it is current news.
It is not just the United Kingdom and the United States who are involved in this matter, but many, many countries. Action has been taken: terrorists have been arrested around the world; intelligence is shared; terrorists' assets are being frozen; basing and overflight rights are being granted and, crucially, armed forces are offered and deployed. NATO has invoked Article 5; namely, that an attack on one is an attack on all. It has sent the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean—a multinational force now under British command—to the eastern Mediterranean, where it stands ready to engage in force protection of high value assets. Five NATO AWACs aircraft have deployed to the eastern United States so that America can send its own AWACs aircraft to operate over 806 Afghanistan. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have all made generous offers of military forces. This is not a bad coalition, with many other countries also involved. The coalition fully demonstrates the type and range of commitment we have made, and must make, to ending, if we can, this threat of international terrorism and everything that supports it.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down—I believe that he is on the last page of his brief—it would be a pity if he did riot say anything at all about the future political prospect and how the role of the Northern Alliance is seen as these are current issues of which the newspapers are full. We ought to hear a little about them.
§ Lord Bach
My Lords, I believe that in opening the debate my noble friend made reference to the political matters that the noble Lord raises. There is no doubt that we want to see a future government in Afghanistan made up of multi-ethnic groups. That will, of course, include groups such as the Northern Alliance and others. But it is important that these are multi-ethnic groups and that no one body is predominant. That is our aim. It is not just the aim of the United Kingdom but of the coalition.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I remind him that half the population of Afghanistan is female. It would be a great shame to leave them out altogether.
§ Lord Bach
My Lords, of course that is right. Involving women in government there—or even in ordinary life, which has not been allowed under the Taliban—is a big problem. The United Nations is looking into ways of bringing that issue forward. We want not just multi-ethnic, but multi-gender government.
§ Lord Bach
Well, my Lords, two is more than one. That is as far as I am prepared to go this evening. I do not know whether that satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Howell. We are not looking to impose one group on Afghanistan instead of another; we are looking for a multi-ethnic solution to the problem, with a broad-based government who can act and govern in the interests of all Afghans.
I am grateful to all those who have spoken in the debate. If I have not covered specific questions, I shall be happy to do so in writing. The price of riot continuing with the action is too great to contemplate. It is vital that not just the House, but the country stays together in support of a very worthy cause.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before ten o'clock.