Imperial College to shut joint research ventures with Chinese defence firms

Exclusive: two Chinese-sponsored aerospace research centres firms to close after warnings of ‘sleepwalking’ into aiding Chinese military

Imperial College will shut down two major research centres sponsored by Chinese aerospace and defence companies amid a crackdown on academic collaborations with China, the Guardian has learned.

The Avic Centre for Structural Design and Manufacturing is a long-running partnership with China’s leading civilian and military aviation supplier, which has provided more than £6m to research cutting-edge aerospace materials. The second centre is run jointly with Biam, a subsidiary of another state-owned aerospace and defence company, which has contributed £4.5m for projects on high-performance batteries, jet engine components and impact-resistant aircraft windshields. The centres’ stated goals are to advance civilian aerospace technologies, but critics have repeatedly warned that the research could also advance China’s military ambitions.

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Poor communication ‘raises risk of nuclear war with China or Russia’

Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the UK’s national security adviser, says backdoor channels had deteriorated

The west risks the initiation of nuclear conflict with China or Russia because of a “breakdown of communication” with the two countries, the UK’s national security adviser has warned.

Sir Stephen Lovegrove, 55, said that the erosion of backdoor channels had resulted in an increased chance of an accidental escalation into war.

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‘Political pressure’ claims in inquiry into alleged SAS killings of Afghans

Emails disclosed by lawyers for two families of victims suggested police told to ignore role of senior officers

“Political pressure” was applied in 2016 to narrow the focus of a military police investigation into allegations of summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a legal claim made in the high court on Tuesday.

An email disclosed to lawyers representing two families of Afghans killed by the SAS showed that the second in charge of the unit investigating the alleged war crimes, had told colleagues about demands being made from higher up.

An SAS officer, discussing the Saifullah family case in an email dated May 2011, asked whether there was an opportunity “to ‘nip’ this allegation before it becomes an official allegation and is fed into either the national or Isaf chain of commands in Kabul, attracting lots of scrutiny”.

Concern about the SAS tactics, techniques and procedures in Afghanistan were raised in 2011 by an external organisation, whose identity the MoD wants to keep secret, which warned that the British soldiers were using unlawful techniques to kill Afghans in cold blood.

Neil Sheldon QC, for the MoD, told the court that the government wanted disclosure of the organisation’s full evidence and name to be prevented by a public interest immunity certificate. The application, he said, was being made on “international relations grounds”.

The chief MoD lawyer acknowledged in an email sent in the run up to a previous hearing in early 2020 that the SAS explanations for the summary killings in 2011 “appear highly questionable, if not implausible, not helped by the practice of post-mission ‘cut and paste’ statements” and that the MoD should “review all incidents involving fatalities”.

His deputy suggested in another email that the UK should investigate “the conduct” of UK armed forces in Afghanistan and “the investigative and prosecutorial response of the RMP [Royal Military Police] and the SPA [Service Prosecuting Authority]”.

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MoD considers review after Panorama’s SAS death squad claims

Inquiry not being ruled out after BBC reports on 54 allegedly suspicious killings by SAS unit in Afghanistan

A UK defence minister has hinted that the government is considering a further inquiry or review of a pattern of 54 allegedly suspicious killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, reported in a BBC Panorama programme earlier this week.

James Heappey told MPs on Thursday morning that the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, “rules nothing out”, and that “he’ll be back in touch with the House very shortly to say how he thinks this might be further reviewed”.

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UK calls for extra vigilance on China ahead of Nato summit

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss among those saying Ukraine war highlights potential Chinese threat to Taiwan

Boris Johnson and his ministers are going into the Nato summit with fresh warnings that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown the need for extra vigilance and caution over potential Chinese action against Taiwan.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is joining the prime minister at the Nato gathering in Madrid, was most explicit, calling for faster action to help Taiwan with defensive weapons, a key requirement for Ukraine since the invasion.

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Johnson vows to stop UK exports to India ending up in Russia

PM says he will close loopholes that allow components to be smuggled via India for use by Russian military

Boris Johnson has said he will close loopholes to ensure UK exports to India cannot end up being used in Russian weapons, as he conceded the war in Ukraine could go on until the end of next year, and Russia could win.

Speaking in Delhi at the end of a two-day visit, the UK prime minister warned that Vladimir Putin was resorting to a “grinding approach” in Ukraine; and suggested the UK would help to “backfill” countries including Poland if they provided heavy weaponry such as tanks to Kyiv.

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Liz Truss’s India visit made awkward by presence of Russian counterpart

Foreign secretary wants Narendra Modi to loosen ties with Russia – but Sergei Lavrov is also visiting

Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. But her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who also arrives in India for his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India has been criticised by western powers for not taking a tough enough line against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the UK hopes for clear signals from Modi’s government about its opposition to the invasion and support for the UN charter. Joe Biden, the US president, described the Indian position recently as “shaky”.

