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UK MPs Express Alarm at Escape of 476 Taliban Prisoners

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TEHRAN, April 27 (ICANA) – A succession of British MPs of different political persuasions have expressed alarm about the escape of 476 Taliban prisoners from the national security unit at Sarposa Prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 6:43:29 PM
UK MPs Express Alarm at Escape of 476 Taliban Prisoners

Veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, raising an emergency question in parliament on Monday's major escape, said it was the second time it had happened and was “not just a small incident - it was a disaster.”

“Many of those who escaped were captured originally at grievous cost in blood and treasure. Now hundreds are liberated to attack our soldiers again,” Flynn warned the government.

“The Afghan security services have proved themselves, to a large extent, to be endemically corrupt, inept and probably, in this case, infiltrated by the Taliban.”

“Their loyalty is often for sale. When will the Government realise that they cannot build an ethical reliable army and police force on rotten corrupt foundations?” he asked.

Former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth warned that the escape “is a blow of whose significance we cannot at this stage be certain, but surely it points to the fact that we cannot rely on the security sector alone to provide a stable situation in Afghanistan within the time frame that the Government have set.”

“We must now, as the Foreign Affairs Committee has called for, redouble our efforts on the political front, in conjunction with our allies,” Ainsworth told the government during Tuesday's emergency debate.

Shadow foreign office minister John Spellar called for an early assessment of the seniority, importance and capabilities of those who escaped, especially with the approaching fighting season in Afghanistan and said the government should be frank that this is a setback and needs to be clear about its significance.

Conservative MP John Baron described the escape as a “heavy blow to our armed forces” and questioned Britain's exit strategy of handing over security to Afghan forces when they seem “incapable of even guarding the Taliban, let alone taking them on in the field.”

During the emergency debate, former foreign secretary David Miliband repeated his call for a political settlement in Afghanistan and called for “an absolute ban on that kind of happy talk” previously voiced by the government about military progress in the war.

Former Europe minister Denis MacShane said the escape was proof again that “events in Afghanistan are controlling us, rather than the other way around” and proposed that British forces “should retract while we can, rather than retract when we must.”

Democrat Unionist MP from Northern Ireland Jim Shannon questioned how it took eight months to dig the tunnels and probably upwards of 12 hours for the prisoners to escape on their hands and knees “but nobody saw anything.”

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen warned that the news of 476 dangerous Taliban fighters escaping from detention “risks seriously damaging the morale of our troops serving in Afghanistan” and said it was essential to improve the security at the detention centres immediately to shore up confidence that it will not happen again.

For former foreign office minister Chris Bryant, one of the most depressing facts about the escape is that “in many cases it will have been British special forces who captured those people in the first place, and it may well be British special forces that have to capture them all over again.”

In response to the alarm, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt admitted the escape was a “disaster in security terms”, that those held were detained at “great cost” and was why there must be an investigation held to find out what happened.

But Burt also insisted it is of huge importance that there must be a transfer of power and responsibility to allow Afghanis to be responsible for their security “because there is no other answer.”

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