The previous parts suggested the UK re-focus towards the territorial defence of the UK and Europe by concentrating on the North and East of Europe across a ‘Northern Arc’ from the North Atlantic and Arctic though Norway through the Baltic States and into the Visegrad Group of nations using a broad strategy based on four pillars; leadership on spending, minding our own defence, improving our allies capabilities and having some meaningful skin in the game.
The UK’s interests and risk to them, however, do not stop at the borders of Europe and so there has to be consideration of the Middle East, Africa and beyond. If prioritisation and following the principles defined in Part 1 are to be realised then we have to be realistic about what can be achieved.
From Pakistan to New Zealand, the UK maintains a surprisingly diverse range of defence relationships. In addition to defence attaches, loan service personnel and training arrangements there are a number of formal defence cooperation arrangements and in some cases, the UK has responded to requests for support in disaster relief and security operations. The Five Powers Defence Arrangement and multilateral arrangements such as the UK-Japan Defence Logistics Treaty are just two examples that form the foundation for continued joint activities.
China and North Korea pose difficult security challenge for the region. For North Korea, the UK must avoid act as a responsible member of the P5 but militarily, there is little in practical terms the UK can offer besides the occasional Royal Navy presence. China is a growing power but the UK should balance ongoing trade opportunities with the security of allies in the region and the rule of law.
Japan, Australia and New Zealand will be the UK’s main security partners in the area and there exists many interesting options for training and joint weapon systems development; Type 26, Future Fighter and the Meteor derived Joint New Air to Air Missile (JNAAM).
But beyond exercising, selected weapon systems development, training and maintaining a small presence in a limited number of locations such as Brunei, it is difficult to see anything beyond that.
The deployment in Afghanistan is small and should remain so, which leaves the Middle East and Africa, both sources of enduring instability and conflict. They are also both sources of huge economic potential although one might argue on the longer term the geopolitical importance of the Middle East will decline as the world moves away from hydrocarbons, but this will be some time away. As with points east of Pakistan, the UK has a long history and deep and diverse set of interests and relationships.
There is a temptation to see the region and the UK’s security interests in simplistic terms, usually revolving around maritime chokepoints and LNG but it is a lot more complex. Qatar for example is a significant investor in the UK, a major shareholder in Barclays and owns huge amounts of property in the UK. Qatar is the third largest export market for the UK in the region and supplies about 30% of LNG into the UK, increasingly important as the UK increases LNG use as North Sea supplies dwindle. As we know, Qatar has recently purchased Typhoon fighter aircraft. We might even be tempted to think the balance of payments is strongly in favour of Qatar but it is not, in fact, the UK and Qatar are broadly in balance in trading terms.
The recent breakdown in diplomatic relationships with Qatar and her neighbours demonstrates just how complex the situation is. Saudi Arabia, UAE Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar which left the UK (and other Western nations) treading a tightrope given the close relationships we maintain with those. There were fears that Egypt would disrupt flows on LNG tankers through the Suez Canal and two Qatari LNG tankers bound for the UK (South Hook) decided to take the long route around the Cape of Good Hope. Given that Qatari gas represents 60% of Egypt’s energy supplies and LNG tankers generate significant Suez transit revenue many thought this was a bit of muscle flexing by Qatar. Qatar has enough shipping to make the Cape of Good Hope transit and an extra week is unlikely to be economically significant for most Atlantic destinations. Vessels inbound to Qatar usually bunker at the UAE port of Fujairah but could do easily at other locations or even use LNG boil off. Gibraltar would also be a suitable bunkering port.
Getting back to maritime chokepoints, the above demonstrates how Qatar LNG tankers inbound to the UK could easily avoid two of them, leaving the Straits of Hormuz to worry about, which can also be transited without using the territorial waters of Saudi Arabia, UAE or Bahrain. On the reverse, the recent closure of the Rough Storage Facility means the UK has a reduced contingency to disruption, even though diversity of supply limits exposure. Skip forward a few years and it is entirely feasible that the UK has developed its own shale resources, increased nuclear and developed LNG import relationships with the USA. This is part of what is puzzling about the Labour Party’s opposition to UK shale and the UK’s defence engagement with Qatar and others at the same time. The simple and uncomfortable reality for that that think Qatar LNG = Permanent UK Defence Resources in the region is that in the short to medium term, the UK’s exposure to disruption to Qatari LNG is limited, in short, don’t believe the hype. That said, this doesn’t mean economic co-dependence disappears, far from it, but it just demonstrates how we should appreciate the complexity.
This is just one example in a region chock full of them, the UK is one part of a complex picture and in many ways, a bystander.
Africa is equally a complex environment but with a different set of challenges and opportunities that I described in Part 2.
Despite these differences our approach should have some similarities to that of Europe. Whilst the strategic approach in Europe is centred on the four principles of minding our own defence, leadership on spending, capability development and having skin in the game; the first of these are irrelevant to the Middle East and Africa.
This leaves capability development and having skin in the game as the two fundamental legs on which our strategy should rest.
It is worth looking at capability development, upstream engagement and conflict prevention separately.
Conflict prevention, is a simple concept that at its core seeks to make the UK safer by providing help to unstable nations such that they can help themselves to stabilise. The theory is that an Ounce of prevention saves a Pound of cure. Getting in early, de-escalating early stage conflict and supporting overseas development efforts are all seen, quite rightly, as effective means of preventing wider and much more expensive conflict.
The Army’s Adaptable Force as part of Army 2020 continues to evolve, the August 2015 Joint Doctrine Note 1/15 describes the MoD’s defence engagement approach and (although it is a few years old) the International Defence Engagement Strategy provides additional information.
The new Royal Navy Maritime Doctrine (JDP 0-10) also describes defence engagement in context;
JDP 0-20 (UK land Power) describes the same;
Same with the RAF, UK Air and Space Doctrine JDP 0-30;
JDP 05 Shaping a Stable World: the Military Contribution pulls these together and provides a good diagram that illustrates how they all fit together. Defence engagement is therefore designed to build understanding and develop capacity with the objective of preventing conflict. The Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Development (DFID) and MOD strategy for conflict prevention. BSOS also outlines three main mutually-supporting pillars of the Government’s stability strategy; Early warning, Rapid crisis prevention and response and Upstream conflict prevention.
All these documents are tremendously useful in trying to understand the UK’s approach to conflict reduction and building stability.
Defence engagement supports all three of these pillars and creates effects through four broad ways; security and non-combat operations; Defence diplomacy, defence and security exports; and regional stability, conflict prevention, post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation. The British Army and Royal Navy conduct upstream conflict prevention missions all the time and can range from a training on an opportunity basis to more involved and lengthy engagements. Some no doubt are successes, others less so, that of course being the nature of the beast. Short Term Training Teams and enduring deployments like the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT), together with regionally aligned Adaptable Force brigades, demonstrate how the British Army devotes considerable resource to the task, especially in Africa.
Fundamentally, this should be the UK’s default strategy for the Middle East and Africa.
In cash terms, the Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) provides the basis for funding.
The overall conflict pool settlement was £683 million in financial year 2014-15, with peacekeeping at £444 million and the Conflict Pool at £329 million. The conflict pool allocations are shown in the below.
|Conflict Pool Allocations|
|Programme||Financial Year 2013-14 Allocation(£m)||Financial Year Allocation 2014-15 (£m)|
|Middle East and North Africa (MENA)||39||60*|
|Strengthening Alliances and Partnerships (SAP)||10||12|
|Early Action Facility (EAF)||20||20*|
|*£5 million has been pre-committed from the £20 million EAF to the MENA programme ** Includes over commitment of available resources by £3.3 million|
The Middle East and North Africa programme (MENA) included additional resources for the crises in Syria and Libya as well as their regional consequences. Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Iraq also received funding. The Africa programme included funding for Somalia, Nigeria, the Sahel region, North and South Sudan, Zimbabwe, East and Central Africa, and with the African Union.
The 2015 SDSR included provision for the £1.5 Billion Joint Security Fund and other changes to overseas development assistance parameters.
From the Commons Library a description of the funding landscape for confict prevention, Changing parameters of Overseas Development Assistance
In a significant move, ODA was now to be used to serve the national interest.
The Conflict, Security and Stability Fund starts up…
It is clear that the UK sees conflict prevention as a significant part of the remit of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) and that funding will follow.
This demonstrates that building stability overseas is well established; organisationally, doctrinally and financially.
Some examples here
There is some risk in over relying on upstream engagement, especially given success might be somewhat difficult to articulate and it is wholly reliant on domestic politics, as we are currently seeing in Kenya.
Despite this, I think we should be doing more.
