Wednesday, 06 July 2022
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Noel-Hadjimichael-webIn the same week that France was dealing with the Nice Basilica terror killings and UK Labour suspended Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the EHRC report findings, an important and insightful paper by Britain's leading defence think tank could have been missed. The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) published a paper by its Deputy Director General Professor Malcolm Chalmers. The paper offers a sharp and sensible summary of the implications arising from the deferral of the original timetable for a comprehensive spending review.
The tag line A Reckoning Postponed is indeed powerful, comments Noel Hadjimichael.
Professor Chalmers spares the reader no illusions that the UK government's decision carries no serious implications for planners, leaders or strategists.

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nickwattsIMG 20170907 0924504"It's a good time to be a policy analyst, not so good to be a policy maker"; so said Professor Michael Clarke, just before he ended his tenure as Director General of the Royal United Services Institute in 2015. With this book he and his co-author Helen Ramscar, have taken a deep dive into the whirlpool of contemporary British policy making and come up with a real pearl, says Nick Watts, an analyst himself, on the next page.

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 Foreign Secretary William Hague has set out some background which is important to an understanding of the UK’s approach to countering terrorism and in cooperating with allies, terrorism source and terrorism victim countries, and with other partner states whose approaches to human rights may not necessarily be compatible with those of the UK.


This has been the subject of much political controversy and legal proceedings. Euan Grant, a U K Defence Forum Research Co-ordinator, listened to Mr. Hague at RUSI making clear that responsibility for exchanging information, or not, with states with questionable human rights records lies with him, and that he is accountable to Parliament and ultimately to the courts.


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Cuts to future Ministry of Defence (MoD) budgets are likely after the Treasury’s latest Autumn Statement announced reductions in defence spending for 2013/14 and 2014/15, over and above those planned in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Research Director Prof Malcolm Chalmers told a U K Defence Forum briefing on 26th February.


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General Sir Nicholas Carter, the Chief of the General Staff is having a 'Condor' moment. Readers of a certain age will remember a 1970s tv ad for a certain brand of cigar.... The British Army is no longer involved in the all-consuming business of operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The process of reform set in train by the 2010 SDSR is still working its way through both the MOD and the Army. General Carter is determined that the British Army should be ready for its next challenge, wherever it comes from. To do so it must pause and reflect.

The headline for this year's RUSI Land Warfare Conference was 'The importance of adaptability'. It could be reinterpreted as 'continuity and change' (enough media references!). CGS has developed a reputation as a thinking fighting soldier as befits his heritage as a Rifleman. Now that he has assumed the top job, he wants to ensure that the Army looks hard at its business. The Land Warfare Conference was an opportunity to do just that, writes Nick Watts.

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In July of 1914 General Douglas Haig warned his officers that the only way to discern accurate information about enemy dispositions was by use of the cavalry. He cautioned them against the use of aircraft. By the autumn of that same year aircraft were spotting enemy dispositions as the British Expeditionary Force undertook the opening moves of the Great War. Such was the changing nature of both technology and doctrine 100 years ago.

Today, as the bienniel Farnboorough International Air Show starts, the way the British look at airpower is also changing. Speaking at the RUSI Airpower conference in London last week, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, drew attention to the need for the RAF to shift its focus from operations in Afghanistan, to a wider global horizon. He warned against a 'Cold War' generation of officers who had served through the 12 years of the Afghan campaign, who would be unready for the next challenge. Nick Watts, Deputy Director General of the U K Defence Forum, reports further on the next page.

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The full text of the speech on the nature of future conflict, given by the UK Chief of the General Staff
General Sir Richard Dannatt at RUSi last week can be found at


By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent

Recent events in Libya have served to distract from the UK's main defence effort at the moment, Afghanistan. This morning at RUSI General David Petraaus commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave a presentation which served to remind the audience of the scale and complexity of the enduring Afghan campaign. In October 2009 Petraeus' predecessor Gen McChrystal gave a stellar exposition of the situation as he found it. At the time ISAF was struggling to understand the nature of the insurgency and the means necessary to deal with it. McChrystal had at least started asking the right questions.

Now the situation has moved on. The talk is of the end game and transfer of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to its own army the ANA. To some extent Petraeus is a lucky general, just as his forebear was unlucky. He has inherited a situation which he summarised as "only recently have we got the inputs right". Only in 2010 was ISAF able to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which Petraeus characterized as gaining momentum from 2005 onwards. He is referring not only to the uplift in troop numbers, but also to the way ISAF does business in terms of building up the governance of the country, and "getting the big ideas right". Up until then there were too many competing organizations working in silos without talking to each other. So part of the governance piece has been getting the NGOs and contractors as well as the UN and EU working together.

The NATO Lisbon summit committed ISAF to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. In addition President Obama has committed to the beginning of a draw-down of US forces, beginning in July this year. In answer to some questions on this aspect Petraeus made the point that both NATO and some troop contributing nations, including the UK, were discussing with the Afghan government arrangements for post 2014. He would not be drawn on specifics but mentioned that one key element of the Afghan security forces was still being developed, namely "enablers". These are the vital support functions such as artillery, medical and logistic services, as well as air lift and command and control functions. This might be taken to imply that some elements of NATO's on-going support after 2014 could involve surveillance and special operations forces.

One of Petraeus' earlier appointments had seen him re-writing the US Army's counter insurgency manual, so here was the man who wrote the book explaining how it works on the ground. He was at pains to stress that the military element was only one piece in the jigsaw of COIN. He has also previously been quoted as saying that Afghanistan "is all hard, all of the time"; so he does not see that progress is yet irreversible. He also stressed how important it is to keep our own public opinion supportive of the costly nature of the campaign.

An intriguing piece of the COIN jigsaw is what is called "reintegration" by which is meant the various strands being used to encourage members of the insurgency to lay down their arms altogether or to change sides. On this matter Petraeus was matter of fact, but opaque. There are efforts in hand to encourage both the lower echelon fighters to stop fighting, as well as the higher echelons. More emphasis is being put into tackling local corruption, which is often one of the grievances which cause people to join the insurgency.

There is also recognition by the Karzai government that the culture of patronage has to be dealt with, including his own family. On their own none of these things is a winner; but added to the improvements in ISAF's tactical situation, they all add up to reasons for wavering insurgents to remain at home, or to change sides. A British officer, Maj Gen Phil Jones is in charge of the force reintegration effort, to get ex-Taliban insurgents into the ANA.

Petraeus' presentation was much more assured than the one given by McChrystal in 2009. Back then ISAF was striving for credibility in the capitals of the NATO nations, never mind how it was doing in the campaign against the insurgents. Petraeus has managed his tenure well and things seem to be going reasonably well, although he didn't want to sound complacent. He said that there was still hard fighting ahead. It is to be hoped that should there be setbacks, as there may well be, Petraeus will not also find himself carpeted by his President, but given the top cover he needs to finish the job.


by Olivier Grouille

What's Left to Come?

Even an observer not acquainted with the more esoteric elements of the Medium Weight Capability debate can understand the need for a long-term replacement for the Army's ageing 1960s' vehicle fleet. Despite a raft of impressive UOR-funded upgrades, vehicles such as FV430 clearly belong to an era with no demands for extensive systems engineering upgrades or digitisation, and are at a point where the complexity of further enhancements is no longer cost-effective when compared with the cost of buying a new vehicle. They clearly need replacing.

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by Olivier Grouille

The FCS Manned Ground Vehicle Common Chassis, now abandoned following Robert Gates' latest defence spending review Olivier Grouille is Head of Land Operations and Capabilities Programme at RUSI. In this article he considers the state of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) after the recent announcement by the UK Secretary of State for Defence postponing and re-prioritising the programme.

In November 2008, the UK Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton, announced the postponement of the Utility Variant (UV), the intended first batch of vehicles to be procured as part of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) programme, a

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