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The Guardian view on Afghanistan’s despair: the UK must step up | Editorial

Britain needs to show that it cares about the lives of starving humans, not just animals

Soon after the Taliban swept into Kabul, with Afghanistan’s economy collapsing, people began to sell meagre possessions, from mattresses to cooking pots, to buy basic necessities. Now we learn that desperate Afghans are selling their children and their kidneys, finding no other way to keep their families from starvation. Almost everyone is short of food; more than half the population faces extreme levels of hunger, and nearly 9 million are at risk of famine. The desperation will only worsen. The foreign aid that fuelled the economy has vanished; huge numbers are jobless; food prices have soared. Drought has worsened the already grim picture.

The UN says that $8bn is needed now: $4.4bn in humanitarian assistance, and $3.6bn to deliver essential services and maintain community infrastructure. Deborah Lyons, the special representative for Afghanistan, noted that donors are worried that they may help the Taliban consolidate their position or seem to be legitimising it. The disappearance of feminist activists last week – after one filmed a video of men she said were Taliban trying to enter her home – is further horrifying evidence of their brutal rule. Many older girls are still barred from school. LGBTQ+ people have reported mob attacks and rape. No one wants to give succour to the Taliban. But it should be possible to deal with them to support ordinary Afghans without formally recognising their government. The alternative is to abandon Afghans, who are suffering twice over: from Taliban control and from the international response to it.

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Boris Johnson accused of lying as emails suggest he approved Afghan dog rescue

PM called claims he intervened to help evacuation of animal charity ‘complete nonsense’

Boris Johnson’s battered credibility was thrown further into question after new Foreign Office emails appeared to contradict his insistence he did not authorise the rescue of cats and dogs from a British charity in Afghanistan during the fall of Kabul.

The release of two emails by the cross-party foreign affairs select committee prompted claims the prime minister had lied, as he faces separate accusations about misleading parliament over the Downing Street parties scandal and awaits the emergence of Sue Gray’s inquiry.

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Nato was a political failure in Afghanistan, says defence secretary

Ben Wallace says west’s ‘resolve was found wanting’ but Taliban did not inflict military defeat

Nato’s political campaign in Afghanistan was a failure, the defence secretary has said, as he insisted the western alliance had not suffered a military defeat at the hands of the Taliban.

Speaking to the Commons defence committee on Tuesday afternoon, Ben Wallace said Nato forces could have stayed on in the country, but a “rotten deal” struck by Donald Trump’s US government led to the Taliban’s triumphant return.

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Experts say China’s low-level cyberwar is becoming severe threat

Activity more overt and reckless despite US, British and other political efforts to bring it to a halt

Chinese state-sponsored hacking is at record levels, western experts say, accusing Beijing of engaging in a form of low-level warfare that is escalating despite US, British and other political efforts to bring it to a halt.

There are accusations too that the clandestine activity, which has a focus on stealing intellectual property, has become more overt and more reckless, although Beijing consistently denies sponsoring hacking and accuses critics of hypocrisy.

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Senior Tory demands end to ‘unseemly’ Cabinet row over Afghan crisis

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the defence select committee, says spats are damaging the UK’s global standing

A senior Conservative MP is demanding an immediate end to the “unseemly and unprofessional” row between the foreign and defence secretaries over Afghanistan, warning that it is further damaging the UK’s already battered reputation on the world stage.

Writing for the Observer Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons select committee on defence, says the crisis has exposed the weakness of the UK as a global player, and calls for a complete overhaul of the way foreign policy is handled in Whitehall.

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Dominic Raab seems to contradict PM by saying Taliban takeover was surprise

Foreign secretary says Afghanistan’s fall came ‘faster than anyone anticipated’ during Islamabad visit

Dominic Raab has said there was widespread surprise including among the Taliban at the speed with which the group swept to military victory in Afghanistan, but the UK now wanted direct communication with the militants.

Raab was speaking after holding talks with officials in Pakistan, the country with the greatest sway over the Taliban. It was his first visit to Islamabad as foreign secretary, and follows criticism that he had not engaged with the Pakistan foreign policy elite in the six months prior to the crisis erupting.

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UK defence secretary suggests US is no longer a superpower

Ben Wallace also contrasts his department’s handling of Afghanistan crisis with Foreign Office response

Ben Wallace, Britain’s defence secretary, suggested the US could no longer be considered a superpower in an interview where he also contrasted his department’s handling of the Afghanistan crisis with that of the embattled Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The pointed comments – coming at a time of heightened transatlantic and domestic tensions over the messy retreat – feature in an interview in the Spectator magazine given days after the final western forces evacuated from Kabul.

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Afghanistan: 2,000 people who worked for UK still to be airlifted

Unidentified number of rights activists, judges, LGBTQ+ advocates and others also waiting to get out, sources say

Two thousand Afghan interpreters and others who worked for the British government are still to be airlifted out of Kabul by the RAF, defence sources said, as the emergency evacuation reaches its final stages amid rising fears of a terrorist attack.

There also remain an unidentified number of “special cases” – human rights activists, judges, LGBTQ+ advocates and others – placed on a special list by the Foreign Office waiting to get out, plus a small number of single-nationality Britons.

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