19/08/2011 Newsnight


Newsnight reports on how the British Council compound attack in Kabul unfolded and assesses what its impact on attempts to bring peace to Afghanistan will be. With Emily Maitlis.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 19/08/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



The chances of a double-dip recession are rising, as the world


economy speaks with its numbers and shouts "big trouble ". The price of


gold hits a record high for the second straight day. It is one of


the few safe havens left. Six months ago analysts were saying


it would be all right, the world economy was clawing its way out of


the abyss. Now fatal uncertainty stalks the market.


We asked the man credited with predicting the last crash, if we


are about to see another. Suicide bombings in Kabul, target


the British Council. What will the timetable for the draw yawn do to


the security of our - drawdown do to the security of our troops.


Political perils of going into the other house. Sally Bercow survives


the night in Big Brother, what are the consequences for little husband.


Does your husband actually know you are here this evening? He does now,


he's not exactly chuffed about it. To discuss it, we are rejoined by


political husband and wife team, Christine and Neil Hamilton, and


the Conservative MP, Jacob Rees- Mogg.


Good evening, when banks aren't safe and Governments are bankrupt,


it is time to head to your log cabin, tweeted the economist who


predicted the crash of 2007, not everyone has a log cabin to hand,


everyone agrees with the sentiment. Bad economic data piles on top of


bad economic data. High street figures are down, markets in


continual motion sickness, and the European debt levels in crisis. We


will hear from the author of Black Swan, Nicolas Nassim Talib, what he


believes the long-term remedy is. First a week of turmoil.


When banks and deposits aren't safe and Governments are bankrupt, time


to buy canned food, Spam, guns, ammunition, gold bars and rush to


the mountain cabin. Thus speaks Dr Doom, via Twitter. Investors are


doing that, gold has hit an all- time high and the Swiss franc is


soaring against the dollar. On the global stock markets, the direction


of their graphs is down. The market is crashing, that is what is


happening. The market has crashed in Germany, and France, it is on


the edge of a 25% fall in the UK. Which is a crash, a good old


fashioned crash. It is crashing because Governments of Europe are


in very bad way financially. months ago analysts were saying


everything would be already, the world economy was slowly clawing


its way back to recovery, now the chances of a double-dip are high,


so why? After Lehman Brothers, credit markets collapsed, trade


collapsed, tkwroth and the stock markets collapsed. So Governments


unleashed two kinds of stimulus, they cut taxes and boosted splik


spending, the so-called fiscal stimlau, they cut interest rates to


zero, and after a bit of hesitation - stimulus, they skut interest


rates to zero and after a bit of hesitation, printed money.


Some currencies and political systems were not strong enough to


take the strain. The Greek crisis ignited chaos in


the eurozone, right now only lending by the European Central


Bank is keeping Italy and Spain afloat. The future of the euro is


at stake, now growth here is faltering. The outcome is grim as


we go forward. The reasons are, first of all, a lot of the recovery


we had been seeing in Europe has come about because of exports, but


there is no doubt that exports are starting to slow down quite


appreciably. Particularly exports to Asia, which had really been the


key catalyst driving European industrial growth in recent


quarters. In America, large parts of the


population see state spending as against their core religious and


constitutional beliefs, and now that's filtered through to politics,


stymieing President Obama on the budget. This week's market mayhem


is driven by fear, that America's recovery has run out, that Europe's


banking system could explode, and politicians, the world over, have


little idea about what to do next. The danger we have right now is


that although we're not at the moment in a recession, that the


sharp falls we are seeing in equity markets could actually drive down


confidence, and drive down wealth, and in turn, precipitate a


recession, which would then make the markets want to fall further


from here. There is a real danger of a downward spiral, unless we get


some force that comes in to intervene and arrest that. Another


fear driving the markets is that the cure could be worse than the


disease. The way out economically is a tried


and tested method, which is inflation. A level of inflation, 5-


6%, exactly what we have in the UK. A devaluation of the currency,


which is what we have in the UK. Austerity to cut back the costs in


the state, we have that in the UK. In Europe you haven't got that, in


America you haven't got that. The same will have to happen in America,


5-6% inflation per year, for five or six years a devalued currency


and austerity, that reality is frightening the markets.


Britain, riots apart, is not se centre of this global stress. But -


at the centre of this global stress, but any trouble is bad for us, we


are one of the most globalised economies in the world.


A few moments ago I spoke to Nicolas Nassim Talib, author of the


influential Black Swan theory of unpredictable events A few months


back on Newsnight he used this theory to warn of civil unrest on


the streets of London, which came to pass. I came to ask would world


recession be his next prediction? don't think the bad news will be a


recession. The bad news is that not figuring out what got us here, and


continuing to commit the same mistake. Too much debt and too much


of what we call the "agency" problem. On the part of the


financial system. Let me tell you what that problem is, the tumour at


the centre of the system not removed. It is when someone makes


money and gets a bow New York and when they lose money we pay the


price, the taxpayers, the future generations in this case. The core


of the problem is that asymmetry in pay-off, socialising losses and


privatising the gain, and the generator of that iniquity is still


there. You are basically saying the banks got away with it, are you?


What has happened, since the crisis these people got us here and they


are reaping the benefits. As an industry they have not suffered.


You have people in the streets, unemployed people, we have the


Federal Reserve doing everything to finance these bonuses. This is, I


mean, I'm outraged. What do you think actually needs to happen then


to the banks that you think have gone unchartered? The first time we


bailed out the banks was in 1982, 1983, during the Reagan years, they


said OK, this should never happen again. But the fact that they


bailed out the banks again in 1987 and repeated it, gave the banks the


feeling they could hijack society, to extract the bonus system, it is


extremely sneaky, in a sense they know if they make a mistake someone


else pays for it, and when they benefit they get it. In 2008 when


they bailed out the banks once again, They should have set the


ground to remove the problem, they did not. The banks today have


hijacked the Government, it is the inverse of what the French did,


they socialised the bank in 1981, in the US the banks took over the


Government. What would you make of the Bank of England here, the


stability chief arguing that actually banks need to be taking


more risk, not less to get us out of recession, that is what he


advocates? I mean, it is not whether the banks should be taking


more or less risk, the banks should be something other than machines to


generate themselves bonuses. The banks should be something more like


a utility, we are bailing them out because they are a utility,


otherwise we will let them die like other business, like the car


industry, like other businesses. We should remove that problem. It has


not been addressed. Today the banks are vastly more centralised than


they were before the crisis. They are much more powerful than they


were before. They have incredibly sneaky lobbies in Washington, it


looks like every monetary policy we have had in the United States for


the last ten years was there to accommodate them, and today more


than ever. We have not solved the problem that got us here. Surely


you are not just saying that the world economic woes we are looking


at at the moment are all down to bank bonus, are you? No, it is


because the monetary policy that we are engaging in, in the United


States, putting interest rates at zero, seems to just do nothing but


supply banks with cheap money, that's it, nothing else. What


should change in terms of the policy now? The first thing we


should have done is try to remove the cancer by working on lowering


indebtedness in society, particularly the United States, we


lost three-and-a-half years, we should have started the process


very early, tried to turn that to equity. It is like a country cannot


survive on air, money is air, you print money it is air. You need to


do something other than just print money and create public liability.


We have not done it. The aim is to get growth back into the economy?


The word "growth" to me, by itself is meaningless. It is like saying


"speed", you need safety before growth. A uponcy scheme generates


growth, that is not the growth we want. People who talk about growth


without robustness are not acting responsibly. Growth that is going


to make the system collapse in two or three years not the growth we


want. We want to clean up the system, we wasted three years doing


nothing but transferring money into the pockets of bankers. The take on


the British Council offices in Kabul which left 12 people dead is


a reminder that the fight against the Taliban is far from won. The


British Council is a non-political organisation that works on soft


diplomacy, a kind of cultural openness, which occasionally makes


it vulnerable. If this is hoi a non-military target is viewed, what


about the troops, as their numbers in the country diminish. The


drawdown timetable is intended to leave no British troops left by the


spring of 2015. How will that be managed, and how easily targeted


with the last ones. This was a carefully planned three-


phase asalt. It began in the early - assault. It began in the early


hours of the morning in a dusty middle-class area of Kabul. Taliban


fighters moved into the side streets that lead from the


mountains, armed with rocket- propelled grenades and machine guns.


