China: Making a Killing in Afghanistan

It looks like China is poised to cash in again on Afghanistan, despite having never fired a single shot in anger there.   This week, Beijing got a step closer to developing natural gas fields in northwest Afghanistan after signing three agreements with Kabul covering economic cooperation, training and trade.  If you’ll recall, China won a major deal in 2007 to develop the Aynak copper mine outside Kabul – one of the world’s largest.   Work on the $3 billion project has reportedly gone slower than expected due to deteriorating security, leading some observers to conclude that Beijing may be reluctant to significantly increase investment in Afghanistan.   But if this week’s agreements are anything to go by, China will continue to do very well for itself in Afghanistan without having sacrificed a thing. Continue reading

PMJs: Private Military Journalists?

The headline in Sunday’s New York Times sent chills down my spine.  Contractors Tied to Efforts to Track and Kill Militants. Sadly, the story that followed justified my reaction.  In a nutshell, the New York Times reported that a US Defense Department official, Michael D. Furlong, established a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents — intelligence which may have been used to track and kill them.

As the New York Times pointed out, it is ‘generally considered illegal’ for the military to hire private contractors as spies.  If it were up to me, it would be expressly outlawed.    Continue reading

Britain’s Iraq Inquiry: What’s the Point?


Hearings in Britain’s latest Iraq war inquiry were suspended this week and won’t resume until after the general election expected this May.  Despite efforts to remain separate from party politics, the Chilcot Inquiry has generated much for the political gristmill.   Among the most notable are claims by defence chiefs and ministers that Prime Minister Gordon Brown starved the armed forces of funds while he was Chancellor and blocked vital equipment orders– charges the Prime Minister has refuted.

With all the headlines, you’d think that the Chilcot inquiry was actually living up to its mandate and identifying lessons to be learned from the Iraq conflict.   But the controversy surrounding equipment shortages is, sadly, nothing new. Continue reading

What Special Relationship?

The sense of betrayal throughout Britain is palpable.   With the dispute over oil drilling rights in the South Atlantic heating up, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Argentina a major diplomatic victory this week by encouraging Britain to discuss the future of The Falkland Islands.  Britain has long maintained that there should be no negotiations on The Falklands unless the islands’ three thousand inhabitants ask for them – which they haven’t.  The islanders wish to remain British. 

 I for one could not be more outraged by Washington’s indulgence of Argentina’s sabre rattling. For me, the 1982 Falklands War feels like it happened only yesterday.  I’m proud to have been part of the task force sent there.  I still mourn mates resting at the bottom of the South Atlantic who lost their lives in The Falklands.  Today, at the age of 55, I’m well up for putting on a military uniform and going back to fight for my country if that’s what it comes to.  I’m sure there are thousands of Brits who feel the same way.  Continue reading