London Bridge horror proves we need new solutions to 23,000 jihadists in the UK

Article published in The Sun, 1 December 2019. © Richard Kemp

Two innocent people are dead because of the Government’s refusal to confront the threat Britain faces from Islamic jihad.

The chilling reality is that we are trying to deal with people who are fighting a war against us, using a criminal justice system designed for ordinary crime.

Since 9/11 it has been obvious we have faced a new and different challenge.

The Americans quickly recognised this and opened Guantanamo Bay as a form of PoW camp.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has kept its head in the sand.

MI5 claim there are 23,000 jihadists here who are of concern.

Friday’s horror on London Bridge shows new solutions are urgently needed.

We must ban anyone who has fought jihad overseas from returning.

We must deport any non-British citizen suspected of involvement or support for terrorism.

We must devise a method of judicial administrative detention to imprison those who cannot be deported or properly convicted through the normal legal processes.

In short, we must fight fire with fire.

Islamic State leader killed in Syria

Article published in The Daily Express, 28 October 2019. © Richard Kemp

Some experts claim the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is only a symbolic success against the Islamic State. That’s wrong. It’s a major blow to IS and Islamic jihadists around the world, at least as important as the killing of his former leader Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Al-Baghdadi was a hugely influential and inspirational figure for radical Muslims everywhere, his claim to be directly descended from the prophet Muhammad’s grandson widely accepted. A Koranic scholar at the University of Baghdad, he had a religious authority that armed his followers to counter claims that IS was a distortion of Islam.

Al-Baghdadi had been on the run and his Islamic State in retreat for many months following intensive coalition attacks against them. His death signals their final defeat but only in its current form. It does not mean the end of al-Baghdadi’s brutal vision any more than Bin Laden’s death was the end of Al Qaida, which has since increased its strength in various parts of the world.

Two months ago he named his successor but experience shows that terrorist groups evolve like the hydra, sprouting multiple heads, with subordinate leaders freed to carry out their own malevolent and sometimes more effective plans. Al-Baghdadi himself gained power after the killing of his former boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Islamic State in Iraq.

As well as the Middle East, around the world from Afghanistan to the US and from the Philippines to Europe, many of those he led and inspired remain active. More than 50,000 jihadists flocked from 80 countries to join IS in Syria and Iraq. Many times that have joined the cause in their own countries, inspired by IS’s skilled social media campaign, with orders to attack where they are using whatever weapons are to hand. Continue reading

It’s time to buck up and help our heroes Captain Mercer – what’s happened to the promised new Ministry for Veterans?

Article published in The Sun, 26 September 2019. © Richard Kemp

Another Defence Committee report, another litany of betrayal of the men and women who sign up to fight for our country.

To add insult to injury, virtually all the failings listed in the latest report come up year after year, and some of them date back to the day I joined the Army 42 years ago.

As an infantry battalion commander in Londonderry, I discovered stalactites that would have impressed any geologist hanging from leaking water pipes in one of the Victorian accommodation blocks.

The squalid barracks we recently vacated near Cambridge had to be refurbished to make them fit for habitation by asylum seekers.

Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan often found the living quarters there better than those they left behind in Britain.

As a taxpayer I am ashamed the Defence Committee reported yesterday that the same problems persist now.

Soldiers and their families do not expect to live in luxury but they do deserve hot showers and functioning central heating in winter.

Soldiers’ children are not only forced to endure degrading living conditions, many are also disadvantaged educationally by frequent movement as their parents are posted from garrison to garrison.

Again, as a commander I had to thump the desks of local headteachers and education authority bureaucrats to get them to admit Army children who had arrived during the school year.

The same problem also damages the quality of medical and dental treatment some spouses and children receive.

Forces families have been moving from barracks to barracks around the UK and overseas for hundreds of years.

Surely this problem can be completely eliminated in the 21st Century?

One of the greatest scandals the report highlights is the denial of the pensions owed to some war widows.

This only affects between 200 and 300 women, but each one has endured suffering and deprivation due to penny-pinching bureaucracy and lack of ministerial resolve. Continue reading

Ignore the anti-military propagandists. There are few better opportunities for the young than the Army

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 22 August 2019. © Richard Kemp

GCSE results day is a time of celebration or sorrow for thousands of teenagers. It is also a day exploited by various NGOs and activists to have a go at the Army, who they accuse of luring disappointed 16-year-olds to sign up. True to form, this year it was the turn of Child Rights International Network to publish their report on results day.

CRIN say they’re worried about children’s rights being infringed by the opportunity to join the forces. But their real anti-military motive is betrayed in their press release that says young people “deserve better: meaningful civilian opportunities for education and employment”.

There can be few better opportunities for 16-year-olds, especially those from impoverished backgrounds who lack academic prowess, than junior military service that takes them seamlessly through education to life-long employment if they want it. The Army is the biggest apprenticeship provider in this country. But how would CRIN have a clue about this? I doubt any of them have served. They are Left-wing university graduates who could not contemplate the challenges facing youngsters lacking the advantages they themselves enjoyed.

I was once a junior soldiers’ instructor, part of a training regime that provided a unique grounding in discipline, leadership, sports and education leading to real academic qualifications, as well as full combat skills. Our young recruits took part in adventurous training activities including white water rafting, mountaineering and parachuting. Mentally and physically pitting themselves against the elements, the incalculable long-term benefits for a youngster’s Continue reading

The West must call Iran’s bluff or face the devastating consequences

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2019.  © Richard Kemp

Neither the US nor Iran wants war. President Trump was elected partly on a platform that sought to end long-running US involvement in conflict in the Middle East and South Asia. Even if he wanted it he knows better than to engage in a major war with Iran in the run-in towards the 2020 presidential election. Following the traumas of Iraq and Afghanistan he also knows he would be hard-pressed to find allies to fight alongside the US.

As for Iran, the ayatollahs know the immense damage that would be inflicted on their country by war with the US. That alone does not deter them — they would be willing to exchange the lives of thousands of their citizens for the chance to give the ‘Great Satan’ a bloody nose.

But they also know the regime would not survive and to them that is supremely important.

If they don’t want war why are they provoking the US by attacking shipping in the Gulf? Re-imposition of US sanctions following President Trump’s withdrawal from Obama’s nuclear deal has hurt them badly. Even to the extent that they now fear for the survival of the regime.

Their aggression is intended to show Trump that his actions come at a cost for the US and the world, with 30 per cent of global oil supplies passing through these waters. It is also designed to deter him from pushing for wider imposition of sanctions including by European countries.

An important side benefit is the expectation that US retaliation against Iran, short of war, would help rally the people to the regime and ease growing internal dissatisfaction. Continue reading

Trump is right – the Iran deal is dead, and it’s time to contemplate the unthinkable

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 8 May 2019.  © Richard Kemp

President Rouhani of Iran has issued an ultimatum to European governments: break US sanctions against Iran’s oil and banking sectors within 60 days or we will break our nuclear agreement. Counterintuitively, Rouhani’s demands could help Berlin, Paris, London and Brussels out of the dangerous conundrum they are in over the Iranian nuclear deal.

This deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1, is certain to fail. Its declared purpose is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear armed state. In fact, it paves the way for the ayatollahs to lawfully implement their nuclear weapons programme in around 10 years’ time.

Despite continuing claims to the contrary the JCPOA failed to put in place a proper verification process and the International Automatic Energy Authority (IAEA) has not been able to certify Iranian compliance with the deal in any one of the three years since it was struck.

The nuclear archive seized from Iran by Israeli intelligence last year confirmed Iran had consistently lied to the IAEA about its programme and strongly indicated the likelihood of continued covert nuclear weapons development.

The deal failed to prevent Iran’s pursuit of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and since 2016 it has conducted missile tests in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

Instead of restraining Iran, the JCPOA emboldened the ayatollahs and led to increased aggression across the region. Tehran has Continue reading

Boredom and low morale is the biggest enemy our troops face

Article published in The Sun, 18 April 2019.  © Richard Kemp

Boredom and low morale is the biggest enemy our troops face – and is partly to blame for recent criminal behaviour

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen members of the Forces hitting the headlines for shocking behaviour including drug abuse and serious sexual and physical assault.

And yesterday, The Sun reported how Royal Artillery soldiers Louis Leteve and Jordan Peers, both 23, have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after allegedly driving into another soldier following a brawl.

Things have got so bad that General Mark Carleton-Smith, the head of the Army, felt the need to berate his troops via YouTube.

Less than a fortnight ago, he took to the social media platform to blast soldiers’ ‘indiscipline that is wildly at odds with the values and standards that represent the fabric of not just our Army but the nation’s Army’.

In the unprecedented address, he added: ‘Not only is it downright unacceptable, it’s illegal — and it stands in stark contrast with everything the British Army represents.

‘Any behaviour that falls short of that high standard we cannot and will not tolerate.’

It was strong stuff indeed. So how has it come to this?

Is Forces discipline really breaking down? Why are our soldiers behaving in this way?

There is no simple answer. But there are many negative powers at work, boredom being the most prevalent.

Boredom is the enemy of high morale and while this is no excuse for reckless and criminal behaviour, this may help account for some of the events we have seen in the past few days.

Morale among troops is highest when they are deployed on challenging operational tasks, such as Iraq and Helmand province.

There is virtually none of that today, although many soldiers are employed in Third World countries on mentoring and training tasks.

But the Forces are severely undermanned and the most tedious duties come round more frequently, creating overstretch, lowering morale. Continue reading

We urgently need a new legal process for returning Isil members like Shamima Begum

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 15 April 2019.  © Richard Kemp

The government has little choice but to allow legal aid for Shamima Begum. Many are understandably outraged, yet it is right for the state to support those that can’t afford the costs of litigation in British courts. But this is where the government needs to radically change its policy for dealing with jihadists fighting overseas.

We can no longer continue to treat returning combatants from war zones such as Syria using the same legal processes with which we treat criminals in London or Glasgow. Crimes committed in the UK can be thoroughly investigated, with reliable evidence that meets the tests of criminal prosecution. How can we do the same with horrific crimes committed in the chaos of Raqqa under Isil control? Immense efforts have been made by our military and intelligence services to collect evidence in battle areas that is usable in court, often at great risk to themselves. Even so, only rarely can such crimes be successfully prosecuted in our courts.

Around 400 Islamic State terrorists are known to have returned to the UK so far — with more to come. Of these only around 50 have been successfully prosecuted. We do not have the details, but I would be surprised if many of them have been imprisoned for serious crimes such as murder, torture, abduction and rape. Some will have received short sentences and many are already back on the streets, having committed the most horrific atrocities abroad.

This is not just about failure of justice. It also weakens deterrence against potential terrorists and endangers our citizens. The most dangerous terrorists are those that have been trained, motivated, blooded and have themselves killed. The security authorities say that many returners no longer present a significant threat to us. They are hugely capable and diligent, but even they cannot be truly Continue reading

Shooting Corbyn?

Paratroopers were accused of breaching the standards expected of the British Army after a Kabul firing range video went viral. But did they?

© Richard Kemp, 7 April 2019

This week virtue-signalling MPs, journalists and commentators fell over themselves to condemn a squad of 3 PARA soldiers in a video apparently showing them shooting at an image of Jeremy Corbyn. Armchair judges on TV and social media stridently pronounced their behaviour ‘far below the standards expected of the British Army’.

But was it? The video doesn’t actually show any soldier shooting at Corbyn’s image. These men’s mission in Afghanistan includes VIP protection. They train by firing at a target array of enemy fighters, with VIPs and uninvolved civilians among them – not to shoot at but to avoid hitting. Yes, there seem to have been shots on Corbyn’s picture. That happens in training and helps reduce the likelihood of it happening for real. I don’t know whether that is what we have seen but neither do those so desperate to lash out at our fighting men.

The worst anti-military snowflakes and political opportunists have branded these soldiers ‘fascist thugs’ inciting attacks on MPs and even practising a sinister plot to take out the Leader of the Opposition. What utter garbage. If I’m wrong and these men were deliberately shooting at his image, it will be nothing more sinister than troops fooling around.

No, they shouldn’t be doing that on a range. But they are living and working in extremely hazardous conditions with their lives under constant threat. Sometimes young soldiers do stupid things to let off steam. When they are caught they’re often disciplined. They may have thought it was funny at the time – they won’t now. But as men whose job is to see and do terrible things that most keyboard commissars couldn’t imagine, a black sense of humour will often carry them through. In this case perhaps ill-judged, but for those of us who have served, not beyond comprehension.

The video certainly gives a bad impression of the Army. Soldiers must rise above politics and stay impartial – and be seen to. In my experience that is almost always the case, with a tiny number of miscreants quickly dealt with. But the Army should get a grip of its social media policies, including stamping out freelance filming and posting of military activities that can give a false picture. Continue reading

Poor manning levels due to cost-cutting

Article published in The Sunday Express, 3 March 2019.  © Richard Kemp

A time when the Army is not at war and hitting the headlines makes recruiting tough. As does full employment, but poor manning levels are due mainly to a privatised recruiting machine forced on the Army by cost-cutting politicians. A potential recruit rarely meets a real soldier – vital in encouraging young people and allaying their fears – until well into the application process.

The recruiting bureaucracy is virtually impenetrable. As a former soldier, I am often asked to help navigate the system, but even my understanding of the Army has rarely enabled me to do much in the face of ‘computer says no’.

How can an eager applicant be expected to wait 12 months from initial inquiry to sign-up? Poor manning levels are also caused by excessive outflow. An army savaged by cuts is a declining industry. Conditions of service have been eroded and soldiers publicly dragged through the courts falsely accused of war crimes. All this takes its toll and creates a vicious circle where unpleasant duties come round more often in undermanned units and soldiers leave.

I have been heartened to see generals actively trying to unlock the recruiting logjam as well as an imaginative advertising campaign, the Army’s surge into social media and TV shows, like Raw Recruits.

But I fear the problem won’t be solved unless the Army takes up recruiting methods used by battalion commanders that achieved full manning two decades ago.

I inherited an undermanned unit but was able to turn it round by sending my troops to scout for talent outside McDonald’s and other gathering places for likely lads.The key was getting smart young soldiers in uniform on to the streets – more effective than the shiniest computer or Twitter feed.

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism