Their work has helped to prevent another atrocity

Another terrible landmark in the global war on terror. What have the deaths of 2,000 American troops in Afghanistan achieved?  Throughout the years that I worked at the centre of the British intelligence machinery, a vast array of reliable secret reporting and communications intercept clearly showed that al-Qaeda was hell-bent on another attack of 9/11 proportions. They have failed even to come close.

To a very significant extent this failure is down to the work of international forces in Afghanistan. All too often, at the cost of their own lives, these international forces in Afghanistan have prevented al-Qaeda from re-establishing their base, which intelligence showed to be one of their critical objectives from 2002 onwards. Continue reading

Green-on-blue murders must not deflect us

Allied forces have no option but to stand by our Afghan allies, however suspect their loyalty

My first experience of “green on blue” — the euphemism for Afghan soldiers going rogue — was as an officer cadet in 1978. I awoke at two in the morning with an Afghan’s knife at my throat.

A fellow officer cadet, he and I had become friends during our six-month course, but I had made the mistake of relieving him of his rifle when he found it impossible to keep up during a forced march across Sandhurst’s infamous Barossa training area. This he took as a mortal insult against him, his family and all of his ancestors. Continue reading

The people’s brutal oppressors have never been far away

Afghanistan is no longer shocked by Taleban brutality

Most Afghans will be sickened, but I doubt they will be shocked, at the latest atrocity to emerge from Helmand. On Sunday night 17 Afghan men and women were butchered, many of them beheaded, for “partying with music in an area under the control of the Taleban,” as a spokesman for Helmand’s provincial governor put it.

According to a tribal elder, such killings have been on the rise in this region of Helmand, with three beheadings in the month of Ramadan alone. Executions are not only justified on so-called religious grounds. Many, including old women and children as young as 7, have
been slain after accusations of spying for Nato or the Afghan Government. Continue reading

Armed Forces Day flag

On Armed Forces Day, the Government must begin to treat our troops as they deserve

As a former soldier and taxpayer, I was deeply embarrassed when I visited barracks and found soldiers living in slum conditions

WHEN 1,200 soldiers, sailors and airmen march past the Earl of Wessex in Plymouth today they will represent all of the men and women who have served on land, at sea and in the skies around the world, protecting our country.

Off the shores of this historic naval port, at 2pm, one of our most powerful warships, HMS Argyll, will fire a 21-gun salute.

At fly-pasts, parades and ceremonies in towns and cities across the UK, we will commemorate the service so honourably given by our brave fighting troops. Continue reading

Eavesdropping cardinals

It’s an online war. The old weapons won’t do

I don’t like snooping either, but if we want to stop terrorists we must be free to monitor the technology they use

This week MPs, civil liberties campaigners and human rights lawyers stampeded to the studios to oppose plans to record internet communications that the Home Secretary says are “vital” to combat serious crime and terrorism.

In the past, I have had responsibility for authorising and carrying out surveillance against terrorist suspects, criminals and insurgents. I always felt uncomfortable eavesdropping on private phone conversations or covertly watching people at home with hidden cameras or powerful optics, or reading their e-mails and text messages. Continue reading

You can’t guard completely against these horrors

We understand stress now, but the Americans are unlikely to have foreseen the Kandahar killings

No British or American soldier will understand or tolerate any man wearing their uniform who goes out killing defenceless civilians, especially children, as happened in Afghanistan on Saturday night. We don’t yet know what motivated this sickening killing spree. But the killer surrendering himself rather than attempting to cover up his actions or trying to escape does not suggest an act of pre-meditated murder or conspiracy. Continue reading

Deep underground, morale is everything

Article published in The Times, 26 August 2010. © Richard Kemp

Chile’s miners need military tactics to survive. Identify the ‘corporals’, keep busy and don’t ring home

I was buried alive when a powerful IRA mortar bomb, improvised from a gas cylinder packed with 200lb of explosives, detonated on the rim of the trench above me, blasting down sheets of corrugated iron revetment, earth and rubble. Mercifully, my soldiers managed to dig me out in a few minutes. Minutes that seemed like hours. Even that brief experience in South Armagh of being trapped, isolated, utterly helpless, was enough to make me shudder when I heard about the horrible fate of the 33 miners in Chile.

The terrors they have endured over the past three weeks, and the horrors that they will face over the next few weeks are of an order rarely experienced outside the Armed Forces.

When I heard yesterday that the men sang their national anthem as the rescue team first made contact, I again thought back to that desolate South Armagh hilltop. Private Dale Robbie had taken a direct hit from another of the ten bombs that had pulverised our position and was entombed beneath his destroyed concrete pillbox. He was badly wounded and bleeding hard.

As Robbie’s rescuers worked feverishly to get him out, they could make out from beneath piles of shattered concrete the muffled tones of the battalion song, The Lincolnshire Poacher — an expression of gratitude, relief and hope beyond the power of mere words that became as legendary within the regiment as the miners’ anthem has already become around the world.

It will be a long time before those men again see Chile’s “blue sky” or feel the “pure breezes” described in the first lines of their national Continue reading

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism