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

The next step is an Army that’s not able to deploy after 5pm

Article published in The Mail on Sunday on 12 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

This ill-considered, headline-chasing policy will turn our Armed Forces into a semi-reserve force. If we’re not careful the next step will be an Army that can’t deploy after 5pm, or isn’t available at weekends.

Everyone has to realise that joining the Army, the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force is not just another job and I am afraid to say it cannot be a family-friendly organisation. That is the unpleasant reality of Service life.

One must ask the question: Do we really want to have soldiers whose priority is not to serve? Or whose priority is to go off and do other things for a couple of days a week? Our Armed Forces are of such high quality because of the extraordinary commitment made by our people. We do not want to encourage them to reduce that level of service, or prioritise the interests of those who are not as driven to succeed as military personnel.

Also, to achieve cohesion among fighting units, which is critical to success, troops must live and train together and make the same sacrifices. Allowing some people to avoid going anywhere where they might be shot at isn’t conducive to this aim. Rather, fighting capability will be reduced and so will the readiness of our Services to deploy to where British interests are being challenged.

The Flexible Duties Trial is taking us down the same route as various European armies. To them, being in the armed forces is just another job, with the same obligations and rights as civilian employment.

But recruits to the British Armed Forces must continue to understand that by enlisting they are making a major commitment, beyond that of any other job.

This strikes me as a panic move by politicians and Service chiefs to deal with recruitment and retention problems of their own making. Recruitment isn’t done properly because it has been outsourced while mismanagement and legal attacks on our troops have made retention of high-quality individuals more difficult.

Iraq Investigation Shut Down

Article published in The Sun on 11 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

If IHAT is shut down tomorrow it won’t be soon enough.

This miserable organisation and it’s posse of private investigators is the state arm of a despicable campaign to undermine our brave soldiers on the front line, spearheaded by bent tank-chasing lawyer Phil Shiner.

Shiner could not have brought so much misery onto innocent British soldiers and their families without the support of successive governments spending our tax money.

Theresa May and Sir Michael Fallon deserve credit for finally calling a halt.

Great credit is also due to the press, especially The Sun, in their tenacious campaigning on behalf of the beleaguered troops.
What they exposed has been nothing short of betrayal, by government ministers, senior civil servants and – perhaps worst of all – by generals who should have fallen on their own swords rather than see their soldiers sold down the river.

Our soldiers are not angels and they would be no use to us if they were. But they are courageous, well disciplined, well led, tough, professional and moral.

Very few have wilfully transgressed the laws of war in either Iraq or Afghanistan, despite untold horrors and provocations that less effective fighting men would not be able to withstand.

But their collective names have been blackened by this politically-motivated slur campaign. The government must now compensate those directly affected, many of whom have had their lives ruined.

Worse still, our jihadist enemies have used the lies of Shiner and his henchmen to recruit, to gain funds and to motivate. It is highly likely innocent people have died as a consequence.

This must never happen again.

When we send our fighting men into battle to defend this country, and risk their lives doing so, we must in future ensure that they know they will get 100 per cent support from their chain of command and politicians.

Images: Michael Fallon, Theresa May: Wikimedia Commons (1), (2)

CHILDREN GIVEN SKILLS THAT WILL LAST A LIFETIME

Article published in the Scottish Daily Mail on 7 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

Those who say the MoD’s decision to set up cadet units in Scotland’s state schools is intended to provide ‘cannon fodder’ are misrepresenting the facts and betraying the country’s less privileged children. They are putting instinctive, lazy sloganising above the desperate need to give a boost to young people who would benefit most from membership of this genuinely outstanding youth organisation.

Private schools in Scotland have had military cadet units for many years, an incomparable advantage until now denied to state schools. That is changing, and the news that the MoD is setting up cadet units in Scottish state schools should be strongly welcomed, not just by politicians who genuinely care, but also by children, parents, teachers, universities and businesses, because all will benefit.

The Armed Forces will also benefit. I had many Scottish soldiers under my command and – from Northern Ireland to the Balkans and from Afghanistan to Iraq – have frequently served alongside Scottish regiments. Scottish soldiers are among the finest in the world, with an unrivalled reputation for fighting spirit and professionalism.

