The Other Special Relationship: Britain and the UAE

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 12 September 2021. © Richard Kemp

Here in Britain there has been great concern about ruptures to the UK-US special relationship following the catastrophic unilateral US withdrawal from Afghanistan and US President Joe Biden’s intransigence over the emergency evacuation from Kabul.

Another long-term special relationship enjoyed by Britain — with the United Arab Emirates — was also affected by events in Afghanistan, but in a positive direction. A few days ago, Britain’s ambassador in Abu Dhabi said the evacuation of UK citizens from Kabul was made possible by the assistance of the UAE who provided a staging airport as well as support from across government ministries.

In Dubai recently, I again witnessed the ever-growing miracle of engineering, finance and enterprise that has bloomed in the Arabian Desert, aided not least by Britain’s unique connections with the territory and its people since the early 1800s — a century and a half before the formation of the Emirates as we know them today. Around 200,000 Britons live in the UAE and more than a million visit each year, for business or tourism. The UAE is Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, and the UK is the UAE’s third biggest partner in non-oil commodities trade. Britain is one of the largest investors in the UAE, which also has many major investments here.

Beyond mutual economic benefits, Britain and the UAE have shared geopolitical interests that echo back 80 years to the decades when Britain helped defend the land against those who wanted to seize it for themselves. UAE forces — which had their origins in the British-led Trucial Oman Scouts — fought with the US coalition in the 1990-91 Gulf War and with NATO in Kosovo. The UAE was the only Arab nation that deployed troops into Afghanistan during the 20-year campaign, conducting combat operations alongside other coalition Continue reading

We now live in a more dangerous world

Article published in The Colchester Gazette, 18 August 2021. © Richard Kemp

In the last few days we have witnessed scenes of chaos in Kabul and its airport as Afghans and foreign citizens desperately try to escape the Taliban. Colchester-based soldiers, mainly from the Parachute Regiment, are on the streets of Kabul, working with the Royal Air Force to get our people out amidst a dangerous and volatile situation.

Sir Laurie Bristow, British Ambassador to Kabul, who was a pupil at Colchester Royal Grammar School, has remained in situ, personally issuing visas and working to help British citizens, locally-employed staff and Afghans who helped our forces to operate during the last two decades and are now under intense danger of Taliban reprisal.

The current situation was totally avoidable. It is the direct result of President Biden’s disastrous decision in May to pull American forces out of the country. Our Defence Secretary apparently tried to cobble together a NATO coalition to remain in Afghanistan without the Americans. This was no more than a pipe-dream. Decades of savage cuts to British forces meant we could not continue to operate there without American backing and anyway no other NATO country was willing to play ball.

Not only was the decision to withdraw wrong, it was implemented in the worst possible way. It was so rapid that the Kabul government and forces did not have time to plan and prepare for a totally different situation. To make matters worse the pull-out was executed during the Taliban fighting season. Had it been delayed to late autumn or winter the security forces would have had more opportunity to consolidate in their new situation.

We went into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and Al Qaida following 9/11 — the worst ever terrorist attack anywhere in the world, which killed more British citizens than have died in any other Continue reading

Greatest humiliation for America and the West in decades

Article published in The Daily Express, 16 August 2021. © Richard Kemp

Military hardware has been blown up and embassy cars, filing cabinets full of secret documents and even national flags burned as the Taliban closed in on Kabul. Choppers have been shuttling fleeing diplomats to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in 1975. This is the greatest humiliation for America and the West in many decades, with our governments caught off-guard as the Taliban scythed across Afghanistan.

There has been heavy fighting in places like Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Ghazni, but many cities have fallen with barely a shot fired as provincial governors switched sides with their militias following. Seeing the wind change fast, the demoralised Afghan army, with little allegiance to a corrupt government, have often dropped their weapons and melted away. Some, notably special forces, have fought hard but in vain.

These scenes were inevitable when Joe Biden announced his unconditional withdrawal. Only a month ago he proclaimed — in what must have been the most wrong-footed and naive statement ever made by a US president — that the Taliban would not march into Kabul and the Afghan security forces were more than capable of defeating them.

Perhaps he did not know about the brittle relationship between President Ghani and his governors in the provinces whose loyalties are to their tribes rather than Kabul. Whatever allegiance existed dissolved as soon as America withdrew its support.

We are now in transition from an elected — if deeply flawed — administration to a bunch of murderous thugs who just marched in and demanded control. Despite the lying platitudes of Taliban spokesmen the benighted Afghan people will see an immediate return to the unmitigated savagery of pre-2001 days — execution and amputation for Continue reading

We will all pay for this mistake by Biden

Article published in The Daily Mirror, 16 August 2021. © Richard Kemp

This is exactly what Al Qaida planned when they rammed two airliners into the twin towers on 9/11. They hoped to lure US forces into Afghanistan where they would defeat them and destroy American prestige globally. It’s taken 20 years but that’s pretty much what is happening today.

As a result of President Biden’s disastrous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, America’s reputation lies in tatters. For the first time I can remember from a British cabinet minister, even Defence Secretary Ben Wallace publicly criticised US defence policy.

He says he tried to cobble together a NATO coalition to hold on in Afghanistan. Of course that was more dream than reality as successive British governments have cut our forces to a level where they cannot stand on their own feet without America behind them.

Biden’s decision shattered political and military morale in Afghanistan. He then made matters worse by pulling out so rapidly that the Kabul government had no time to plan and prepare to fight alone.

In panic, Biden had to send in more forces to rescue diplomats and civilians than he withdrew only weeks ago.

I remember the optimism of so many Afghans in Kabul shortly after we first went in. They had been freed from the abuse and oppression of the Taliban and were promised US-backed prosperity, a secure and stable future with equal rights for women, girls at school and an end to government-authorised murder, torture and rape.

Many of these things were being achieved. But that’s all over. Very soon Kabul citizens will be enduring revenge killings against those who worked for the government or helped international forces and Continue reading

BBC: Leading the World Against Israel

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 15 August 2021. © Richard Kemp

More than any other media organization, the BBC is responsible for inciting hatred against Israel — not just in Britain but globally. Its agenda helps to ensure continued aggression against the Jewish State; fuels violence by Hamas and other terrorist groups; feeds the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement; encourages distorted condemnation of Israel by human rights groups and international bodies; and provides material to be exploited by activist university professors and students.

All of this not only seriously harms the reputation of the State of Israel and stimulates antisemitism around the world, it also worsens the suffering of Palestinians by uncritical coverage of the leadership that is responsible for their plight.

Plenty of other media organizations and propagandists contribute to this malevolent narrative, but the BBC is more influential than any of them because of its widely perceived objectivity, respectability and reliability, combined with unrivalled reach. It operates under a contract with the British government and is bound by a Royal charter, together requiring accurate and impartial news and analysis of current events and ideas. In its own words: ‘BBC News is respected both in the UK and around the world for the strength of its journalism and impartiality.’

It is the largest broadcaster on the planet, with over 35,000 staff. Last year it boasted that on average 438 million people around the world came to the BBC each week.

Following accusations of slanted reporting of the second Palestinian intifada, which began in 2000, and the rise in Jew-hatred caused by it, in 2004 the BBC was pressured to open an inquiry into its coverage, by Malcolm Balen, a former BBC News editor. For 17 years Balen’s Continue reading

Naive Biden has condemned the United States to strategic irrelevance

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 13 August 2021. © Richard Kemp

Only one month ago President Biden denied the Taliban would be able to take over Afghanistan after US withdrawal. With breathtaking naivety, he claimed their combat power was not even close to that of the Afghan military and the Kabul government was capable of holding the country. Since then the Taliban have seized huge swathes of territory and swept into 16 provincial capitals, with the Afghan security forces collapsing before them.

Taken by surprise, thousands of US troops have re-entered the country to enable American citizens to escape. On Thursday a humiliated US government was pleading for the Taliban to spare their embassy, evoking scenes from Saigon in 1975 when US forces helicoptered staff from the roof of the besieged embassy there. Revising only days-old estimates that Kabul might fall within three months, US intelligence officials are now — perhaps optimistically — giving it just 30 days.

This debacle is set to become an indelible stain on Biden’s presidency. Not only is America’s standing in the world profoundly diminished, Biden’s unconditional withdrawal has also undermined the entire credibility of NATO, including British forces, which had no choice but to follow the US out. Not least among the consequences will be the strengthening of jihadists everywhere, exactly what the 2001 intervention aimed to prevent.

Biden said in July that the future of Afghanistan would be in the hands of other countries in the region. That makes matters far worse. Pakistan created the Taliban and armed and funded the 20-year campaign against Western and Afghan forces that has taken it to the gates of Kabul. Reportedly Pakistan has been sending militias to fight Continue reading

Fighting the Blight of Durban

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 29 July 2021. © Richard Kemp

This week, Ronald S. Lauder, former US ambassador to Austria and currently president of the World Jewish Congress, sent an open letter to US President Joe Biden setting out his concerns about rising antisemitism. ‘Recently, American Jews have witnessed something we never thought we would see in this country,’ he wrote; ‘…a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke cannot walk down an American street without fear of violence. Jews have been attacked by pro-Palestinian mobs in Los Angeles, New York and other cities. Antisemitic incidents have more than doubled in the past year. Hate crimes against Jews in America are twice as high as crimes against any other religious group.’

In Britain, the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors antisemitism and provides security for the Jewish community, reports that racist attacks against Jews in May this year ‘surpassed anything we have seen before’, with more antisemitic incidents than in any single month since records began in 1986. In London, a convoy of vehicles drove through Jewish areas brandishing Palestinian flags and screaming at passers-by to kill Jews and rape their daughters. According to the UK charity Campaign Against Antisemitism, recent examples of hostility include physical beatings and vandalism, chants and placards at rallies, social media abuse and threats to Jewish children at schools and universities.

Similar antisemitic attacks have been on the increase around the world from Buenos Aires to Brussels. In a speech this week Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: ‘Antisemitism has reached a peak that has not been seen since World War II.’

This recent spike in aggression against Jews was fuelled by intensive antisemitic propaganda during the May 2021 Gaza conflict initiated by Iran-backed Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group that fired around 4,500 rockets, mortars and anti-tank missiles at Israel in 11 days. (For comparison, the average daily rate of fire was four times that Continue reading


Article published in the July 2021 Newsletter of the Pen & Sword Club. © Richard Kemp

Indignation from Israeli and international media followed allegations that the Israel Defence Forces deliberately misled journalists during Operation Guardian of the Walls, the recent 11-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

The IDF was accused of posting an ambiguous tweet and sending text messages to journalists, interpreted as meaning Israeli forces had entered the Gaza Strip when in fact they had not, and Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, IDF international media spokesman, was alleged to have personally confirmed to journalists that a ground incursion was in progress.

Conricus denies he deliberately misled the media, claiming an honest mistake. The tweet, however, was enigmatically worded, saying the IDF was ‘attacking in the Gaza Strip’. Israeli tanks and artillery were indeed firing at Hamas targets inside Gaza, but from the Israeli side of the border. The IDF had massed forces along the fence-line to deceive Hamas that a ground offensive was imminent.

Hamas took the bait and sent dozens of fighters underground into the ‘Metro’, a vast tunnel network constructed since the last Gaza conflict in 2014, to outflank, ambush and abduct IDF troops. Once the fighters were inside, the Israel Air Force unleashed Operation Blue South, attacking the tunnels with 160 combat planes in just 40 minutes.

Leaving Conricus’s personal role aside, it appears possible the IDF did seek to manipulate the media into inadvertently supporting their deception operation with its tweet and text messages. Reading the media outrage, you would be forgiven for thinking the IDF in 2021 had invented this kind of manipulation. So often, IDF operations are viewed in isolation and their tactics painted as outside the norms of Continue reading

Trumpets and Tank Engines: A Turning Point in Gaza?

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 16 May 2021. © Richard Kemp

During an operation in Gaza last week, the Israel Defence Forces attacked a Hamas tunnel complex with 12 squadrons of 160 combat planes striking over 150 targets with hundreds of bunker-busting JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in less than an hour. Although the battle damage assessment is still underway, the raid destroyed perhaps the most critical element of Hamas infrastructure, wiping out vast stocks of munitions and likely killing dozens if not hundreds of fighters. This was a hammer blow to Hamas and may prove to be a turning point in the conflict. It also sent a powerful message to Iran and Hizballah, foretelling the consequences of an assault on Israel with their arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon.

The IDF operation was a carefully coordinated combination of intelligence, surveillance, knowledge of enemy tactics, deception, surprise and precisely targeted, overwhelming force. Of all these, deception and surprise were key. Surprise is a principle of war in the American, British and many other forces, defined in the US Army Field Manual as ‘striking the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared’. The manual goes on to say: ‘Deception can aid the probability of achieving surprise.’ Throughout the history of warfare, surprise achieved through deception has led to many stunning military victories — often against the odds.

The IDF’s deception operation was reminiscent of the biblical Israelite leader Gideon’s famous stratagem against the Midianites. He had his men blow trumpets, light torches and yell battle cries, simulating a much larger force and causing the vastly superior enemy army to flee the field.

Last Thursday, the IDF massed tanks, artillery and infantry combat vehicles on the Gaza border, engines roaring like Gideon’s trumpets. The build-up was observed by Hamas and widely reported in international media as an imminent ground invasion. Like the Midianites, hundreds of Hamas fighters rushed to take shelter inside the “metro” tunnel network. Built by Hamas after the 2014 conflict to house command facilities, store weapons and facilitate protected movement, these tunnels covered dozens of kilometres beneath the Gaza Strip. There the fighters were trapped as JDAM after JDAM thundered in from above. Emerging to fight the invasion that never came, the surviving anti-tank teams and mortar squads were then also hit from the air.

This masterpiece of tactical synchronisation, with all its complex elements, symbolises the IDF’s precision attacks during this Continue reading

The PM must legislate to end disgraceful trials of former soldiers

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 5 May 2021. © Richard Kemp

What is going on in the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service? Just four days in, the trial of two veterans accused of murdering IRA serial killer Joe McCann collapsed for lack of evidence against them. Senior detectives responsible for the Historical Enquiries Team investigation warned prosecutors the case was going to fail. The former deputy director of the team wrote of the intention to prosecute: ‘In over 40 years of investigative experience, I can honestly say I have never encountered such an appalling injustice.’

Yet, relying on legally inadmissible military statements from half a century ago – ‘dressed up and with a new 2010 cover’ as the judge put it – the PPS carried on regardless in what can only be described as a parody of justice. The costs of their bungling have been high. For more than a decade of investigations, the two distinguished former soldiers – both in their seventies – have been put through hell, their lives on hold, their future liberty uncertain. Meanwhile Joe McCann’s family has been strung along, given false hope that their perceptions of injustice would be remedied in court. And the British taxpayer has footed a hefty bill – with trial costs alone estimated at £5 million.

Can the PPS with its army of highly trained lawyers, including 50 public prosecutors in Belfast alone, really have been so incompetent as to allow all of this, or is there a more sinister explanation? Convicted terrorist murderers have been let out of jail early and pardoned, and suspects who have evaded justice so far handed ‘comfort letters’ preventing their future trials. In this context, many politicians, lawyers and military officers have long believed that prosecutions of former members of the security forces who confronted these killers are politically motivated, intended to appease Sinn Fein. The outcome of this trial can only reinforce that view.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland, MI5 and the Garda, the Irish Continue reading

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism