What the Conservative manifesto should pledge on defence

Article published by The Daily Telegraph, 5 May 2017.  © Richard Kemp

Decades of cuts have left the UK’s defences hollowed out, unfit for purpose and facing a £10 to £20 billion funding gap. Successive governments saw few votes in defence, reinforced by fear of using military force after Afghanistan and Iraq.

But today this country faces a range of worsening threats on a scale unprecedented since World War II. Global Islamic jihad will need to be countered by force for generations to come. Iran’s aggression across the Middle East is exacerbated by its nuclear ambitions that are beginning to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Russia’s intent to re-establish itself as a superpower represents increasing peril. The torrent of illegal immigration into Europe threatens our stability and will only worsen.

These are just some of the threats we know about today. Tomorrow, new and unexpected menaces will emerge. We lack the fighting power to confront them and the resolve to defeat them. History shows that such weakness encourages adversaries.

We need a full spectrum of military capabilities to proof against the uncertainties of tomorrow, ranging from nuclear deterrence to special forces strikes against individual terrorists. But we must also summon up the will to actually use them to deter powers such as Russia that seek to limit our freedom, prosperity and security; and to annihilate avowed enemies such as the Islamic State.

We cannot do this alone. We are the closest strategic ally of the US, a relationship that must be strengthened post-Brexit. NATO remains essential for the defence of the West, yet has opted out of the major strategic issue of our time – fighting Islamic terrorism – and has become increasingly moribund with lack of financial and political commitment among most of its members. The next government should lead reform of the alliance so it again becomes a guarantor of peace and security.

Increasing EU obsession with defence integration, including research and procurement, threatens to further undermine NATO by duplicating effort and diverting resources. We must not join this misguided venture, despite temptation to do so as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations. Instead we should exert pressure against the EU’s mantra of defence decision-making autonomy from NATO.

Despite the success of our security services in preventing terrorist attacks at home, the threat from Islamic jihadists will increase. We must take bold action against them, including deporting terrorist suspects and excluding those seeking to return to the UK after fighting jihad overseas.

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Where is world outrage over Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul?

Article published in The Jerusalem Post on 30 April 2017

by Richard Kemp, Jim Molan and Arsen Ostrovsky

Holding the bodies of soldiers killed in action and refusing their return to their next of kin for burial is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law.

On May 1, Israelis will observe Remembrance Day, honouring soldiers who fell in defence of the Jewish state and victims of terrorism.

At an age when most teenagers are getting ready to go off to university or travel abroad, Israelis devote at least two to three years of their lives to defending and protecting their country, the only Jewish state, and by extension the West’s front line of defence in the global war against Islamic terrorism.

Two such soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of the State of Israel were Lt Hadar Goldin and Sgt Oron Shaul, who were killed in action by Hamas during Israel’s defensive 2014 war with the terrorist group, Operation Protective Edge.

On August 1 2014, hours after a United Nations- and US-brokered humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel in Gaza, ambushed an IDF unit and killed Hadar, who was only 23 years old. Hamas then took his body and have been holding it hostage in Gaza since, treating it contemptuously as both a bargaining chip and an instrument to torment his family.

Shaul, who was only 20 years old at the time, was also killed by Hamas, when he left his armoured personnel carrier to repair the vehicle and Hamas fired on his unit, killing him, and likewise taking his body and malignly holding it in Gaza.

Holding the bodies of soldiers killed in action and refusing their return to their next of kin for burial is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. As is using the soldiers’ bodies as bargaining chips, which Hamas continues to do.

Only last week, the terrorist group released a morbid video including a song in Hebrew, taunting the families of Goldin and Shaul, again in breach of international law.

To this day, almost three years since their abduction, Hamas refuses even to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access.

That Hamas, a fanatical Iran-funded Islamist terrorist organization, does not abide by even a modicum of international law and basic human decency is beyond dispute. But where is the international outcry? Only last week, the international community was up in arms Continue reading

Any lawyer who knowingly makes false accusations against our troops deserves to be in the dock

Article published in The Daily Mail on 26 April 2017. © Richard Kemp

There cannot be many more heinous crimes than helping to frame those who risk their lives for their country.

It takes a particularly warped mind to do such a thing — to assist our enemies in falsely accusing the bravest of soldiers of rape, murder and torture.

It takes an even more twisted mind to profit from drawing up such allegations to the tune of many millions of pounds.

But for the past decade, that’s exactly what some unscrupulous lawyers are accused of doing.

The one who’s been shamed, Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers (was ever a firm more grossly misnamed?), led a witch-hunt against British troops in Iraq, making false claims they brutally and, in some cases, fatally ill-treated civilians.

Earlier this year, following the closure of his firm last summer, Shiner was finally struck off after being convicted of a string of professional misconduct charges.

Now, Martyn Day of law firm Leigh Day is up against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal — along with his colleagues Sapna Malik and Anna Crowther.

The firm faces 19 professional misconduct charges for the way it brought claims against British soldiers for supposed ‘war crimes’ in Iraq.

On Monday, the scale of its alleged wrongdoing was revealed by Tim Dutton QC, who is representing the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

‘Over a period of more than seven years, Martyn Day, Sapna Malik and Leigh Day made and maintained allegations that soldiers in the British Army had murdered, tortured and mutilated innocent Iraqi civilians,’ said Mr Dutton. Continue reading

Trump’s strike on Syria made the world safer. Now he must tackle the nuclear threat from Iran

A version of this article was published in The Sunday Post on 9th April 2017. © Richard Kemp

President Trump’s attack on the Al Shayrat airbase in Syria has made the world a safer place. It was a return to US global leadership and resolve that hasn’t been seen for eight years.

Thursday night’s Tomahawk cruise missile strike was made necessary by President Obama’s weakness, appeasement and poor judgement that destabilized the Middle East and signalled a free pass to despots everywhere. Russia received the green light for intervention in Syria and aggression in Ukraine.

President Assad previously used Sarin in August 2013 in an attack at Ghouta. Despite Obama’s declaration the previous year that use of chemical weapons by Assad was a red line he failed to respond, with far-reaching consequences for American credibility and authority. Instead, with Russia and Syria, he agreed the surrender and destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons under international supervision.

Ever since, Obama, his Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have been bragging about how they ended Syria’s use of chemical weapons by diplomacy rather than force.

Tuesday’s Sarin attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun conclusively exposed their miscalculation and naivety.

The Chemical Weapons Convention bans production, stockpiling and use of these munitions worldwide. Whenever anyone attacks with chemical weapons without consequences their subsequent use becomes more likely and threatens us all. Because of that, not only was Trump’s counter-attack legitimate, lawful and proportionate — it was vital for global security.

Why did Assad attack with nerve agent? Support from Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hizballah prevented the total collapse of his regime but the war against his own people is far from won. Continue reading

Marine A was a man broken by combat. The courts are right to say he was no murderer

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2017. © Richard Kemp

I strongly welcome the news that Sgt Alexander Blackman is to be released soon, after his conviction for killing a wounded Taliban terrorist in Afghanistan was downgraded from murder to manslaughter.

Blackman was the first British soldier ever convicted of murder on the battlefield. This is particularly striking given the millions who fought in both world wars, and in all other violent conflicts in modern history.

Thousands of British soldiers who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Ireland have been investigated for alleged murder, torture and rape. The scale of these proceedings is vastly greater than anything seen in all previous wars combined.

Have the British armed forces of the 21st Century suddenly descended into hitherto unknown savagery? Or have such horrors
previously been brushed under the carpet in a cover-up of unprecedented proportions?

Neither. The reality is that today, unlike in the past, the actions of our troops are measured by a society whose only understanding of combat is ‘Command and Conquer’ or ‘Call of Duty’; and judged by leaders who have never themselves faced enemy fire.

This includes senior military officers, civil servants, politicians and lawyers. These people not only permitted, and even welcomed, Sgt Blackman’s wrongful conviction for murder; they also encouraged and financed a large-scale legal vendetta against British soldiers, taking seriously hundreds of patently trumped-up accusations of criminal wrongdoing. Continue reading

Khalid Masood simply doesn’t fit profile for jihadists and reality is the police and MI5 can’t monitor everyone

Article published in The Mirror, 24 March 2017. © Richard Kemp

Britain sustained its first Islamic terrorist attack in July 2005 when I was responsible for coordinating the national intelligence agencies in support of COBRA.

Following COBRA’s meeting on the day of the London attack this week, the emergency committee will have met several times.

One of the key issues under discussion has been the profile of the terrorist, his known associates and whether he was working alone.

The members of COBRA would have quickly realized that 52-year-old Khalid Masood did not fit the usual profile for jihadists active in this country.

The average age is just 22 – often impressionable hotheads who are easy prey for radical preachers like Anjem Choudhray, himself now in prison for terror-related crimes.

Masood seems to come from a relatively well-to-do background. This is not uncommon, contrary to the popular misconception that most jihadists are from poor families, marginalized and cast aside by society.

He had been in several prisons, and it is very likely that the Christian convert was radicalized while inside. Disgracefully, our prisons remain a breeding ground for Islamic extremism.

His crimes, over 20 years, had involved violent assault, public order and possession of offensive weapons.

He had no terrorist convictions. But like many others who have launched attacks in Europe, Masood had previously come to the intelligence services’ attention on the margins of a terrorist investigation.

He was no longer a suspect and not under surveillance. The reality is MI5 and the police cannot monitor everyone they believe to be involved in Islamic terrorist activity.

There are just too many for them to cope with. The Head of MI5 says his service knows of 3,000 jihadists in the UK. Such a huge number cannot possibly be monitored.

On top of these, with the Islamic State under pressure in Syria and Iraq, hundreds of British citizens who have fought with this murder gang will return home.

Plus even known jihadists from European countries will continue to be free to travel to Britain until we leave the EU.

Allowing such freedom of movement in the name of the human rights of known terrorists puts all of our citizens in mortal danger.

London terror attack shows we must seriously think about arming ALL police to prevent another

Article published in The Mirror, 23 March 2017. © Richard Kemp

I was once responsible for the coordination of the national intelligence agencies for Cobra meetings dealing with terrorist attacks like this one.

Our intelligence services, police and private security organisations prepare for all types of terrorist attacks, from the 7/7 suicide bombings, the firearms and explosives assault in Mumbai, to the Bataclan theatre slaughter and the lone wolf knifing or car ramming attack such as this one.

This is the hardest type of attack for our intelligence services to stop. Working individually or in pairs, terrorists do not need to communicate in a way that can be detected by intercepting emails or phone calls.

Nor do they need to obtain specialist weapons.

As Islamic State has called upon its followers to do, anyone can use a car, knife or machete to deliver a terrifying, lethal attack.

The last assault of this sort in London was in May, 2013 when Fusilier Lee Rigby was rammed and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale.

Since then no terrorist attacks have come to fruition here. Many have been planned, but the intelligence agencies and police have succeeded in stopping them.

But, no matter how good our services are, they can’t always be Continue reading

Mistaken criticism

Article published by Israel Hayom, 10 March 2017. © Richard Kemp

I was in Israel throughout Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014 and monitored the campaign as closely as someone outside the official machinery could do. Having been involved in the direction of conflict from the top level of government down to command on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, I believe this highly complex and demanding operation, fought under an intensely critical international spotlight, was conducted effectively and with the best possible outcome.

To argue that the war could have been avoided is to simply ignore the diplomatic and political efforts made over several years to do just that, not only by the Israeli government and its ambassadors but also by supporters around the world, including the Friends of Israel Initiative of which I am a member. It is to ignore the actions of international governments and organizations like the UN and EU that encouraged terrorist acts against Israel and still do. And it is to ignore the malign intransigence and motivations of Hamas itself and its supporters such as Iran, which are hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish state.

Of course errors were made, as they always are in war. Winston Churchill himself readily admitted making many mistakes in the prosecution of World War II. But to a large extent due to his courage, judgement and leadership, Britain and its allies ultimately defeated their enemies in the most lethal conflagration mankind has ever known.

The ultimate outcome, not the inevitable mistakes along the way, is the true measure of any armed conflict and it is the true measure of this Gaza war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objective was not the total defeat of Hamas, but to inflict sufficient damage to force a cessation of hostilities and deter further aggression as far into the future as possible.

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Rommel and ‘HR’

Letter published in The Times, 28 February 2017.  © Richard Kemp

While Captain HR McMaster was attacking Iraqi tanks in the Battle of the 73 Easting, I was doing the same a few miles across the desert with the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats (‘ “HR” and the Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, The Times, February 25). I was in the command tank with Brigadier Patrick Cordingley, also an outstanding battlefield commander. While McMaster had a photograph of Rommel in his armoured vehicle, from ours fluttered the flag flown by the commander of 7th Armoured Division who fought under General Montgomery when he vanquished Rommel at El Alamein.

Ben Macintyre is right to say that President Trump has not acquired a docile general who will meekly follow orders. Most British soldiers became deeply impressed by the fighting spirit and initiative of the US Army and Marine Corps during that war, and we can be sure that from McMaster and his Marine colleagues Generals Mattis and Kelly, the president will benefit from a great deal of military straight-talking.

Nato needs to reform into a global alliance against Islamic terrorism – or become obsolete

by Rafael Bardají and Richard Kemp

Article published in The Daily Telegraph on 13 February 2017. © Rafael Bardají and Richard Kemp

President Trump has said repeatedly that Nato is obsolete. And he is right. For five decades Nato was necessary to, as its first Secretary General said at the time, ‘keep the Soviets out, the Americans in, and the Germans down’.

The Atlantic Alliance was indeed instrumental in deterring the USSR

and keeping the European continent in peace. There were many discussions as to how to achieve its goals, including major disagreements, but with America providing leadership, taking a big portion of the economic burden, and being willing to station hundreds of thousands of GIs in Europe, the Allies were able to overcome all problems and stay highly successful during the Cold War.

The collapse of the Soviet Union left Nato with both the sweet feeling of having won the Cold War without a real fight, as well as a sour feeling about what should come next.

In the early 90s there were voices calling for the dismantling of Nato as well as voices arguing in favor of retaining it as a safety net, just in case things went once again in the wrong strategic direction. In any case, the civil war in the former Yugoslavia offered Nato defenders a new option: to move from a territorial defense of the members in case of a Soviet invasion to a multinational body able to act on its periphery to enforce peace among rivals and contenders. More than a mission, peace enforcement was adopted as a salvation philosophy to keep Nato alive and well.

Lord Ismay, founding Secretary General of NATO, standing second from right on board the SS Williamsburg. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thus, in 1995, allied forces bombed Serbian forces to force the Dayton agreement and put an end to the war over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1999 they mounted a bombing campaign to guarantee the independence of Kosovo, a territory controlled by Serbia.

That campaign lasted for 81 days, far longer than expected, and was Continue reading

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism