Brown lied about negotiations & planned to retrain Taliban fighters?

More bizzare news about Afghanistan. As if Karzai proudly admitting he is a puppet of the Americans wasn’t strange enough, an Afghan journalist has sentenced to death for downloading a document on women’s rights from the internet.

Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed. The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December.

The Afghan government claims they prove British agents were talking to the Taliban without permission from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, despite Gordon Brown’s pledge that Britain will not negotiate. The Prime Minister told Parliament on 12 December: “Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating their leaders. We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.”

The British insist President Karzai’s office knew what was going on. But Mr Karzai has expelled two top diplomats amid accusations they were part of a plot to buy-off the insurgents.

The row was the first in a series of spectacular diplomatic spats which has seen Anglo-Afghan relations sink to a new low. Since December, President Karzai has blocked the appointment of Paddy Ashdown to the top UN job in Kabul and he has blamed British troops for losing control of Helmand.

It has also soured relations between Kabul and Washington, where State Department officials were instrumental in pushing Lord Ashdown for the UN role.

President Karzai’s political mentor, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, endorsed a death sentence for blasphemy on the student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh last week, and two British contractors have been arrested in Kabul on, it is claimed, trumped up weapons charges. The developments are seen as a deliberate defiance of the British.

An Afghan government source said the training camp was part of a British plan to use bands of reconciled Taliban, called Community Defence Volunteers, to fight the remaining insurgents. “The camp would provide military training for 1,800 ordinary Taliban fighters and 200 low-level commanders,” he said.

The computer memory stick at the centre of the row was impounded by officers from Afghanistan’s KGB-trained National Directorate of Security after they moved against a party of international diplomats who were visiting Helmand.

A ministry insider said: “When they were arrested, the British said the Ministry of the Interior and the National Security Council knew about it, but no one knew anything. That’s why the President was so angry.”

Details of how much President Karzai was told remain murky. Some analysts believe Afghan officials were briefed about the plan, but that it later evolved.

The camp was due to be built outside Musa Qala, in Helmand. It was part of a package of reconstruction and development incentives designed to win trust and support in the aftermath of the British-led battle to retake the stronghold last year.

But the Afghans feared the British were training a militia with no loyalty to the central government. Intercepted Taliban communications suggested they thought the British were trying to help them, the Afghan official said.

The Western delegates, Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson, were given 48 hours to leave the country. Their Afghan colleagues, including a former army general, were jailed. The expulsions coincided with a row within the Taliban’s ranks which saw a senior commander, Mansoor Dadullah, sacked for talking to British spies. One official claimed the camp was planned for Mansoor and his men.

The computer stick contained a three-stage plan, called the European Union Peace Building Programme. The third stage covered military training.

Curiously, the European Union says the programme did not exist and there were no EU funds to run it.

Afghan government officials insist it was bankrolled by the British. UK diplomats, the UN, Western officials and senior Afghan officials have all confirmed the outline of the plan, which they agree is entirely British-led, but all refused to talk about it on the record. President Karzai’s office claimed it was “a matter of national security”.

The memory stick revealed that $125,000 (£64,000) had been spent on preparing the camp and a further $200,000 was earmarked to run it in 2008, an Afghan official said. The figures sparked allegations that British agents were paying the Taliban.

President Karzai’s spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, accused Mr Semple and Mr Patterson of being “involved in some activities that were not their jobs.”

The camp would also have provided vocational training, including farming and irrigation techniques, to offer people a viable alternative to growing opium. But the Afghan government took issue with plans to provide military training, to turn the insurgents into a defence force.

Afghan government staff also claimed the “EU peace-builders” had handed over mobile phones, laptops and airtime credit to insurgents. They said the memory stick revealed plans to train the Taliban to use secure satellite phones, so they could communicate directly with UK officials.

Mr Patterson, a Briton, was the third-ranking UN diplomat when he was held. Mr Semple, an Irishman, was the acting head of the EU mission. Officially, the British embassy remains tight-lipped, fuelling speculation that the plan may have been part of a wider clandestine operation.

A spokesman repeated the line used since Christmas: “The EU and UN have responded to inquiries on this. We have nothing further to add.”

But privately, the UN maintains it had no role in setting up the camp. Meanwhile, Mr Semple’s EU boss, Francesc Vendrell, admitted he had very little idea what was going on.

Yet the British ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, cut short his Christmas holiday to meet President Karzai and “spell out the Foreign Office paper-trail” which diplomats claim proves his government had agreed. They met twice, but it was not enough to stop Mr Semple and Mr Patterson being forced to leave.

Gordon Brown has also said Britain would increase its support for “community defence initiatives, where local volunteers are recruited to defend homes and families modelled on traditional Afghan arbakai”.

Will teachers in England be forced to promote British nationalism?

Now, remember when you read the following – it would only apply to children in England:

The subject of teaching Britishness in schools has taken a fresh twist with claims that patriotism should be taught as a “controversial issue”.

The government wants children to develop a sense of British identity through history lessons.

But academics at the Institute of Education say pupils should not be encouraged to love Britain because it has a “morally ambiguous” history.

They also found just 9% of teachers think schools should teach patriotism.

And if the poll is correct, the majority of teachers are right. It’s not their job to preach, but to teach. Hence the name “teacher”.

But that’s beside the point, according to David Blunkett, former education secretary and total bastard, who claims:

too few teachers have been trained up to give compulsory citizenship classes.

He is calling on the Schools Secretary Ed Balls to employ a full-time minister to ensure government targets are met.

The Department for Schools insists it is “fully committed to high quality teaching of the subject”.

From 2002, citizenship lessons became a legal requirement for pupils from age 11 to 16 at schools in England.

Statutory citizenship education is not part of the national curriculum in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Wonko is of the opinion that the project is doomed to failure.

New Labour’s threat to Eurosceptic MPs over referendum call

Erm, I think the threat would have been: shut up about our manifesto commitments or else! 

Funny how they’re keen to implement other manifesto promises, as if anybody read New Labour’s “little red book” before voting in 2005.

But no, the constitution is now an amending treaty. See, it’s magic! Changed the name of it – ergo, there’s no need for a referendum. (This tactic of changing names puts me in mind of “boncentration bamps“.)

Note that the three rebels are rumoured to be considering abandoning ship to the Tories. Hmm…

From The Times:

THREE former Labour ministers face formal disciplinary action for backing a campaign to force Gordon Brown to call a referendum on the European Union reform treaty.

The outspoken Eurosceptics Gisela Stuart, Frank Field and Kate Hoey were each summoned for an angry rebuke by Geoff Hoon, the government chief whip, and were told that their behaviour was “disgraceful”.

The MPs now face suspension from the parliamentary Labour party if they fail to distance themselves from the cross-party group, I Want a Referendum, which plans to stoke the debate on the constitutional treaty by running mini-referendums in the seats of pro-EU members.

In a sign of the government’s growing nervousness, Hoon took the unusual step of calling the MPs to his Commons office for an “interview without coffee” in a last ditch attempt to silence them.

One MP said: “Geoff was absolutely furious. He never normally raises his voice, but you could hear the noise two rooms away.”

However, this weekend the rebels remained defiant, promising that they would continue to call for Labour to fulfil its “manifesto pledge” to hold a national ballot.

The campaigners hope to persuade members nervous about losing their seats to change their minds and vote with the rebels in the continuing Commons debate.

The Labour MPs being targeted — who include Bill Rammell, the universities minister defending a majority of 97 in Harlow, Esseex — are understood to be furious that parliamentary colleagues are backing a campaign to destabilise them.

Formal disciplinary proceedings against Hoey, Field and Stuart will begin tomorrow at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party. The three Eurosceptics have been the subject of regular speculation that they might defect to David Cameron’s Tories.