British PM Brown Sets Up Failed State Strike Force

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 11:19 AM

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans on Wednesday for a civilian rapid reaction force that would come to the aid of fragile or failing states, saying he had learned lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 1,000-strong force comprising police, emergency service personnel, judges and trainers would be on standby to be deployed to provide humanitarian assistance to ailing nations or help with post-war reconstruction and peacekeeping.

Ultimately, he said, having such a resource would be in the best interests of Britain's own security.

"We must have civilian experts and professionals ready to deploy quickly to assist failing states and to help rebuild countries emerging from conflict, putting them on the road to economic and political recovery," Brown told parliament as he unveiled a new national security strategy.

"(It is) a lesson learnt from recent conflicts ranging from Rwanda and Bosnia to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia."

Brown urged European Union and NATO partners "to set high and ambitious targets for their own contributions".

The United States and Britain, who five years ago invaded Iraq together, have recognized they could have done more to prepare for the aftermath of the conflict and limit the chaos that continues to cause death and destruction in the country.

Critics of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars say they have created breeding grounds for anti-Western militant groups and put Britain in the firing line for Islamist attacks.

Bombings by British Islamists killed 52 people on London's transport network in 2005.

Brown, unveiling a broad-ranging national security document, said the threat from failing and unstable nations posed as big a threat to Britain as nuclear weapons proliferation did.

He identified a new breed of threats -- climate change, pandemics, computer warfare and the safety of energy supplies -- and said the focus should be on fighting poverty and disease, which he called the "drivers" of conflict and instability.

Recent tensions between Britain and Russia have raised questions about the security of energy supplies.

Brown said he would continue to campaign to prevent nuclear proliferation by bargaining with non-nuclear countries. He announced an international conference in London later this year to help non-nuclear states meet their energy needs.

The national security strategy is part of an attempt to make the public more aware of the threats the nation faces, to win support for foreign wars and increase vigilance at home.

But the opposition Conservative Party said Brown's statement "sounded more like a list than a strategy" and critics accuse the government of exaggerating the threat to win support for tough anti-terrorism laws.

The government plans to disclose hitherto confidential information on risks facing Britain and a new forum of military and security experts, academics and others will help advise a national security committee set up last year, Brown said. ... 81592.html