For years the Army has struggled to maintain recruiting targets in Scotland, and school cadet units will help to redress this by inspiring an early interest in military service, enabling boys and girls to experience some of the extraordinary benefits and challenges of life in the Forces. In my experience, former cadets who join the regular Army often make the best soldiers, and frequently progress up the ranks further and faster.

This is good news for those of us who recognise the importance of a strong and capable Army in an increasingly dangerous world – and who care about fostering the talents of young people from the most challenging backgrounds.

But there is no obligation on cadets to sign up for the Forces, and instructors do not apply such pressure on their young charges.
In fact, many will be surprised to learn that in an average year, only 3 per cent of all cadets throughout the UK opt to join the Forces. What are the benefits for the other 97 per cent? Cadets wear military uniform and practise specifically military skills such as rifle shooting, glider-piloting and tying up a warship alongside, all of which teach discipline, self-control and team-work.

But the training syllabus is much more widely focused, designed to equip cadets with skills for life. They will learn to live by the Forces’ core values including selfless commitment, courage, self-discipline, loyalty and integrity – attributes valued by most employers and increasingly rare in the modern world. Cadets take part in adventurous training activities including whitewater rafting, climbing and hillwalking. The incalculable longterm benefits for a youngster’s character of pitting themselves, physically and mentally, against the ravages of nature can rarely be equalled in any other situation.

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Crooked lawyer Phil Shiner has been struck off – now the Government must pursue him further

Article published in The Mirror on 3 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

Striking him off should be only the beginning of legal action against crooked lawyer Phil Shiner.

This man broke the law by falsifying evidence against soldiers who had been risking their lives to defend our country.
Improperly procuring allegations against them he hounded these brave fighting men through inquiries and court cases often for years.

Falsely accusing them of murder and torture he placed them and their families under untold psychological torture and brought some of them to the brink of suicide.

For his own financial gain and his anti-British political agenda he forced our soldiers to relive again and again nightmares they had endured on the battlefield.

But maliciously spreading and publicising such ghastly lies has even darker consequences.

Shiner’s accusations helped incite our jihadist enemies at home and around the world, providing ideal propaganda for terrorist leaders to inspire recruits and attract funders.

It is certainly possible that people have died as a consequence of Shiner’s malpractice.

The government must now actively pursue criminal charges against Shiner and his henchmen.

Individual servicemen who have been targeted by him should sue and they should be supported in this by the MOD.

Neither should we forget the MOD’s role in enabling and facilitating Shiner’s assaults against their own men.

This is only part of a wider vendetta that is being conducted against our troops who have fought in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several ministers, including the Prime Minister, have spoken out against it. That is not enough.

They must learn the lesson of the Shiner debacle and end the persecution of the brave men who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to defend us.

Mercy and Warfare

Letter to the editor of The Times, published 27 January 2017. © Richard Kemp

Killing a wounded enemy soldier who is no longer a threat is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Of course it is wrong to kill an enemy fighter the way that Sergeant Alexander Blackman did, although this can be mitigated by the stress of combat, as his legal team hopes to demonstrate on appeal.

Mercy killing is also illegal on the battlefield. But a soldier in battle remains a human being with human strengths and weaknesses including compassion. An SAS patrol that allegedly killed three Iraqi insurgents who were bleeding to death and could not be saved during the 2003 Gulf War is still under investigation. Compassion perhaps kicks in even more strongly when a soldier is confronted by the sight of a close comrade beyond treatment and screaming in agony. Putting him out of his misery is as much a crime as finishing off a wounded enemy. But throughout history fighting men have shouldered this impossible burden. In 1917 at Passchendaele, soldiers of my great uncle’s regiment shot several of their own men sucked into the mud rather than see them slowly suffocate.

The legal protection for enemy and comrades alike must be preserved but we must also have the humanity to make allowances for the awful challenges faced by the men who volunteer to defend us in battle.

Colonel Richard Kemp

Commander of British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, London SW1

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism