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MoD

The whole team of Defence Ministers will be at the Farnborough International Air Show  today. This is what they do.

Secretary of State for Defence - Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP

Strategic direction on operations; personnel; Strategic Defence and Security Review; defence planning; programme and resource allocation; policy; international relations; nuclear programme; acquisition; parliamentary business and communications

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As part of the previous Administration's financial settlement with the Northern Ireland Executive linked to the Devolution of Policing and Justice, it was agreed that four defence sites in Northern Ireland which are no longer required by the Ministry of Defence and which would normally be disposed of on the open market should be gifted to the Northern Ireland Executive in order to help boost development and to provide a secure financial future for Northern Ireland, both generally and specifically in relation to policing and justice. The four sites in question are:

St Patrick's Barracks (and related housing), BallymenaSt Lucia Barracks, OmaghShackleton Barracks, BallykellyLisanelly Barracks, Omagh

It is intended that legal transfer of title will complete by 31 August 2010. The disposal value of the sites is estimated at £21 million at 31 March 2010.

In addition, three further disused sites will be sold by Defence Estates in 2010-11 with the proceeds of the sale being passed to the Northern Ireland Executive. These sites are:

Forkhill, ArmaghDrumadd Barracks, ArmaghLaurel Hill House, Coleraine

The Ministry of Defence will transfer to the Northern Ireland Executive £5.5 million.

Source: Departmental minute dated 24th June 2010 concerning the gifting of defence sites to the Northern Ireland Executive.

 

GenSirPeterWallHer Majesty The Queen has approved the appointment of General Sir Peter Wall as the new Chief of the General Staff, it has been announced today, Thursday 29 July 2010.

General Wall will take over from the current Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, in September this year.

Lieutenant General Sir Nick Parker, currently Deputy Commander International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan, will take over from General Wall as Commander-in-Chief Land Forces, in the rank of General, in October this year.

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 GenRichardsHer Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment of General Sir David Richards as the new Chief of the Defence Staff. General Richards will take over from the current CDS, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, in October this year.

Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence, said:
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of the successor to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup. General Sir David Richards will take over as CDS in October this year, following the conclusion of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Jock who has provided excellent leadership to the military throughout his time as CDS, and who will undoubtedly continue to do so over the coming months on Afghanistan and on the SDSR.”
 

By Victoria Dawson

The Military Covenant, traditionally sealed by the payment of a shilling to a soldier, between the Nation, the British Army and the Soldier, has as its core principles from the 'Army Doctrine', which holds that; 'soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation.  In putting the needs of the Nation and the British Army before their own, soldiers forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.  In return, soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals.  In the same way the unique nature of military operations means that the British Army differs from any other State institution, and must be sustained and provided for by the Nation'.

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By Ben Lombardi
Defence Research and Development Canada CORA

Introduction

In June 1952, amid a balance of payments crisis and a deepening Cold War, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden presented the Churchill government with a memorandum on Britain's role in the world. Titled "British Overseas Obligations," the paper sought to "consider the tasks to which the United Kingdom is committed overseas and to examine where if anywhere our responsibilities can be reduced so as to bring them more into line with our available resources." That type of stocktaking would seem eminently reasonable for any government. In postwar Britain, however, advocating such an accounting immediately meant a much broader consideration, for it entailed an agonizing reappraisal of the country's already reduced international posture. Eden was aware of the implications of the argument he was presenting:

The essence of a sound foreign policy is to ensure that a country's strength is equal to its obligations. If this is not the case, then either the obligations must be reduced to a level at which resources are available to maintain them, or a greater share of the country's resources must be devoted to their support. It is becoming clear that rigorous maintenance of the presently-accepted policies of Her Majesty's Government at home and abroad is placing a burden on the country's economy which it is beyond the resources of the country to meet. A position has already been reached where there is no reserve and therefore no margin for unforeseen additional obligations.

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By Jonathan Wilson

Preparing for the unthinkable to happen means that for the foreseeable future the UK is going to require some form of a nuclear deterrence to protect its national security interests. It would be unwise to assume that the current status quo of security threats emerging from non-state actors will remain throughout the 21st century. A political decision regarding the future of our nuclear deterrence will be required over the next five years should we wish to maintain a nuclear capability. During the election campaign the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had opposing views concerning the future of Britain's nuclear deterrence. The Conservatives backed Labours plans for a 'like-for-like' replacement and the Liberal Democrats opposed such replacement but acknowledged that Britain required some form of nuclear deterrence. Some estimates claim the renewal will cost £100Billion over a fifty year period and it has been argued that cheaper alternatives could provide a nuclear deterrence, such as the development of nuclear equipped Typhoon fighters at 1/10th of the cost. In the aftermath of the election the agreement made between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives placed the future of Trident in jeopardy, promising to include in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to 'ensure value for money.' Departmental infighting over who pays for the project between the MoD and Treasury has made it more likely that the project will be postponed or scrapped altogether. If the United Kingdom is to maintain its nuclear deterrence during the 'Age of Austerity' then it is essential that it should provide the British taxpayer with real value for money while delivering a guaranteed, affordable and most of all relevant nuclear deterrence.

Despite the change in threats to national security, nuclear deterrence has changed little since the Cold War. In order for deterrence to be successfully achieved it is essential to ensure that the state has a guaranteed nuclear capability that is protected form an aggressor's pre-emptive strike. The UK has since the 1960s maintained a so called second strike capability through four ballistic missile submarines which are deployed under the Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD) policy. Under this policy at any one time at least one nuclear armed submarine is on patrol at any time, ensuring that a nuclear response is constantly available. Due to commitments under various international treaties and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) all of the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) - as defined by the NPT - have reduced the number of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. The UK significantly reduced its own nuclear stockpile after the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, with the dismantling of the air-launched free-fall warheads and through a reduction of warheads carried on the Vanguard-class submarines to around 160. Despite the reductions made by the NWS, the number of states developing or possessing nuclear weapons has increased. In the twenty-first century there are fewer nuclear weapons with more fingers on the button. Working towards a nuclear-free world and reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons deployed should be at the heart of Britain's future deterrence, but not at the cost of national security.

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By Anthony King

On 19 June 2006, British troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade's 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, deployed into Sangin. It was and remains a defining moment of the Helmand campaign.

The circumstances of the deployment are instructive. The commander of 16 Air Assault Brigadier, Brigadier Ed Butler who had just flown into Lashkar Gar, contacted Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, the Commanding Officer of 3 PARA, on the radio: 'Stuart, we have got reports coming in that the district centre is about to fall. If we are going to reduce the risks to helicopters we need to use the cover of darkness and go before first light. Given that dawn is less than three hours away, I need to know whether you can launch the mission in the next 90 minutes'.

Tootal and his tactical headquarters 'quickly rehashed the pros and cons', rightly observing that they 'were here to support the government of Afghanistan'. However, the ultimate impetus for insertion was primarily regimental: 'Finally we were Paras and being asked to do difficult and risky things was what we were meant to be about'. Tootal confirmed that he was ready to deploy for a 24 hour operation only 20 minutes after Ed Butler's initial communication.

Four years and over a 120 dead British soldiers later, the withdrawal of British troops from Sangin has just been announced. Having lost 13 men (including attachments) in two months, 40 Commando Royal Marines, who are currently holding the line in the Upper Sangin Valley, will be replaced by a US Marine Corps brigade in the coming months. The Marines will suffer numerous casualties in Sangin but they, unlike the British, may have the combat power to secure the area.

It is clear now that Ed Butler and subsequent British commanders underestimated the scale of the problem in Sangin. Sangin is a dense population centre some 30 miles north-east of Lashkar Gar and its location and geography present intense difficulties for any security force.

Sangin is on the junction of the Helmand and the Musa Qala Rivers and has long been the centre of narco-trafficking in southern Afghanistan with routes running north to Kabul, east to Kandahar and west to Iran.

As a result of its association with drugs trafficking, Sangin is deeply significant to local magnates, including the Taliban, whose wealth and power is based on opium. In 2006, Sher Mohammend Akhundzada, who was the governor of Helmand under Karzai until his removal in 2005 when nine tonnes of heroin was found in his compound by the FCO, was one of the most powerful figures in the valley. His family influence endures to this day.

The presence of unwanted British troops represented a serious challenge to the dominant economic and political interests in Sangin, precipitating much of the fighting. Further complicating the situation,

the Upper Sangin Valley is fragmented by tribal and communal politics which has engendered high levels of hostility not only between the villages but towards any outsiders. Moreover, in the summer, the irrigated fields around the Helmand River become as vegetated as jungle while each farm compound, with thick mud-baked walls, forms perfect defensive positions; it is close and difficult country.

Apparently ignorant of the political and geographic complexities of Sangin, British troops were rapidly engaged in a desperate battle of survival in Sangin. On several occasion in 2006, the platoon house in Sangin district centre was in danger of being overrun and from 2008, as insurgents changed their tactics, British troops have been encased in belts of lEDs which have now costs scores of lives and prevented any substantial progress.

In many cases from 2006 right up to the present, the British have not been fighting a unified insurgency with a clearly identifiable goal: the 'Taliban'. More typically, British troops have been engaged by local tribal militias (some associated with Akhundzada himself) often making alliances of convenience with local Taliban commanders who bring with them additional skills, resources and fighters.

The withdrawal from Sangin is necessarily an admission of failure — at least to some degree. British commanders did not understand the political dynamics in the valley and, crucially, despite a worsening situation from 2008, have been unable to generate sufficient force ratios to pacify the hostile population.

In a sense, the Upper Sangin Valley had echoes with the Ypres Salient in the First World War. In both cases, British forces were accidentally deployed into an unfavourable tactical situation from which, constrained by political imperatives, they could neither withdraw nor which they could improve. As on the western front, British infantry soldiers have simply had to endure in Sangin for four years.

Nevertheless, although the Sangin episode should certainly be sobering to officers up and down the chain of command and might usefully feature as a historical lesson on future staff courses, the withdrawal is only a local set-back. It is not evidence of the failure of the British campaign in Helmand more widely. On the contrary, the withdrawal should be welcomed. Since December 2008, British commanders have sought quite properly to focus on the central population area of Helmand in and around Lashkar Gar. Operations Sond Chara and Panchai Palang were evidence of this attempt to concentrate forces in that decisive ink-spot and, in February 2010, Operation Moshtarak was successful in deepening security around Lashkar Gar, in Nad-e-Ali and Narah-e-Saraj. British troops have sought to strengthen their hold of these areas since that time.

The relief of 40 Commando from Sangin — and future battle-groups that would have been stationed there—will be a major benefit to the prosecution of Britain's campaign in this area. It will provide commanders with the resources to execute a now coherent counter-insurgency plan.

In addition, it will reduce the logistics burden on the Helmand Task Force very considerably. In 2006, British paratroopers nearly starved in Sangin and eventually had to be supplied by a Canadian column in armoured vehicles. Logistics in Sangin improved thereafter, but sustaining operations in the Upper Sangin Valley has been a severe logistical problem. Every month, a Combat Logistic Patrol of some 200 vehicles, escorted by Apache and preceded by reconnaissance troops, has had to be driven from Camp Bastion, along Highway 1 and then up the desert, parallel to the lED-ed Route 611, to supply the Operating Bases in and around Sangin. These Patrols have represented British military ingenuity at its best but they also demonstrate the mistake of deploying into Sangin in the first place without the troop numbers to secure the lines of communication. For the last four years, Task Force Helmand has conducted a counter-insurgency operation on highly unfavourable exterior lines of communication.

The withdrawal from Sangin alters the entire geometry of the campaign in a single stroke. British forces are concentrated in the centre of Helmand close to the Main Operating Base at Camp Bastion with a vastly diminished logistics burden and reduced lines of communication. Current and future British commanders will benefit hugely from the increased tempo which follows this rationalisation of the force lay-down.

After the withdrawal from Sangin, Britain's Task Force Helmand will control an area of just over 200 square kilometres while the US Marines Expeditionary Force has taken command not only of Helmand but also of Nimroz and Farah as the new Regional Command South West.

Britain's mission has shrunk while the American contribution has expanded dramatically. This re-balancing of effort may deflate British pretensions somewhat. Yet, ironically, the current area of operation to which the British mission has been reduced is precisely the area identified in 2005 in the initial UK plan for Helmand.

The Bastion-Lashkar Gar-Gereshk triangle, where all UK troops now operate, was then rightly seen both as the decisive and as a manageable area for the level of the British commitment. The British concept of operations in this area is now coherent and mature; it represents the most likely chance of success in the province.

However, even with this increase of force ratios and logistical relief which the withdrawal will bring, British commanders might remember the central lesson of Sangin. Afghanistan is all about politics and even the 10,000 troops now dedicated to Lashkar Gar and its environs will not alone be enough if

British military and civilian leaders fail to understand and engage with the key political actors in Helmand.

It is finally these leaders, the powerbrokers, who will bring peace to Afghanistan, not NATO's forces however brave and skilful they have been.

About the author

Anthony King is a Professor in Sociology at the University of Exeter. His main areas of research are football, social theory and latterly, the military.

This article first appeared in the August 2010 edition Parliamentary brief, entitled 'Sangin is no loss', and is reproduced with permission.

 

By Dr Robert Crowcroft

The leak of a confidential letter written from Liam Fox to David Cameron has now been widely picked up in the press. The upshot is Fox's complaint that the Strategic Defence Review process is fast losing credibility and coherence – because of the Treasury's willingness to subordinate national security to a timetable chosen by Cameron and George Osborne for very political reasons – to try get the bad news out of the way, in one go, in the Comprehensive Spending Review. While one has to admire the political gusto of Cameron – and in the unlikely event he pulls it off, it would constitute a masterstroke – nonetheless Fox is right: that these kind of grave decisions cannot be taken in such a short space of time (while Guardianistas will vomit righteous indignation, the fact is that Defence is different from other departments, i.e. more important), and that there has been an inadequate scope for debating the future of Britain's role in international politics.

The basic problem is this: the UK is currently engaged in a war in Afghanistan, and will be there for about five more years. This requires proper funding of the ground forces which wage counterinsurgency conflicts. However, to fund the Afghanistan commitment, the Army will need to be shielded while the other services are squeezed – the aircraft carriers potentially face the axe, as do other classes of surface vessel, several kinds of aircraft, and even the Trident submarines. The strategic dilemma facing the country is whether future security crises requires long-term occupation and nation-building on the Afghanistan model, or whether the threat, and demands on the UK, will look quite different. If the future is not more Afghanistans, then favouring the ground forces now by badly weakening the naval and air power available to the country risks calamitous damage.

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