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.”
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.
“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.
Joe Biden takes oath of office to become America’s 46th president | US News
Joe Biden has become the 46th president of the United States, after taking his oath of office in a heavily scaled back inauguration ceremony in Washington DC.
He swore to preserve, protect and defend America to the sound of cheers and applause from former presidents both Democrat and Republican – though Donald Trump decided to break precedent by skipping the event.
It came minutes after new Vice President Kamala Harris took her oath, too.
Mr Biden stressed the fairness of last November’s election result in the opening of his inaugural address by declaring: “This is democracy’s day. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Mr Biden promised to “press forward with speed and urgency” during a “winter of peril” to tackle the “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country”, also vowing to confront white supremacy and terrorism.
He stressed his prevailing focus after a divisive election campaign will be on “uniting our nation”, adding: “With unity, we can do great things, important things – we can right wrongs.”
And he said he wanted to “make America once again a leading force for good in the world”, seemingly in a snub to Mr Trump commenting: “Let’s start afresh… all of us.”
Mr Biden urged people to “join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature”, for, he explained, without unity there will be “no nation, only a state of chaos”.
Speaking as he looked out on to the National Mall lit by a bright sunshine, Mr Biden continued: “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.
“Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
Repeating a motif from his victory speeches in the days after winning the Electoral College vote, Mr Biden promised to be “a president for all Americans”.
Winding up his address, he struck an optimistic tone, saying: “Together we shall write an American story of hope not fear, of unity not division, of light not darkness.”
He ended with: “May God bless America and may God protect our troops, thank you America.”
Lady Gaga, wearing a large dove broach on her top and clasping a golden microphone, had just performed a rousing rendition of the national anthem – and Jennifer Lopez followed with an “American musical selection”.
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton attended the event at the Capitol – and Mr Biden was greeted by cheers and applause as he walked up to the stage.
Mr Biden shared a fist-bump with Barack Obama before the pair took their seats, and then a series of speeches got underway – all sharing a theme of unity.
But as the new president prepared to take the oath of office, Donald Trump was landing in Florida.
Mr Trump is the first outgoing president since 1869 to skip an inauguration ceremony, but departing Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience.
As the inauguration ceremony took place in a chilly Washington DC, where it was trying to snow, the White House was getting a deep clean that was set to cost $500,000 (£366,000).
Shortly before the ceremony began, Mr Biden declared on Twitter: “It’s a new day in America.”
Mr Trump gave a parting message before boarding Air Force One, telling a small group of supporters and family members gathered on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews that “we will be back in some form”.
“I wish the new administration great luck and great success,” he added, before boarding the plane, which took off to the booming soundtrack of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
Mr Biden is only the second Catholic to hold the office of president.
His team have already announced he will sign a series of executive orders reversing several of Mr Trump’s policies, including on COVID-19, climate change and racial inequality.
Australian Open: Novak Djokovic says he is not ‘selfish, difficult and ungrateful’ for quarantine requests | World News
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has insisted he was not being “selfish, difficult and ungrateful” after making a list of requests for players in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.
The men’s world number one reportedly sent a letter to Australian officials asking for a reduction in the time players spend in isolation, permission to see coaches and for athletes to be moved to private houses.
His suggestions were firmly rebuffed by Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews, who said: “People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no… There’s no special treatment here.”
A total of 72 players are in quarantine after 10 people who flew to Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of the year tested positive for coronavirus – leaving many forced to train in their hotel rooms.
Djokovic has since defended speaking out about the quarantine conditions, writing in a lengthy social media post: “My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful.
“This couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
He said his email exchange regarding suggestions for the quarantine conditions was an “opportunity to brainstorm” and he was “aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted”.
“There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help,” he said.
While many players are under the strictest quarantine conditions and unable to leave their rooms, others who were not on the affected flights – including Djokovic – are able to train outside for five hours a day under COVID-secure protocols.
The star player said he wanted to use his “position of privilege” to help others.
“I’ve earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order,” he said.
He added: “Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine.
“I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are.”
Going ahead with the tournament amid the global pandemic and harsh restrictions in Melbourne has caused some controversy, particularly as many Australians remain stuck overseas.
Three new coronavirus cases related to the tournament were reported on Wednesday, including a player who has been in hard lockdown since they arrived.
The second case related to another player and the third is a support person with the player.
Madrid: ‘Extremely loud’ explosion in city centre – reports of injuries | World News
An “extremely loud” explosion has been reported in Madrid’s city centre – with rescue teams, firefighters and police sent to the scene.
Spanish media reports said the explosion took place in a building near a nursing home – and videos and images shared on social media showed rubble scattered in the street.
“We didn’t know where the sound came from. We all thought it was from the school. We went up the stairs to the top of our building and we could see the structure of the building and lots of grey smoke,” a witness told the AP news agency.
The explosion happened in Toledo street. Video on social media showed a number of wrecked cars and debris strewn in the road.
According to TVE, several people have been hurt, while Telemadrid is reporting that at least one person is trapped.
Emergency services could not immediately confirm if there had been injuries.
A police spokeswoman said the area was being evacuated but could not confirm the cause of the explosion.
Government sources have been quoted by Spanish media as saying it may have been a gas leak.
Brexit fishing row: EU requires UK firms show SEVEN export documents for a single lorry
President Biden and VP Harris lay wreath at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery
Sturgeon humiliated as SNP 'wastes' £1.6M on campaign Scots failed to understand
Kamala Harris became the first Black, South Asian VP with ‘firsts’ surrounding her
Brussels insider fumes as Boris Johnson rejects EU's trade deal extension
Controversial Trump appointee overseeing VOA resigns at Biden’s request
New mandates, a close White House tie and big challenges ahead
Joe Biden WON'T hold 'grudge' with UK over Brexit as Boris pushes for close relationship
Americans mark an unconventional inauguration as Biden ascends to presidency
Nicola Sturgeon to get EU support for indyref2 as bloc 'needs UK to fail'
Latest News6 days ago
Spectacled ‘Paddington’ bears venture out at Machu Picchu | World News
Latest News1 day ago
Donald Trump’s farewell address: ‘Our movement is only just beginning’ | US News
Politics2 days ago
On MLK Day, Biden volunteers, Trump adds names to his ‘Garden of American Heroes’
Politics3 days ago
The stakes are high for Biden’s inaugural address. Here’s what to expect.
Politics1 week ago
Global Britain can strike new post-Brexit path as Biden ‘seeks to heal relations'
Politics23 hours ago
Washington hotels weigh inauguration profits against safety
Latest News5 days ago
COVID-19: Australians angry as elite tennis players arrive in country despite travel restrictions | World News
Politics4 days ago
Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers fostered false election allegations that fueled Capitol riot