They fired on a checkpoint, killing the police on duty. A vehicle


packed with explosives was detonated outside the main gate of


the British Council nearby, bringing down a wall and killing


guards. The blast shook half the city. What followed was an eight-


hour gun battle with Taliban suicide bombers fighting Afghan


security forces and New Zealand SAS soldiers, helped by British, French


and US troops. At least 12 people died, including a New Zealand


soldier. Why does the Afghan Government


think that the British Council was targeted? We are still


investigating why this was under attack. But, as you know, the


terrorists they are attacking international organisations in


Kabul city, also the Government entities. So we do not have any


conclusion at the moment, since the investigation is on, and we will


have to wait for the results. This is a vicious and cowardly attack,


but one that didn't succeed. I spoke to the ambassador in Kabul


this morning, and he assured me that all of the British Council


staff are safe and back at the British Embassy, and the embassy is


safe, obviously there has been a tragic loss of life of Afghan


police and others. The British Council is partly


funded by the Government. And in Afghanistan it concentrates on


English language schools. Clearly the work we are doing,


working with the schools and universities to modernise the


education system. To provide access to education for young women, to


give opportunities for young Afghans to have contact with the


outside world, is something which those who want to close the


community off, do not want to see happen. And in some senses, it is


precisely to stop the sorts of things we are doing that perhaps


cause the attack on the compound. So why should this happen now. Well,


today is the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from


Britain, but perhaps more importantly the Alban are well


aware that there is growing pressure in - the Taliban are well


aware there is growing pressure in the west for the troops to lead.


The date for total withdrawal is little more than three years away,


and peaceful transfer of control is supposed to be under way.


Afghan forces have had responsibility for security in


Kabul since 2008, though NATO troops also operate in the city, of


course, as today's events showed. The aim is that NATO combat troops,


including around 10,000 British soldiers, should leave Afghanistan


by the end of 2014, or soon there after, depending on conditions on


the ground, and the rate to which Afghan forces are trained.


And there's pressure on the US and Britain to hurry that process along.


Sow does today's take show the tragedy - so does today's attack


show the strategy needs re-thinking. One former member of the Defence


Select Committee, argues there must be talks with elements of the


Taliban. The Taliban are many, many different groups of people. Of


course they find common cause with Mullah Omar and others, but if


Mullah Omar is not playing ball, and it sound as if that is the case,


then what we have to do is work on spliting the Taliban movement, so


that you bring the insurgency to a level that can be managed in the


long-term. I mean, you know, there are pragmatic Taliban who actually


care about their country, and don't want war forever.


The British Council plan to continue their work in Afghanistan,


and remain there when the troops have left. Today's attack puts the


timetable for that and the current strategy for dealing with the


Taliban under question. Joining me now is Lord Hutton, the


former Labour Defence Secretary, and from Washington, Kurt Volker,


the former US Ambassador to NATO. Very kind of you both to join us.


