Person of the Noughties


Many names will be considered for the title ‘Person of the Decade’; politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, sports figures, bankers, terrorist (I use the singular because Osama bin Laden is really the only one worth considering).  While influence will likely be the deciding factor for most publications, I’m going to break from the pack and list survival as my primary criteria (this blog is after all about security in hostile environments). And by that yardstick, there’s one name in my opinion which stands head and shoulders above the crowd: President Hamid Karzai.

              When you consider the minefields – figurative and literal– the Afghan President has negotiated since 2001, the fact that he’s alive and still in power is nothing short of miraculous.  Continue reading

UK Defence Cuts: Reality v Ruin

Needed Yesterday

Never has Britain looked more like a fading power at a crossroads. To fund the purchase of new Chinooks and other vital equipment to fight the war in Afghanistan, the MoD will close an RAF base, scrap fighter jets, slash staff, delay training, withdraw navy vessels from service and slow the roll out of new spy planes.

It goes without saying that as long as we have troops in Afghanistan, they deserve to be given the right tools and support to do their jobs effectively.   But as many have rightly pointed out, properly resourcing the conflict is compromising our preparedness for future ones.  The delusion that Britain can continue as a global military power has finally been laid bare. Like a cash-starved aristocrat selling the family silver to repair the roof on his crumbling pile, the British government can either slide toward ruin– or embrace reality, downsize its ambitions and be stronger for it. Continue reading

When Security and Profits Don’t Mix

Taking Aim at PSC Reform

It looks like ArmorGroup North America will be down one lucrative contract next year.  The US State Department is reportedly severing its relationship with the private security firm following an investigation into allegations of lewd, drunken behaviour and sexual misconduct by ArmorGroup contractors protecting the US Embassy in Kabul.   

     I have long argued against outsourcing military jobs – such as guarding embassies – to private security firms.  The reason is simple. The military exits to protect and serve the national interest whereas PSCs operate for one reason and one reason only; to turn a profit.  Continue reading

Afghanistan: The Great Shame

It was a coordinated assault; a PR blitz meant to shame the British public into backing the continued commitment of British forces to a tragically unwinnable military campaign. Thursday, the Head of UK Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup and British Army Head General, Sir David Richards, both claimed that the public’s increasingly sour view of the war in Afghanistan is undermining the morale of troops on the ground. 

     The suggestion that support for our men and women in uniform is inextricably tied to support for the Afghan campaign is disgraceful in my view.  As an ex-soldier, I have the utmost respect for the British Army. They are the best fighting force in the world.  The fact they have sustained themselves in Helmund for so long with insufficient numbers and equipment and without competent backing from their leaders at the top is testament to their incredible professionalism. Continue reading

Afghanistan: A Tale of Two Timelines

Will it be a graveyard of Hummers next?

It’s finally official: the US will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The number may have topped the headlines, but it is only the latest chapter in what is shaping up to be A Tale of Two Timelines

The public was expecting President Obama to give some idea of an exit strategy and he didn’t disappoint.  July 2011 is the date he set to start pulling US forces out of Afghanistan.  By announcing a timeline, Obama may have pacified elements at home that have soured on the war, but he’s done so at the expense of confirming to all — including the Taliban — that there is an expiration date on the coalition’s commitment. Continue reading