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January 5, 2016 11:18 am

Its a tricky subject.

I’d argue that the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are primarily failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than western methods in general. Thats not to let western methods off the hook, it amuses me no end that we think we have “training” to offer to Ukrainian Units who have actual experience being mauled by artillery.

In my view the EICA/BIA would be the gold standard, but it would be a long term affair, requiring deployments lasting years not months and would likely create a shadow government hostile to whatever the actual government was.

January 5, 2016 11:31 am

DCB and SSR are also hampered by challenges in assessing how much (if any) progress has been made. Performance rating scales in AFG for ANSF and ANP units were changed so often they became meaningless. Institutional reform progress is also difficult to measure, but is arguably more important than the Security Force Assistance/TAAA aspects. Adequate security force institutions are a necessary pre-condition for TAAA success and the number of HMAF infantry battalions available to devote to the task is largely irrelevant by comparison.

stephen duckworth
January 5, 2016 1:29 pm

” As the police are the first line of defence and a key source of intelligence in any potential stabilisation scenario…” In several of the British efforts in counterinsurgency the police’s role was essential from Malaya to Northern Ireland. NI suffered in the early days from the skewed affiliation of the RUC but excepted reform of themselves such as the disbandment of the B Specials who rightly or wrongly where perceived to be little more than a uniformed protestant Army. Perhaps in the same way the SF trained the most resilient parts of the Afghan and Iraqi armies our Special Branch could train similarly tasked police elements.
A key aspect should be understanding the locals traditional policing and legal processes which should be built on ,not crushed , to be most readily accepted by the local population rather than inflicting ‘Western’ standards and practice on a population whose historic traditions may be entirely different.

January 6, 2016 3:37 am

TD I disagree a little in the fact that the Iraqi Army eroded over time. More importantly is the very fundamental question in “What is the army fighting for?”. If the people who sign up are those that cannot make it in any other trade and are there for their monthly paycheck, then is it any surprise that they melt away when faced with a “kill them all, no quarter” enemy as there is literally nothing worth it for them to risk their lives for?

While I do get that this is a military focused site and tends to focus on the guns and bombs aspect of security, I have to caution that even the best “Western training” and “Western equipment” does not attack the most fundamental cause of radicalism and fundamentalism, the lack of a national identity, national pride and economic development. Trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the people using only the military is like trying to fight with an arm and both legs tied behind your back. And the right arm at that. To crush an insurgency, you have to discredit them in all ways, not just militarily, but also demonstrate that you can deliver something better than what the radicals promise, which also gives “the people” something to fight for and protect.

January 6, 2016 3:56 am

Darn, force of habit, sorry TD, that reply was actually for David.

January 6, 2016 9:03 am

If I recall, the problem with police is numbers. We don’t have a police contingency force on standby, and the UK police services can’t spare the manpower to make our capacity building efforts meaningful. In NI and Malaya there was already a UK-led police force in place.

EUPOL have picked up this baton to some extent (they can draw upon all member states for contingents, and thus create critical mass, and developed much useful mentoring expertise in Bosnia and Kosovo), but of course policing policy and legal frameworks differ widely acorss the EU. UN Police has also tried to cover this base, with less impact. Generally it suits the nations with the closest legal systems to lead mentoring. So UK would be a good lead on policing for former colonies which adopted much of the UK legal framework post-independence (as we have done to effect in Sierra Leone), but hopeless in places like Mali and Syria (or even Afghanistan) with completely different legal frameworks and policing traditions.

RAF are currently engaged in capacity building in Nigeria for counter-terrorism protection for airfields threatened by Boko Haram,, and helped build Afghan capacity for helicopter operations. RN has been heavily enegaged in developing capacity in Nigeria on maritime security for some time too I believe, and also helped Sierra Leone in this regards, and probably do this elsewhere too.

January 6, 2016 9:24 am

@TrT. However it may be no coincidence that Afghanistan’s longest period of stability was from 1914-1973, a time when the Soviet and Western powers were largely wrapped up in killing themselves in Europe and had no time for the Great Game. The 1973 Soviet-backed coup came after a period where US influence in Kabul had grown, and really from then-on to 1989 Afghanistan was a victim of the Cold War, and from 1989 we have reaped the consequenses as opposition to the Soviet occupation became the founding myth and model for a new Jihad against western (and Russian) infidels. Iraq, despite a murderous regime and catastrophic wars with Iran from 1979 and the West in 1991, and an enforced oil embargo, no fly zone and punative sanctions, remained highly politically stable until 2003. The fact that we entirely dismantled all of Iraq’s government and security infrastructure in order to build something in our own image, and then failed to do so and thus fuelled a civil war has surely contributed to present instability?

January 6, 2016 9:58 am

“the problem with police is numbers”

Exactly; this is why the UK doesn’t have a hope of doing proper Defence and Security Capacity Building except in the situations where the supporting institutions in the target country (Rule of Law Governance) are already well developed and UK-oriented.

If you want to do DSCB you need deployable agencies who can do more than just basic infantry skills training. Why can’t the UK have a deployable contingency Police Training Force ?

January 6, 2016 10:34 am

While I love the idea of an exportable police force to stamp out corruption and weed out extremists, is it appropriate for us to supplant a possibly pre-existing local government agency as an external country? If someone were to transplant, for example, the FBI over to the UK while abolishing the local police, how would you feel about that? It might cause a bigger explosion than if you had let the locals handle it in the first place. Not to mention most of our legal systems are built up over a long, long period of time, some things simply cannot be taught overnight, not to mention local mindset can be totally different.

For example, we had a case of a man stabbing his “friend” in an argument and attacked 2 policemen who happened to cross his path while he was escaping. He was shot dead and the public reaction was “Good riddance to idiots!”. If this happened in the UK, what would the public reaction be to the police shooting someone dead? I know the US would have riots, those guys have riots just sneezing. So different areas, different cultures and different reactions, so transplanting police might be a very bad idea.

Think Defence
January 6, 2016 7:07 pm

I think may have written something way back in the beginning of TD on a deployable police capability, will have to dig it out.

It could be that I was before my time, a unique visionary, or, it is all a figment of my port soaked imagination!

January 6, 2016 9:03 pm

I do not know if I understand all about it. I do not know if I’m going to say something stupid.
I do not think that the problem is a police problem, if we want to stabilize a country after clashes, we need a strategy..
I will speak only about France.
France spends its time in making police everywhere, but France has no strategy.
We see it in the disaster of Libya. Due to lack of budget, the French army is able to win battles but not the wars, still unable to transform tactical gains by strategic success.
It’s not the multiplication of interventions that makes a strategy. France intervenes everywhere, according conflicts without ever managing to treat the underlying problems. We project armed forces, we do our best, but we do not work in the long term.
When France intervenes for ending an armed conflict the military presence should last long enough for establish a transition to a sustainable peace.
The engagement in Libya was not necessary, it would have been much wiser to stop at the initially fixed goal which was to stop the tanks in front Benghazi. The consequences of this intervention is not only the destruction of Libya, but also migrants and chaos that is permanently installed in the Sahel, and for large part the consolidation of Boko Haram.
Currently, not knowing what we want to do in the Middle East, we are conducting a war of containment to gain time, the time needed to determine the possible compromise between the different stakeholders, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, etc.
But without agreement between Obama and Putin, without recognition of the legitimate interests of each other, we can not define a common goal.
Putin has an objective, reposition Russia in the heart of the international game, preserve its interests in the South of the Mediterranean and its military base in Tartus in Syria, and finally defend itself against jihadist movements on the southern border of Russia.
Regarding the departure of Bashar al-Assad, this requires realism. The first mission of a head of state as Hollande is to ensure the safety of its citizens, not to make morality. Now things are clearer, however, Assad is militarily argued by Russia and it will be part of the compromise to be found to get out of this crisis.

Stephen Duckworth
Stephen Duckworth
January 6, 2016 9:54 pm

As Frenchie says “establish a transition to a sustainable peace.”
and David Hume says “not the causes which are political in nature and revolve around governance and economics.” The economics and governance need to be examined at a local level ( not necessarily on a country wide basis) by academic experts who are familiar with local customs , practices and acceptable processes. These will be most easily implemented to restore law and order with any future move towards Western practices ( including our levels of democracy ) being something to try to establish possibly a generation after the last shots are fired in frustrated anger and just the plain evil men that live amongst us all.

Peter Elliott
January 6, 2016 11:32 pm

Are we talking here about the failure to establish a post imperial idea of what a successful intervention looks like?

I’m not saying that all Imperial interventions were successful, merely that they had a “whole government” coherence about them and a longevity of approach that no subsequent framework has succeed in replicating.

Is it time to rehabilitate Neo Imperialism..? :p

January 7, 2016 3:40 am

PE, I always did have a soft spot for the idea of a NATO viceroyalty or protectorate if it was a temporary thing. The recent “interventions” are neither here nor there situations, a military only effort without the social and economical development that would “build the peace” (ug… catchphrases…), the “infrastructure building” of a few wells and “clinics” and “schools” here and there by the military are but simply a drop in the bucket compared to sustained development on the national level. The people in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t need more tanks and guns, most of the time, armies have nothing to do with the common man. What they needed was development and a sense of belonging. And to put it nastily, have something worth holding on to (eg house, jobs, business) that they can be held hostage to the new regime.

January 7, 2016 6:12 am

Defence capacity now rest with six, used to be seven, 1st Div and FTC brigades.

Peter Elliott
January 7, 2016 11:50 am

How many UN mandated protectorates (ie UN appointed government) have there been since 1945? When was the last one? It would be interesting to know a rough % success/failure rate in terms of enduring stability, prosperity etc.

Rocket Banana
January 7, 2016 5:43 pm

Frenchie is spot on about the lack of long-term strategy.

Observer is spot on about the culture conflict.

Peter is spot on that imperialism is the answer.

…I hasten to add that I jest about the last one, but the world was most stable under British Imperial rule. If there were a neat way to conquer a nation but still allow them to do what they want, grow and flourish under a new rule. I mean, what exactly have the Romans done for us?

January 8, 2016 2:07 pm

Simon, you would not happen to be a member of the People’s Liberation Front of Judea would you? :)

January 8, 2016 9:45 pm


****ing splitters :)

January 8, 2016 10:16 pm


A pleasure to read your work as always. Both the professional experience and the clarity of writing always come through. I remain suspicious of tying up a substantial chunk of Potemkin infantry formations (I’m on record elsewhere in TD’s threads about Carter’s institutional coup d’état dressed up as reform that’s preserved disproportionate jobs for infantry OF-5s-and-above so that a branch with about twenty percent of the service’s personnel control roughly half the “natural” paths to two-star rank and above) dressed up as “upstream engagement.” Not totally sure Lance Corporal Simpkins from Clitheroe is the best contribution *in that role* (as opposed to doing what comes naturally for an infantry squaddie) for the UK in capacity development. The French through the Patrimonie have a more robust infrastructure for capacity building and support in areas where they have longstanding interests. They, like Italy, also have a large and well-respected gendarmerie (Gendarmie Nationale and Caribineri respectively of course) that solves the numbers issues. The US have the Special Forces, geared specifically to building combatant capacity and local-defence strategies, who are beginning to win the pushback against “Big Army” (being this side of the Pond now I try to keep up with the American defence blogs) on train & accompany, as the larger force is rediscovering the prospect that they may have to fight wars against substantial opponents again.

It seems to me a good approach for the UK would be twofold. First, given the current size of the service and the capacities suggested/demanded in the SDSR, on the Army side I’d do this:

– Rather than giving divisions responsibility for specific sets of capabilities, I’d give divisions (the Army component that can build up for a joint expeditionary force) specific *regional* responsibilities. You could have 1 UK Division responsible for NATO AOR and the Middle East east-of-Suez; 2 UK Division responsible for home operations from active public duties to MACP/MACA; 3 UK Division for all of Africa (incl. Egypt up to the west bank of the Canal) and the Americas (well, Belize and BOTs incl. Those Islands); and 4 UK Division for Central Asia to the Antipodes.

– Either 2 or 3 Div could be set up to “swing” to other areas in case of some unforeseen massive *and* persistent conflict (a combination I don’t foresee except perhaps some kind of China-India brew-up, elsewhere major-peer conflicts are likely to be intense and then reach a point of “blockage” where there will either be hybrid maneouvring or efforts to “break through” with Sunshine, Instant, for the nuking of.) But really divisions would concentrate on their AOR, and have as their only perpetual attachments the division HQ, a body of foreign-area officers, and a substantial British Army Training Team geared to the relevant regions and cultures, which while it would contain some basic components for combat-arms training, would concentrate instead on the development of institutional *culture* and local *infrastructure*, ie training leaders in batches rather than favoured individuals, medical and engineering support, signals-infrastructure development, and so on. They could do joined-up foreign policy work with FCO, development, NGOs, allies, and so on. You might have a light-protected bn on call in the general area as needed for armed backup or that kind of train-and-accompany work (say, one at Akrotiri — best to get out of Dhekelia, it’s an even more un-defendable “painted target” than Akrotiri — one at Gib or in Belize, one perhaps at a Commonwealth partner like Mauritius, etc.)

– For combat they could draw from a pool of resources that could, at peak, supply two divisions at full strength (a third with the Reserves spooled up?), so some version of four robust brigades (armoured/”strike” two-by-two or four properly-kitted modular that would build tailored BGs) and two reaction brigades (presumably 16 AAB and 3 Cdo but I’d like those identical: each with one para bn, one RM Cdo, and two para-sized all-terrain light role bns) whose employment would be tailored as-needed. Backed by an aviation bde and an EW/sigs/hybridity bde that could hive off bits at division level as needed, and the choice between two broad-spectrum support bdes, one geared to heavy warfare and the other to “strike brigade”-style ops.

-The two-star-level assets would maintain the permanent, regional maintenance-and-development assets managed at a responsible command level with Joint Forces’ and Main Building’s ear. At both the national-interest level and the coalition-ops level, the regional-hand divisions’ BATTs would provide capabilities where the UK has specific strengths, and ones that aren’t based simply on whether a local force has decent kit and looks good on OPEX with no regard for motivation, culture, support infrastructure, or strategic circumstances.

January 8, 2016 10:21 pm

On a separate note I loved the SDSR’s mention of FCO “rapid-response teams.” Does this mean there are prepositioned supplies of Windsor-knotted ties and single-weight linen Aquascutum suits at various locations overseas?

Peter Elliott
January 9, 2016 6:23 pm

I’m reminded of old comment that there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers.

The very successful reformation of first tne Portuguese and then Spanish armies in 1810-14 involved posting British officers and sergeants at one step above their substantive (British) rank. Logistic support was also given in terms of using the British commissary to ensure all the Allied armies were fed in the field. Finally the trained formations were fully integrated into an Allied Army under Wellington as supreme commander for all three nations.

From being described by Wellington as “really children in the art of war” the forces developed under this regime became “the fighting cocks of the Army”.