Examination of Witness (Questions 260-279)|
RICHARDS CBE DSO
24 APRIL 2007
Q260 Mr Havard: That is quite interesting
really. I do not know General McNeill very well but I assume he
is a poker player because he was very clear about possibly not
only being happy with what the Brits were giving him, but maybe
they could give him a bit more a bit later on because he wanted
another battalion now he has got one. It was this question about
capacity, about being able to dominate the ground, and he was
talking very much about using the Afghan National Army in that
sort of process.
General Richards: You can dominate
what has been securedin other words you go into a semi-defensive
mode relatively easily. The difficult thing is gaining the ground
in the first place and then, after you have gained it, you secure
it, and that is where the Afghan Army and police can be used very
Q261 Mr Havard: More in consolidation
and less in manoeuvre because they do not have the manoeuvre capability.
General Richards: Yes, they are
not at that stage of training and nor do they have the equipment,
so I saw a nice little synergy developing between the more capable
ISAF troops that, if you like, go forward and expand the ADZ while
the security of the expanded ADZ can be more and more given to
Q262 Mr Havard: One final quick question,
General Wardak was asking for more British embedded trainers.
What was your view of how successful or otherwise that process
was and was it a big enough contribution from the British in terms
of helping develop the Afghan National Army?
General Richards: The British
are pretty squeaky clean in this respectI speak as a NATO
officerin that we, the UK, provided all the OMLTs (or "awful
omelettes" as they were called) that we were asked to provide.
I know that that process is still ongoing. There is no doubt,
speaking to SACEUR again yesterday, that NATO as a whole needs
to provide more OMLTs. If the UK had the wherewithal to do more
then that would be great, but I do not think that the UK should
by any means be singled out for anything but praise on this one.
Q263 Mr Havard: It is an additional
contribution that NATO needs to make.
General Richards: There is no
doubt that we have not met the original number of OMLTs and, of
course, as the Army expands this number of OMLTs is going to expand
too. That is a dynamic process and the UK is well ahead of the
game at the moment in that respect.
Q264 Mr Jones: General, can I ask
about military assets available to ISAF. When you were in charge
the headlines in newspapers here were about lack of helicopters.
Firstly, what is your position on that now and, secondly, what
additional assets does ISAF actually need?
General Richards: There is a CJSOR
which has now been agreed. That was a pretty long drawn-out process
last summer and I remember we talked about it on your visit.
Q265 Chairman: Just remind us.
General Richards: Combined joint
statement of requirement. That is put together by D-SACEUR on
behalf of SACEUR in shape. As I understand it, talking yesterdayto
bring you entirely up to dateafter Riga and in the process
immediately after that within the CJSOR an additional eight battalions
were agreed to. Five have now been met, that is three US, a British
battalion and the Polish battalion. If we the UK can provide this
regional reserve later in the year, which is the plan now, then
six of the eight will have been provided to General McNeill. There
is more progress that needs to be made on it, but if you compare
it with the situation last year it is pretty good and SACEUR is
cautiously optimistic about it all.
Q266 Mr Jones: One thing that I certainly
was impressed with was the contribution that some of the new NATO
Allies are making, which does not get a great deal of press over
here. When you were in charge though, were you happy with the
support that you were getting from NATO?
General Richards: There is NATO
and there are the nations of NATO, I always was careful to draw
a distinction, because NATO is as good as its constituent nations
allow it to be and my chain of command could not have been more
supportive to me, so I have no problems with NATO but I also now
know more about the politics of the 37 nations of ISAF and the
26 nations of NATO than I ever thought I would.
Q267 Mr Jones: Just on that point,
one of the issues which clearly I do not quite think the British
media have got round and I do not think certain elements of the
Conservative Party have got their head round yet is the fact that
this is a multinational operation. What more can be done to actually
expose, for example, what is actually happening, certainly with
the tremendous work and dangerous work that the Dutch, the Canadians
and others are doing and also, like I say, some of the new aspirant
nations. Is there a selling exercise that needs to be done here
in terms of British public opinion and also broader European opinion
General Richards: There is. The
Dutch have been brilliant down in the south. Everyone was very
wary of whether they would have the stomach and actually they
are conducting a model operation in Oruzgan, the Dutch Major-General,
General van Loon, in Kandahar showed that a Dutch general is every
bit as good as any other general with some very innovative thinking.
