President Obama’s former adviser on Afghanistan, Bruce Riedel, says the British army’s performance in Afghanistan means it can’t fight outside Europe in future.
He has a point. British military effectiveness in Afghanistan was undermined by political correctness. When our forces went to Helmand in 2006 the focus was more on reconstruction and human rights than fighting insurgents. This should have been challenged by the generals, whose job is to wield robust military influence over politicians in war time.
The usual charm and compliance of the senior officer will not do when so many lives are at stake. Alan Brooke, chief of the imperial general staff, clashed repeatedly with Churchill during the Second World War.
There is no evidence of anything like that over Afghanistan. Yet today it is even more important that generals do not take political misjudgement lying down. None of today’s senior politicians has any experience of war. Unfortunately, that is largely true of the generals as well. Most of their experience — at best — came from Northern Ireland. The lack of urgency in that 30-year policing campaign created a peacetime mentality ill-suited to the high intensity combat in Helmand. Continue reading
Would General Allen — or any other general today — recommend contracting out his country’s defences if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
When in 1942 American General Douglas MacArthur took command of the defence of Australia against imminent Japanese invasion, one of the plans he rejected was to withdraw and fight behind the Brisbane line, a move that would have given large swathes of territory to the Japanese. Continue reading
David Cameron says the fight against the Islamic State is a struggle that will last years, not months.
He has committed Britain to a leading role in Iraq and has suggested our forces will expand their operations into Syria.
But our forces have been savaged by ill-judged and excessive defence cuts.
Even our limited role in Libya for just a few months in 2011 left us severely over-stretched, according to RAF and Navy chiefs.
And that was before huge new cuts to both services, as well as the Army.
Cameron has ruled out boots on the ground in the fight against Islamic State.
Such public statements are grossly irresponsible and serve only to encourage the enemy by signalling our weakness. Nor does this policy make military sense. Continue reading
Colonel Richard Kemp’s speech at the 2013 Philip Forman Human Relations Award ceremony at Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Click the image to view (opens in new window).
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