John Htuton, the presumption is that - John Hutton, the presumption


is Afghanistan is getting safer, and Kabul safer, which allows us to


plan specifically a drawdown timetable. Something like this must


start changing your mind? This is a very security breach in Kabul,


there is no point preend iting otherwise. Is it in itself -


pretending otherwise. Is it in itself going to change the


timetable that the British Government and President Obama have


set down over the next few weeks, probably not. We have to look at


Afghanistan as a whole, and look at what is happening in the country as


a whole. There have been improvements in the security in


Kandahar, east Afghanistan we should continue to be worried about,


the security development there is. Kabul there will be incidents here


from time to time. But the prime timetable for withdrawal is being


driven by the importance of US politics, and President Obama's


decision that he wants to go into the next presidential election


being able to say there is a significant reduction in the


American combat presence in Afghanistan. Her Majesty's


Government here and other NATO countries have very little option


but really to fall in with that imperative. Presumptionably you


would agree with the political - presumably you would agree with the


political imperative, but would you worry about the troops? Lord Hutton


is right about one thing, the attack itself is not serious in the


whole situation, it is unincident in Kabul, it is worrying but not


significant. The bigger issue is the question of time table and


strategy, it is impossible to bend our will on the strategy set. It is


a long-term challenge. We need to be clear about what our objectives


are, and we can achieve those objective, regardless of the time


lime, as soon as you put a time line on, that you signal to the


public that we don't have the will to be there, put in question your


resolve to achieve your objective, you give a shot in the arm to the


Taliban who think it is a matter of time, and they can use that time,


with incidents like this, to create a climate of fear and doubt about


the future, and put pressure on other Afghan s not to side with


them but to sit it out. To put that point to Lord Hutton,


could you do this with objectives. Basically the time line is a very


visible signal to the Taliban? always decline to put a time line


on when British troops would come home. For exactly the reasons


outlined. You disagree with the position of the current Government,


then? I wouldn't have been in favour of a time line as hard and


definitive as was set. What we have to do now, I don't think that is


going to change, we have to make sure it works in the best possible


way we have. All the NATO allies and partners have is to try to


focus on this now. I accept what was said, I think it is difficult,


knowing all we know about Afghanistan, all the precedents to


take into account, how hard it is to keep your foot on the pedal of


reform to try to get increases in capability amongst the police and


military in Afghanistan, it will be gamble. I don't think we should


kill ourselves on anything other than that. I don't see the time


line changing. I think the politics now are pretty well clear. I think


the British and American forces must do the best they can now. I


think we can do that now. Lord Hutton referred to it as gamble.


Would you have to make the admission that by the time the


troops need, the job, bluntly put, will not be finished? Absolutely. I


want to come back to the point of a time line, though, there is an


opportunity to pivot here. The time line that has been announced right


now, is really the withdrawal of the surge forces. Unlike in Iraq,


where we withdrew the surge forces after they had established some


measure of greater stability, in Afghanistan we are withdrawing them


at a time when violence is up. Nonetheless, I think that time line


is right, that is fixed and before the upcoming presidential election.


From that point forward there is an opportunity to pivot. We have


ourselves out on a limb, where we have a huge military financial


commitment that we can no longer sustain, the solution is to draw it


down. If we look over a longer period of time, with a steader


commitment more targeted, both hitting the tourist organisations,


including the Taliban, and strengthening the security forces,


for a much longer time, that may be a way to pivot.


Could this thing move forward more quickly than we think? Not without


threatening the success of the mission. I'm not sure entirely what


this deaf vision of combat mission is. We hear it - definition of


combat mission is. We hear it will be the end of combat mission by the


end of 2014. No-one has explained that. If we go on training military


and police, we embed our troops alongside them, that is how we do


that, if we are under fire we defend ourselves. There is plenty


of opportunity for to us see this mi mission through. We have


tremendously capable spoke forces which I would imagine will be still


in and around the vicinity, making a contribution. The important thing


to do is win the conflict, which winning it means we leave in a


position where the Afghan Government can handle its on


security effectively and competently, without having to rely


on a large number of NATO force, that will be success in the


campaign. When Big Brother had the brain wave


of inviting The Speaker's wife into the house, they must have realised


they reached the parts of reality shows haven't reached yet. The


political classes were chattering, and even here at Newsnight we asked


a few questions. Does it demean the Office of the Speaker, or is it a


sexist reaction to an independent women doing what she wants to do.