- Military Aid
- Enforcement costs of peacekeeping operations
- Paramilitary police activity
- Counter terrorism
In utilising DFiD funds for such activity, the UK must decide whether to simply ignore this distinction and risk dropping below the 0.7% figure. Of course, this might seem unlikely but I think it should be bold and make the case that stability and conflict reduction is valid use of such funds and worry less about achieving an arbitrary target no one else does. The 0.7% of GDP on ODA actually has origins in the 1959 Labour Party manifesto from Hugh Gaitskill to extend the benefits of the welfare state to other nations. The manifesto committed to 1% of GDP. Labour lost but the concept was later developed further to be 0.7% on development assistance and 0.3% on private investment. Upon becoming president of the World Bank in 1960, Robert McNamara, the former US Defence Secretary, commissioned the former Canadian Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, to look at the effectiveness of development assistance. The 0.7% figure from the Labour Party was adopted and taken forward as the benchmark, successively adopted by various UN agencies.
Organisationally, I would suggest DFiD has an undeservedly poor reputation. Yes, there are many headlines of waste and what one could easily see as ridiculous excess, but in general, many of their activities are tendered and have a relatively high degree of transparency.
The UK will have to decide how to use the considerable money that was previously used for EU projects and it is here that I would suggest creating a new delivery organisation for defence capacity building, within the FCO.
(Yes, I know many would like to completely subordinate DFiD to the FCO or even MoD but this is unlikely to happen so am trying to be practical)
Capacity Building, nestled inside Security Sector Reform, can create a sustainable stability but if the two are done in isolation, they are likely to fail. Where this integration occurs, it must be sustained over a period of time and include not only training and assisting but genuine capability development that includes export finance and equipment and support from UK and local industry.
There is no harm in favouring UK industry, far from it. The US approach is State Department led and incorporates Foreign Military Sales FMS and Foreign Military Finance FMF. This is an interesting model to emulate.
The MoD allocate many serving personnel to this task whilst allowing highly trained personnel to walk out the door every year. The new delivery organisation should therefore aim to utilise ex-services personnel instead of serving personnel where possible, providing a flexible career path for service leavers. The British Army, for example, has four infantry battalions (4 Rifles, 1 Scots, 1 PWRR and 2 Lancs). Despite the general desirability of the concept, this should be reduced and those personnel allocations refocussed on other tasks. Greater use of contractors, retained reserves and FTRS, and locally recruited personnel should also be considered.
Some tasks will be unsuitable for this approach, like the RAF/Qatar joint Typhoon squadron, obviously, but the overall objective should be to reduce costs and freeing up personnel allocations for other tasks.
One of the key themes of the previous parts of this series is also to avoid diffusing effort so widely that it gets lost and becomes ineffectual. The delivery organisation should therefore focus on the following areas and themes;
- Conflict drivers (poaching, smuggling and illegal fishing
- Demining and the removal of the explosive remnants of war
- Maritime and littoral security and exploiting the magnifying effects of airpower
- Infrastructure development
- Defence technical and medical education
- NCO and Officer Training
The balance between the Middle East and Africa will change and focus areas likewise, but by reducing the span of activity and integrating industry and finance with creative use of different personnel engagement approaches, outputs should improve whilst reducing the load on serving personnel.
In terms of having skin in the game, that all important indicator of engagement and influence, the UK approaches the Middle East and Africa very differently.
In recent years the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have taken the lead for presence in the Middle East with the British Army having a much reduced role. There is a UK presence in one form or another in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. Some could potentially be replaced by the delivery organisation described above, such as the Kuwait British Military Advisory Team (BMAT), others, such as the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), could not.
The UKMCC comprises four mine countermeasures vessels and a mine countermeasures support ship (Bay class), supported by a 1* HQ function. Regular deployments of other surface vessels, joint training and in future, a rotational deployment of one of the carriers earn the UK considerable influence with both regional allies and the USA.
Specifically, the UK is part of the 30 nation Combined Maritime Force (CMF).
The Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (DCCMF) is also Commander United Kingdom Maritime Component Command (UKMCC). There is no doubt this is an important command position, however, one gets the impression the UK places such a significant value on this without ceding anything to the other nations. The region is of critical importance to the UK and USA, yes, but it is no less important to France or Germany, or Australia or Qatar, each is invested in the core mission objective.
Expertise and a permanent presence (both in shipping and shore facilities) secures the command slot so it would be difficult to replace/remove any of these established or planned capabilities. The UK should therefore maintain this MCM presence although making a trade on vessels for unmanned capabilities may be possible as the UK develops in this area. Indeed, the UK is developing a broad range of unmanned capabilities and it could be seen as a positive that it is deploying this cutting edge capability to the area, making up for any reputational damage that might accrue as a result of any small reductions.
As the US moves towards the Pacific it reasonably expects others to step into the gap but as we have seen, it also expects European nations to take a greater role in their own territorial defence with only limited engagement from the majority of NATO nations. As Carrier Strike comes into service the UK should commit this to a rotational deployment to the Gulf as part of CMF but also make it clear that the core role of Carrier Strike remains the defence of Europe, specifically the northern area as described in previous parts of this series. When it deploys, it should deploy with sufficient DD/FF as a self-contained package. We might also expect France to do likewise with Charles De Gaulle and other NATO nations with surface vessels on a committed and rotational basis.
In addition to the MCM force and a rotational deployment of a Carrier Strike package, the UK should commit no other naval forces to the area on a rotational basis.
As Middle East defence industrial capabilities improve, there may be opportunities for more two way traffic in this area which would contribute to a more sustainable footing.
The area is important, but the UK has to recognise there are other demands on its scarce resources, yet again, this is about balancing commitments and resources to establish a sustainable force in line with the principles described in Part 1.
In Africa, extended presence is focussed on joint training and support activities, mostly by the British Army. The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy have much less of a presence, permanent or occasional. In addition to the capability building capability described above (which should be significant) the UK should also establish a more permanent combat oriented presence in Africa.
The threat to the region, and hence Europe, stretches from Mauritania to Somalia. The ability to strike swiftly and support others in offensive military operations is an essential complementary capability to the defence engagement and capability development role described above.
France has a considerable deployment ongoing in the area
Unlike Operation Serval, an emergency response to a localised crisis in Mali, Operation Barkhane has a much wider objective and area of operations, Joint Force G-5 Sahel. The G-5 Sahel group includes Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
Its area of operations is the gigantic swathe of territory from the Atlantic coast of Mauritania to Chad’s border with Sudan. Barkhane superseded not just Serval but also long-standing operations in Chad and Ivory Coast (Épervier and Licorne, respectively), as well as reorienting the entire French military establishment in West Africa for the purpose of fighting of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda. More recently, France has included under Barkhane’s mandate the operation against Boko Haram, which has been spilling across borders in the Lake Chad region and has drawn in the staunch French allies Chad and Cameroon. France has deployed nearly 4,000 troops, 8 Mirage 2000 based in Niamey and N’Djamena, 17 combat and manoeuvre helicopters, 5 Reaper reconnaissance drones, 6-10 transport aircraft, 300 logistics vehicles and 300 armoured vehicles.
However, France not only has too few helicopters but also has no heavy-lift helicopters, such as CH-47s, in its inventory. A leading French military analyst and commentator, Colonel Michel Goya, questioned the value over the long term of leading such a “minimal mission” when so much more would be required to “win” in the Sahel-Saharan zone.
Budgetary constraints and other strategic priorities such as Operation Sentinelle, the reinforced surveillance of the French territory following the Paris attacks of January 2015 make it unlikely that France can spare more forces to Mali, or even sustain Barkhane at the current level in the long term. Sentinelle effectively ties down nearly half of the troops available to France at any time, given its force generation cycle, and is placing such a strain on the French military that it might have to alter that cycle, with cascading effects on readiness and French operations elsewhere, including in the Sahel-Saharan zone.
Despite the US getting more involved, it is time for the UK to help our ally.
Given the UK’s long standing relationship with Nigeria (and record of supporting Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram) it would be logical to include assistance for Nigeria. The UK also has good relationships with Kenya (including BATUK) and a presence in Somalia.
The UK is in a position to contribute not only personnel but key systems such as Apache, Watchkeeper, Talisman C-IED, Reaper, Chinook and other air transport systems. By sharing the load with France, the UK helps a vital ally, magnifies the mass provided by local forces and contributes a number defence capabilities not available to France. It also fits neatly with EUTM, if the UK were seeking an area to demonstrate defence and security cooperation with the EU beyond BREXIT, this would be a good one.
Again, the suggested strategy is based on a combination of capability development and having some meaningful skin in the game, whilst recognising the limitations of what the UK can achieve. A few things done well are much better than lots of things just done.
In the Middle East; high end capability development (air and SF) with Jordan, KSA, Oman and the Gulf States, a permanent presence based on MCM in the Gulf, with additional rotational visits of a Carrier Strike package and enhanced presence in Oman.
In the Far East; continued training and weapon system development cooperation.
In Africa; significant uplift in capability development with a permanent strike package to support France across West Africa, and in Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia.
The full series