Security in Iraq, Afghanistan Deteriorating, British Lawmakers Say
LONDON – British troops are facing growing threats in Iraq and Afghanistan as the security situation worsens in both countries, a committee of lawmakers said Sunday.
The panel also said in its foreign policy report that the danger of another terrorist attack in Britain is high.
"The continued deterioration in the security situation in Iraq is extremely worrying, as are the deepening sectarian and ethnic dimensions of the violence," the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said in its report on the foreign policy aspects of the anti-terror fight.
While British, American and allied forces hope to eventually hand off responsibilities to Iraqi troops, the country's forces "remain a long way from being able to take the lead on security across Iraq," the lawmakers said.
The reliance on Shiite and Kurdish soldiers to build up troop numbers has added to tensions in a country already riven by ethnic violence, the lawmakers said.
Britain has roughly 7,200 troops in Iraq, and the report said they face extremely difficult conditions.
Violence is also on the rise in Afghanistan, it noted.
"There are signs that the tactics that have brought such devastation to Iraq are being replicated in Afghanistan," the lawmakers said.
Britain has more than 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, many of them part of a NATO force in the restive south, where Taliban militants are mounting a push to regain control.
Militants are following the lead of insurgents in Iraq to carry out suicide attacks and roadside bombings that were once rare in Afghanistan. Two British soldiers were killed in a firefight on Tuesday.
The lawmakers said little progress was being made in reducing opium cultivation in Afghanistan, the world's main producer of the drug.
They also warned that the Al Qaeda terrorist network "continues to pose an extremely serious and brutal threat to the United Kingdom and its interests."
The group claimed responsibility for last year's July 7 bombings that killed 52 commuters and the four suicide attackers on London's transportation system, but the government says its role was unclear.
Despite successes in targeting Al Qaeda's leadership, "the danger of international terrorism, whether from Al Qaeda or other related groups, has not diminished and may well have increased," the report said.