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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 14:35 GMT
Salmond queries Afghan operation
Marines on exercise
Marines will be sent to flush out al-Qaeda forces
Leading Scottish nationalist Alex Salmond has expressed concern about the decision to send 1,700 Marines to Afghanistan.

Mr Salmond that while there was support for the deployment, concerns remained about the nature of their operation against al-Qaeda fighters.

Last week, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that the troops, including 750 troops from Arbroath-based 45 Commando, would be sent to attack al-Qaeda and warned that there would be casualties.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond is seeking clarification
The offensive and open-ended nature of the deployment has concerned some politicians.

Mr Salmond, the MP for Banff and Buchan, said: "First, we are going to have 1,700 troops in eastern and southern Afghanistan fighting in mountainous regions while we have 1,600 troops in the British peacekeeping force in Kabul.

"Normally you wouldn't have people in combat roles and others in peacekeeping, in one country at the same time.

"Americans wouldn't do it with their troops, so the question has to be, why are we doing with it ours?"

'Lack of precision'

Mr Salmond called for a more specific outline of what the operations will entail.

He said: "There is a lack of precision and a lack of detail about how many people Commando 45 are going to be facing, what the exact disposition of the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda are, and who is actually going to decide when the mission is over."

However, Falkirk West Labour MP Eric Joyce, a former army major, said he was confident the military strategy was right.

He said: "What we have to do at the moment is to send in the troops, to get them to do the job in a way that doesn't explain exactly to the enemy what their plans are."

See also:

24 Mar 02 | UK Politics
UK extends lead of Afghan force
18 Mar 02 | South Asia
Operation Anaconda 'over'
14 Nov 01 | UK
UK's mountain warfare elite
01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Kabul mission extension 'possible'
18 Mar 02 | UK
UK's mountain warfare elite
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