Obviously, the Canadian effort I cannot praise too much, it is
just wonderful the sacrifices Canada has made. I would like to
sayand I know everyone knows that they are heavily involvedwe
would be nowhere without the USA in every respect, both in the
amount of money they are putting in, through the bravery of their
troops and their preparedness to take risk and to fight when not
every nation yet has that offensive spirit. The smaller nations
like the Estonians, the Danes, are filling vital slots that, say,
in the case of the UK we would have a problem filling because
of other commitments, they are being picked up by these other
nations. The other one if I may, whilst I am praising a few others,
is the Romanians. They have been a model of how new NATO perhaps
should function. They picked up the Zabol commitment and moved
out of Kandahar at a time when actually, in many respects, they
would like to have stayed there because it was a relatively easy
task, but they took on, with American help, the much more demanding
Zabul province. My biggest heroes outside are the Portuguese,
funnily enough, because they were my one little reserve, I had
one company of light troops from Portugal, Britain's oldest ally,
who did a hell of a lot of things that made a lot of difference,
particularly in Farah province in a very demanding side shoot
or offshoot of what was happening in the South.
Q268 Mr Jones: You saw the arrival
of the first troops of Jordan coming in and also nations like
the United Arab Emirates and others contributed forces. How important
do you think it is to actually try and get non-NATO forces into
General Richards: Eleven nations
in ISAF were not in NATO and the Australian commitment, in particular,
is an interesting one because that is becoming more significant
still. There was a recent announcement from Prime Minister Howard
that they were going to increase their contribution to about 1,000,
which is fantastic news for everybody because they are extremely
capable troops. Your point about Jordan and other Muslim states
contributing is very important and I know that the Secretary-General
of NATO is working on encouraging other Muslim nations to contribute
and NATO held a very successful symposium in the Middle East not
long ago, looking at that amongst other things. It would put the
lie to any suggestion that this is a sort of us versus them, which
it quite clearly is not. The other area that we are not allowed
to get onto yet is obviously Pakistan and how can we do more with
Chairman: We will, shortly. John Smith.
Q269 John Smith: This is a bit of
an unfair question, Chairman, but if the General is in a position
to answer it, he was the military commander in the field during
the Riga Summit and I just wondered whether you were encouraged
by that summit, did it mark a step change in your opinion as regards
the long term commitment of NATO to Afghanistan, or was it the
same old posturing?
General Richards: Initially I
thought same old stuff here, but actually what flowed from it
has been nothing but good. I remember the then SACEURit
was General Jones, it was his swansong reallyringing me
and he asked me to write something, which I did, which in the
corridors behind the main meeting, amongst all the other work
that was going on, clearly did have effect. If you look at post
Rigaand this is a point the new SACEUR made to me yesterday
on the phonethere are now five battalions more in Afghanistan
than there were pre-Riga. Whether it was all Riga I do not know,
but we have every reason to think that there is very solid support
within NATO as an institution for what NATO is trying to do in
Afghanistan and the proof of the pudding in terms of Riga is that
we have had quite a big increase in troops.
Q270 Chairman: Is there anything
that you want to say about caveats, or has it all been said?
General Richards: I am happy if
you are that we have discussed it and it has all been said. ROE,
for what it is worth, I never saw as a problem; we are fighting
within the ROE today and so it has not been an issue for me. Caveats
you are as well-versed in as I am; troop numbers were the real
issue rather than caveats. If we just pursue it slightly, without
wishing to sound like some sort of apologist for what, for example,
the Germans or the Swedes or any nation you like were doing in
the North, or the Italians in the West, simply being able to move
their troops from the North to the South would not have been a
solution to me at all because we have got just about the right
number of troops in the North to contain the situation there,
which is broadly stable. I had no incentive to move them out;
what I was always aftergoing back to your questionwhich
has now been fully accepted was an increase in the overall number
of troops, it was not really caveats because within the area where
we were doing the fighting we were able to fight.
Chairman: Thank you. We have three issues
left to cover; you have to leave at five o'clock. I would like
to cover civil/military assistance etc until twenty-five to five,
international/regional context, including the issue of Pakistan,
until about quarter to five, narcotics until about five to five
and the final five minutes for contingencies. Civil/military assistance;
Mr Havard: We saw a much more integrated
organisational set of arrangements as far as development work
in the PRT and so on than we had seen previously, and quite clearly
a lot of work had been done on that. All of those people, including
the Afghans involved in some of the NGOs, told us about the difficulty
of actually carrying out their work on the groundare we
going to deal with policing under this, Chairman?
Chairman: You could concentrate on policing.
Q271 Mr Havard: One of the things
that clearly comes screaming through is that that is the gap,
the development has gone on in the Army, General Wardak said to
us "I want embedded trainers for policing as well as for
the Army, that has been a success there, I want it here",
but it is missing. One of the things that I was interested in
discussing with the President was this business about auxiliary
policing, and you have mentioned it two or three times. Can I
just say that I am confused about it; I am confused about it because
on the one hand people described it as a militia, right through
to being the community bobby, but it is the tension between that
and the Afghan National Police, so now we have a discussion about
should it be the Afghan National Police or these auxiliary police.
What would you say about what should be done in relation to trying
to develop that policing activity that does not, if you like,
become counter-productive in the sense that it causes one force
to clash against another because it becomes a regional force rather
than a national force?
General Richards: There is no
doubt that the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National
Auxiliary Police is part of the Afghan National Police, so anyone
who said they are militia is just being mischievous. There were
some that saw it as a militia but the parameters within which
it was drawn up very clearly put them under the Minister of the
Interior and under the police, but there were certain nations
that did not like them, but in fact the PAG signed up to it and
while I understandand I checked last week because I thought
you might raise itthere are still birthing pangs, broadly
the aim is being achieved which is that they are securing localities.
In that respect the idea that they are a local bobby is right,
but obviously there is a slight difference in that they have to
be armed and they have to be prepared to fight to secure their
locality. The whole issue of the police is a good one for you
to get your teeth into because, if you like, the Afghan National
Army is doing pretty well. Yes, it has further to go but there
is a huge amount of money from the USA, they had ETTs and NATO
is now partnering them through the OMLT concept. The Afghan National
Police is at least two or three years behind the Army; it will
benefit from a huge input in resources from the US again into
the police, this year and next, which is why I keep saying how
much we all owe the USA in this respect because both in absolute
and relative terms they are putting in much more money than any
other nation and they are also through a contract putting in trainers.
They are ex-policemen who are being paid to go down into the most
difficult areas and mentor and train the Afghan police, including
the Afghan National Auxiliary Police.
Q272 Mr Havard: Is there a problem
that the British Army might substitute for something there and
end up trying to do that training as well.
General Richards: It would not
be the first time.
Q273 Mr Havard: Without resources.
General Richards: Not without
resources directly, but it would not be the first time that the
British Army and other armies have had to act at least as role
models to the police. I used to encourage all the NATO forces,
if they saw there was a problem, not to just leave it but to get
involved, whether it was misbehaviour on a roadblock or just not
understanding what was about. I do not think it should become
our role primarily, but we should not let bad habits develop sort
Q274 Mr Holloway: Helmand is where
the Arab world would identify the British particularly and where
we would appear on Arab television channels, perhaps to our own
cost. Have we got the right balance of spending between military
effort and reconstruction in Helmand?
General Richards: Difficult. I
know it is a very crude use of my right arm, but if we agree broadly
and crudely that we have to have an upward trajectory in progress
which is sufficient to enthuse people to keep them with us, then
from what you told me it would seem that we have not yet got that
balance right, but it has to be much more holistic than chucking
money at it. You need to look at how you develop capacity because
if, say, there are not enough Brits or international people who
want to go to Helmand, if you want to focus on Helmand, then there
are plenty of Afghans that will do it.
