All posts by jmb82BBp




I was a Colonel in the British Infantry. Much of my 29 years’ military service was spent countering terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Macedonia. I was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. I fought in the 1990-91 Gulf War and commanded British troops in Bosnia with the UN Protection Force and in Cyprus with the UN Force.

From 2002 – 2005 I was seconded to the UK Cabinet Office working on intelligence relating to international and domestic terrorism. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were among the extremist groups that I monitored and assessed in this role, and I had access to all secret intelligence available to the UK on these and other Palestinian extremist groups.

I was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen in 1994 for counter terrorist intelligence services and Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2006 also for counter terrorist intelligence services.

I was in Israel for much of the summer 2014 Gaza conflict, specifically from 14 July – 8 August and from 27 August – 5 September. During these periods I met, was briefed by and questioned Israeli political leaders, senior officials and Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldiers from general officer down to private soldier. I spent a considerable amount of this time close to the Gaza border where I also met, was briefed by, questioned and observed many IDF officers and soldiers immediately before and after they had been in combat.

I was in Israel also for much of the Gaza conflict in 2012. I visited IDF units and held meetings with many IDF officers, government officials and political leaders before and since then. I have been acquainted with the IDF and the Israeli intelligence services for many years, both Continue reading

Jihadist attacks in Denmark

Article published in The Mirror, 16 February 2015. © Richard Kemp

The kind of attacks that we saw in Copenhagen and in Paris could easily happen here in the UK and probably will.

Many British youths have been radicalised in their mosques, at university, by the Internet or in prison.

A worrying number have already been drawn to travel to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria.

Some will return, blooded and experienced in killing, with the intention of attacking what they see as enemies of Islam.

These are the most dangerous. But others may also try and have a go as we have seen in the recent past. Their attacks, though perhaps less proficient, can also be deadly.

The targets will include those who have condemned violent jihadism as well as soldiers, police and Jews.

The police and intelligence and security services are on the alert for these people and have had a huge amount of success over recent years – saving many lives.

But some will get through the net.

It is the responsibility of members of our Islamic community to report those who they suspect of planning an attack.

Some, often courageously, have done so in the past. All who support the rule of law, freedom and democracy, should follow their example.

Without their help we are increasingly vulnerable to disaffected Muslim youths who want to copy the attackers in Denmark and France and lash out at Western society.

I don’t want to spread undue alarm but the reality is that we are in a downward spiral of jihadist violence which is set to continue as people here at home copy what is going on elsewhere in Europe – encouraged by the Islamic State death cult in the Middle East.

The ultimate solution can only be visible defeat of the Islamic State which will discourage their followers.

For now, the government seems to lack the military and diplomatic commitment necessary to bring this about.

Many have not yet grasped the true barbaric nature of ISIS and this execution is not surprising

Article published in The Mirror, 5 February 2015. © Richard Kemp

The execution of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh is deeply shocking but not surprising says Colonel Richard Kemp

The latest act of barbarity by the Islamic State is deeply shocking but not at all surprising.

Those who thought they might release the Jordanian pilot have not grasped the nature of the Islamic State.

They want to provoke Jordan, as the Hashemite Kingdom and neighbouring Lebanon are next on the target list.

Fortunately Israel, with her powerful defence forces, will step in to defend Jordan against attack.

But Jordan is one of our closest allies and we must also be prepared to come to their aid.

The burning to death of the brave Jordanian pilot, downed in the fight against the Islamic State, will only boost support for them, especially in Europe.

We will see increasing numbers of young Muslims travelling from London, Paris and Berlin to join in the orgy of torture, death and destruction.

Even worse we will see many of them coming home, blooded, battle-hardened and under orders to inflict the kind of violence we have seen recently in Paris, Sydney, Ottawa and on the streets of London when Drummer Lee Rigby was butchered.

Violence and victory are vital to the Islamic State’s strategy of expansion around the globe – not just in the Middle East but in North Africa, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

The only way to undermine their growing support is to inflict repeated crushing and humiliating defeats on them – and to be seen to do so.

That cannot be done by politicians’ hand-wringing and fine words.

It can only be done by tough military action.

Britain is punching well below her weight in the war against the Islamic State and must send more forces, both in the air and on the ground – now.

To wait until the summer, when the election is over, may seem attractive to vacillating politicians worried about their votes.

But it puts the security of our country, our people and our allies at much greater risk.

A British soldier in Sangin

The Islamic State in Afghanistan

Article published in The Sunday Express, 18 January 2015. © Richard Kemp

As British and American forces were moving out of Afghanistan last autumn, clear signs were already emerging that the Islamic State were planning to move in. Despite the warnings from Iraq and Syria this had no effect on NATO withdrawal plans, leaving a security vacuum that now threatens a full-scale re-run of the jihadist onslaught in the Middle East.

A British soldier in Sangin
A British soldier in Sangin

In recent weeks we have seen increasing evidence that the Islamic State’s Khorasan group, encompassing both Pakistan and Afghanistan, is building a dangerous presence there. Circumstances in Afghanistan and Pakistan are different to Iraq and Syria where isolated and fractured security forces were unable to prevent rapid gains by the Islamic State.

But the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan face huge security challenges and, though not as weak as their Middle East counterparts, also lack capability. It would be naïve in the extreme to assume the Islamic State could not extend its brutal tyranny into vast swathes of territory in both countries.

In Pakistan, the Taliban and Al Qaida are in disarray. The Pakistan Taliban are fractured by tribal infighting and increased pressure from government forces. Following the devastating US drone Continue reading

Europe Needs an anti-ISIS Playbook

Tepid tutting won’t stop the flow of jihadists to Syria, but strong action might


Article published in The Wall Street Journal, 18 December 2014

For decades, European governments have made multiculturalism an integral part of their social agendas, particularly with respect to immigrant Muslim communities. The core values were supposed to be pluralism and individual freedom, but in practice multiculturalism has only stoked radical Islam’s unyielding nature and enabled it to subvert European society.

Many immigrant Muslim groups have not only been able to segregate themselves from the larger community. They have also made strident demands of national lawmakers and local authorities for, among other things, the right to exercise Shariah law, to impose Islamic educational principles and to prioritize perceived Muslim sensitivities over Europe’s liberal norms.

For many European Islamists, the urge to respond to the call of jihad is strengthened by the governments in Europe that legitimize their grievances. When demonstrators in July chanted “Death to the Jews” while waving the black flag of Islamic State, they gathered freely—not in Syria or Iraq, but in the Hague, where their right to support that genocidal group was protected.

Islamic State has declared, and capably demonstrated, its intentions to achieve genocidal goals. The group espouses an extreme form of Sunni Islam, which it pursues brutally through mass executions, crucifixions and beheadings, and answers to the word of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a zealot so radical that even al Qaeda has denounced him, albeit for its own tactical purpose.

For now, Islamic State’s efforts are focused mainly on Syria and Iraq, where it has conquered large swaths of territory and butchered non-Muslims, Sunni “apostates” and Shiite Muslims. If not confronted, however, it’s only a matter of time before it turns its attention outward. This week’s hostage-taking in Sydney is an early warning of the group’s magnetic effect on violent residents of the West. With more than 15,000 European jihadists now fighting with Islamic State, some of these radical soldiers are bound to return home, bloodied, carrying crucial military experience, and with blueprints and orders for further destruction and conquest.

More than 40 countries have already joined an anti-Islamic State coalition. The U.N. Security Council has adopted a binding resolution compelling states to prevent their nationals from joining jihadists in Iraq and Syria. That’s a start.

Meanwhile, recent reports indicate that hundreds, if not thousands, of European jihadists are becoming disillusioned with Islamic State. According to media reports, Continue reading

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Article published in The Independent, Thursday 18 December 2014. © Richard Kemp

Ambulance-chasing lawyers are damaging our armed forces

The Al-Sweady case was not an attempt to achieve justice but an act of “Lawfare” against the British state. Lawfare is the increasing systematic use of human rights laws, the laws of armed conflict and other legislation to undermine the capability of Western democracies to fight effectively in the 21st century.

The other motive of the conspirators in the Al-Sweady case was greed – greed on the part of the Iraqis for compensation.

The astronomical costs in this case – £24m – are only a fraction of what such claims from Iraq and Afghanistan cost the British taxpayer. And it is only one element of the damage done by this and similar cases.

These false, widely publicised, allegations of murder, abuse and torture against British soldiers have been used to incite hatred and stir up violence – and not just in Iraq. It is likely that they have aided terrorist recruitment and led to unnecessary loss of life.

Allegations of war crimes have hung over the heads of the soldiers in this case for 10 years. The violence of the assault in the ambush in 2004 that gave rise to the Al-Sweady investigation, and the courage and fighting spirit of the British soldiers involved, is demonstrated by the award of Military Crosses, high-level bravery awards, to Sergeant Major Falconer and Sergeant Wood.

These brave men, and the others involved, who volunteered to fight for their country, should not have been subjected to years of stress and uncertainty. There has been untold damage to their morale and that of their comrades.

Equally concerning is the wider impact on our armed forces. The cumulative effect of years of legal attack on our troops is to risk making both soldiers and commanders unnecessarily cautious in battle, endangering their lives and the lives of civilians that they have to protect.

This legal war of attrition is also steadily undermining the Government’s resolve and forcing Defence ministers to err on the side of extreme caution – a stance that usually ends in military defeat. Only this week we have seen new guidelines about interrogation techniques, which ban soldiers from intimidating prisoners even Continue reading

Female soldiers just lack the killer instinct

Article published in The Times, 18 November 2014. © Richard Kemp

Ministers want equal opportunities on the battlefield but women will harm the warrior ethos

Within weeks a government review into whether women should be able to serve in combat will be published. It has nothing to do with a lack of male recruits, cost efficiencies or improving battle effectiveness. It was clear from the moment last May when Philip Hammond, then the defence secretary, ordered it that the purpose is to extend gender equality for political purposes and to “send a signal” correcting the historic “macho” image of the British Army.

This transparent political agenda means that it is almost certain the review will recommend lifting the ban on women serving in units whose role is to engage with and destroy the enemy — the infantry, Royal Marines, armoured corps, SAS and SBS.

This will damage the fighting capabilities of the armed forces.
Women already serve in the front line, especially as combat pilots, medics, engineers and artillery fire controllers. I have had many women under my command on operations and can vouch for their courage and effectiveness, which has been every bit as great as any man’s. Their prowess has been demonstrated time and again in recent years in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the combat arms — and especially the infantry — are very different and unlike any other job in the world. Even in the
high-tech 21st century, 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War, the infantry soldier’s ultimate purpose is still to get out of a trench and charge into the teeth of enemy fire: to close with the enemy and kill him face to face with bullets, bayonets, grenades and if necessary in hand-to-hand combat. To kill or be killed.

Unfashionable though it may sound in our modern era, motivating soldiers to fight effectively in this way demands a warrior ethos, Continue reading

Future sacrifice will swell this sea of poppies

Article published in The Times, Saturday 8 November 2014. © Richard Kemp

Crowds at the Tower are remembering past loss. But the need for young people to lay down their lives is unending

This week I joined the millions of visitors to the Tower of London’s poppy-filled moat. Most seemed deeply moved by Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which gave them the opportunity to understand visually the vast scale of the sacrifice made by our fighting troops 100 years ago.

Their thoughts were no doubt in the past. Mine turned to the future. Among the crowds were school parties and it struck me that in the coming years we will still need teenagers like these to fight and to die for our country; to make the same sacrifices that were made by the 888,246 British soldiers, sailors and airmen each represented by a single poppy (pictured below) below the crowd’s down-turned eyes.

The rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), with its threats and assaults on our citizens and national interests, is but one reminder of the constant perils that lie ahead. Even with the march of Continue reading

We entered Afghanistan to protect the British people

Letter published in The Sunday Telegraph, 2 November 2014. © Richard Kemp

General Lord Dannatt (“We are giving the Afghan people a chance at a better life”) says that we deployed British forces to Afghanistan to help the Afghans “get a life after two decades of bloody civil war”. That was not our purpose and would not have been a legitimate reason to send British forces to fight and die.

There was only one reason for this intervention alongside our American allies. Following 9/11, the world’s worst terrorist atrocity, in which more British citizens died than in any previous attack, the
objective was to throw out or destroy al-­Qaeda and to prevent the country from again becoming a base that international jihadists could use to attack the West.

The lack of clarity by generals and politicians on this singular objective was conditioned largely by a politically correct denial of the true purpose of military action in Afghanistan. It is summed up in
the words of John Reid, defence secretary at the time of the British deployment to Helmand in 2006: “We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our Continue reading

Colonel Richard Kemp: So proud of the Daily Mirror’s Elizabeth Cross campaign

Article published in The Mirror, 27 October 2014.

Since commanding British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003 I have closely followed the campaign there, especially from the time our troops deployed to the south of the country in 2006.

In Helmand British forces have fought in the most intensive combat since World War 2 and Korea.

In often horrific battle conditions, they have unfailingly shown the ferocious fighting spirit and extraordinary courage under fire for which British troops are renowned the world over.

In thousands of hours of combat with the Taliban, our men have not lost so much as a single fire-fight.

But the cost has been high.

453 British troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001, 404 killed by enemy action. I was proud to be associated with the Mirror’s campaign to recognize their sacrifice through the Elizabeth Cross, Continue reading