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Britain ‘should commit more troops’

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Britain should commit more troops to help stabilise Afghanistan and be prepared to remain in the country for many more years, a former Head of the British Armed Forces has said.

Speaking to Sky News, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux said the UK should support the recent American surge ordered by US President Donald Trump to deal with a resurgent Taliban.

“I think we should be much more involved in the support role,” Lord Richards said.

“The sort of things that the Americans are asking of us, we should be prepared to step up to the mark on.

“I think it’s time to just remember that the Afghan people have fought a war on our behalf, to prevent terrorism from striking us, with us, and we owe them something in return and not give up just because it’s not going very well.”


A U.S. Marine from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. during the start of Operation Khanjari on July 2, 2009 in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan



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The history of the US in Afghanistan

Lord Richards, who was also the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2008, said the UK could offer air and logistical support to its American partners.

The US and Britain first invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks.

The initial mission to get rid of the Taliban and to stop Afghanistan harbouring al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden was swift and it was successful.

Seventeen years later around 600 British troops remain in the country, most in a training role.

“That initial campaign was stunning in its simplicity and its success,” said General Richards.

“In under two months the Taliban were gone. If you’re looking for models for future generations of soldiers to look at, I think that’s got to be one of them.”

His comments are supported by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary General between 2009 and 2014 who also believes the alliance must be ready to help Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

A US soldier holds the national flag ahead of a handover in Lashkar Gah
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A US soldier holds the national flag ahead of a handover in Lashkar Gah

“I think it is a worrying situation. And I fully support the NATO efforts to strengthen the training mission with a view to increasing the capability of the Afghan security forces to take care of their own security.

“What we need now is to maintain a sizeable force, NATO force, to help the Afghans when it comes to security.”

Britain’s combat role officially came to an end in October 2014 when the Union flag was lowered over Camp Bastion.

British Special Forces are still very active in the country but the majority of Britain’s public contribution is in the running of the officer training academy in Kabul.

The US military presence is nothing like as large as it was, but significantly, it is growing again.

Last year President Trump sent another 3,000 US troops to Afghanistan and a further 1,000 are expected to join them this year.

That will take the total US deployment to 15,000.

The Afghan conflict has spanned the terms of three US Presidents and four British Prime Ministers. It is now America’s longest foreign war.

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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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