We will hear from Christine Hamilton, who feels it is wrong for


her to appear there. And from the Conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg,


who doesn't. Those who missed her debut appearance here it is. It is


Sally, I have to ask, does your husband actually know you are here


this evening? He does now. He's not exactly chuffed about it. I really


genuinely didn't expect the media furore it caused. Because of who


I'm married to, it is not acceptable. The dirl, Sally. She's


an MP. An MP means, she's. We will ask Big


Brother. Jedward. She owns the House of Commons, that's what I


have heard, she owns it with her husband, that's who she is, really


important. Let's turn to the Hamiltons, who


join me from Edinburgh. You can't really be too pompus about this, it


is a bit of harmless fun? It is for the TV channel, but it will demean


the husband by the kind of programme we have just seen a clip


of. She says she's doing this to give two fingers up to the


establishment. In every other respect she's very happy to enjoy


all the privileges which her husband's seniority in the


establishment gives her. That means she's a parasite to fraud. She


suffers from what we might call attention surplus disorder, she


can't get enough of it. That is her problem, rather than our's. As far


as the House of Commons is concerned, what she's doing is


making the speaker's office, through her connection with the


Speaker, into a figure of fun. Let's put it to a current


Conservative MP, do you share that? No, it is nonsense. She's not The


Speaker, she's not maybe of the Royal Family, or defined by her


husband's job. She's doing this programme, which may not be


considered high-class television by many people, but it's not The


Speaker who is doing it. He's doing his job completely independently of


that. A lot of people will say actually she is famous for being


The Speaker's wife. She's not famous for being a Labour


councillor, she is famous for the fact she's married to John Bercow?


If you look at what people are famous for, it is all sorts of


things. There is a celebrity culture in Britain that promotes


people who haven't necessarily done anything in their own right, but


have been touched by other people who are famous. That is a different


matter all together. That is not particularly her fault, that is


just the way the press is interested in people. Let me put


this to Christine, would you have done this whilst your husband, Neil,


was still an MP? Absolutely no way. You mentioned earlier that I have


been on the very first I'm a Celbrity Get Me Out of Here. I'm a


perfectly ordinary private individual, a private citizen, I


don't owe anything from the state or receive anything from the state,


I'm not married to the highest commoner in the land, which Sally


is. My position is 100% different. What you might call the Sally


Bercow Sir cushion when it started I fully supported her, I am in


fully agreement that a woman should do what she wants and not be


defined by her husband. I think Sally has taken it far too far. Big


Brother, I think it is highly demeaning, I have turned it down


twice. She's in awe autounique position. No wonder - she is in a


unique position, no wonder her husband is staying in India.


Let's talk about someone who didn't turn it down, George Galloway, he


did it while he was in office, there he is, pretending to be a


cat? George Galloway might a prize fool of himself on Big Brother, he


decided to do that. I don't think there is anything fundamentally


wrong with people appearing on bad television shows, that is their


choice, and people have their views of television, mine is Newsnight,


others want to watch Big Brother, good luck to them. I'm glad to say


my wife has more sense. You have a lot of colleagues who would agree


with what the Hamiltons are saying tonight, would it not help to


campaign against him, is he not more vulnerable because of this?


don't think so, people who oppose the Speaker because of what his


wife is doing make them look ridiculous, that is up to her. It


must be on what he does as Speaker, it happens what he is doing is


supporting the legislature against the executive, I'm in favour of


that. That is tremendously important, and shouldn't be lost in


this fog of Big Brother. When people hear from you, they will


have a moment of pot and kettle, they don't think of you two as


turning down offers for finding publicity? I have turned down Big


Brother twice, and a lot of things, people only know what you do and


not what you turn down. We are both perfectly independent private


citizens, we do not have any connection with any high offices of


state like she does, we are a totally different category. I don't


think you think there was a little bit of fundamentally good old


fashioned sexism, if it was an MP, or a bloke, or even when George


Galloway did t people are rather more accepting of it, she will get


more flack because she's female? she were the Speaker and the spouse,


John would be on there, it would be the same where does it go next,


cage fighting, mud wrestling, where does the line draw itself? She will


make herself look an idiot, I think, the same way as George Galloway.


Throughout history there have been strong-minded women who caused


their husbands embarrassment, you can go through it, that is all


that's happening, it is not a big constitutional issue, I hope she


Download Subtitles