- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

The British army yesterday began dismantling four security installations in Northern Ireland and announced a reduction in troops across the province, one day after the Irish Republican Army began disposal of its arsenal of weapons.
"Our aim is to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements," John Reid, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, said yesterday. Mr. Reid said the IRA's decision was "unprecedented and genuinely historic it takes the peace process onto a new political level."
David Trimble, leader of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party and the main voice of Northern Ireland Protestants, said he will return as head of the province's parliament in light of the IRA's move to disarm.
The IRA, which draws support from zealous Catholics and Irish nationalists, carried out a 30-year guerrilla campaign to drive British forces out of Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the IRA's announcement will pave the way for a reduction in troops when the threat level allows.
Some analysts say the British government's move to reduce its security apparatus reveals the plan underpinning the IRA's decision to disarm.
The most unsightly features of the once-ubiquitous security presence in Northern Ireland have been removed. In Belfast, observation posts once were perched on apartment towers and barracks were nestled among residential neighborhoods. Those have been scrapped, as have most vehicle checkpoints. In the past five years, 42 military installations have been closed or demolished.
Most of the remaining army outposts are situated along Northern Ireland's border with the Irish Republic. Fourteen army observation towers still dominate parts of the landscape in that area.
The towers themselves and the army helicopter traffic that moves among them have been sources of irritation among the 25,000, mostly Catholic, residents in the area.
Ever since the observation towers were erected in the 1980s, they have been seen as crucial to the British security strategy. South Armagh, where most of the remaining towers were located, was once dubbed "bandit country" because of the high level of IRA activity in the area.
Even as the towers are razed, the number of British troops operating in the area may remain high to detect and deter any activity among IRA splinter groups still determined to wreck the peace process. As Mr. Reid made his announcement in London, Northern Ireland police arrested two suspected IRA dissidents who may have been planning a terror attack.
The IRA said on Tuesday that it had started to disarm an unprecedented move that the clandestine guerrilla group often had vowed would never come and was committed to the peace process.
There has been speculation that several arms bunkers have been filled with concrete and sealed.
In the words of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, which oversaw the destruction, the weapons have been "put beyond use."
The two international arms commissioners, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and South African businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, said their task has been completed.

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