Q275 Mr Holloway: I was about to
ask exactly this, do you not think we are a bit self-centred sometimes
because we imagine that only DFID or UN agencies can do stuff,
but despite the lack of civil society there are actually a lot
of Afghans who could do stuff with relatively small amounts of
money that you could then expand when you have confidence, so
why are we doing it?
General Richards: You need both,
it is a balance. You will need DFID to provide the structure and
the overview and all this sort of thing, but I do think you can
give properly trained Afghans much more to do, but you have to
train them and I do not, to be frank, always see that process
going on. If there is quite a lot of criticism of corruption and
poor capacity, where are the solutions to that in a properly worked
out programme that over one or two years will start to solve it?
Q276 Mr Holloway: Finally, if we
accept that at the tactical level we have defeated the Talibanas
part of that we have got air power and they have notwhat
happens to security and therefore development, or the other way
round if you want to put it that way, when and if our enemy starts
using increased numbers of foreigners and increasing levels of
asymmetrical warfare? What does that actually do to your ordinary
Afghan's attitude towards us in terms of providing security and
General Richards: That is why
they are going down that route, because they see the import in
what you are hinting at. The only way to win at counter-insurgency
is to ensure that the people remain on your side, therefore they
want to see you succeed and they will report that the foreigner
has arrived in their midst.
Q277 Mr Holloway: Are we on target
for that? Are we where you would want us to be in terms of hearts
and minds right now?
General Richards: I think, going
back to your point, that the balance between investment in reconstruction,
development and improvements in governance needs to be looked
at again to make sure that it matches the S bit in my RDGP and
S, and I suspect that you are right, that with the honourable
and notable exception of the USAand we the UK are there
or thereaboutsthere is insufficient money and effort overall
going into Afghanistan to be certain that we will continue to
achieve that upward trajectory in the minds of people of sufficient
progress to meet their expectations.
Q278 Mr Hamilton: General, all through
the discussion you have used your right arm quite a substantial
amount of times. I am a Member of Parliament, I represent Midlothian,
and I have two major towns, Penicuik at one side of the county,
Dalkeith at the other side; with all the 24-hour television, newspapers
and infrastructure the people in Penicuik have not got a clue
what is going on in Dalkeith, the people in Dalkeith do not have
a clue what is going on in Penicuik most of the time. We are building
new schools in Midlothian, we are doing a whole host of things,
but information that we try to put out in a sophisticated way
within the United Kingdomsometimes the message does not
get there. In how many areas within Helmand Province, Afghanistan,
do you think that people know what is happening in one part of
Afghanistan to the other part? When you try to get that information
through to the people and tell them what was being done and how
we can help them, is it not the case in one village that we might
not be able to do that with another village because there is no
infrastructure between them, they do not have a clue what is going
on? How do you overcome that when you are communicating with the
population to let them know individually that you are actually
able to help? We find it difficult here, but it must be 100 times
more difficult in Afghanistan.
General Richards: It is, and I
could bore you with the woeful stories about the ignorance on
the part of a lot of us about how you did that. For example, my
PSYOPS chief came in oncea very short story this, Chairman,
to substantiate your viewto show me a film he had made
about alternative livelihoods, and it was really a very, very
clever film, good stuff, showed greenhouses being built and tomatoes
or somethingthe whole thrust was instead of poppy. I said
to him "When is this going out then?" and he said "It
will go out on Afghan television on whatever" and I said
"How many poppy farmers watch television then in this country?"
You are absolutely right and there are two things I would say:
an information operation has to be rooted in substance and then
if there is real progressI will not use my right arm againthen
over time, rather like the jungle drums, it does get out. The
tribes often spread over a number of villages and they do meet,
there are processes whether it is the provincial assembly or a
regional substitute which they are beginning to develop, and then
there are the various mullahs who are very important, so as long
as it is rooted in substance it will happen. It is when you only,
if you like, talk it but do not walk it that you have the problem
over time that I think we have all identified, are we keeping
pace with these people's expectations.
Chairman: Moving on to what we have all
been waiting for, Pakistan and other areas. Dai Havard.
Q279 Mr Havard: It is Brian and myself
actually who will try and ask about this, but one of the things
I was interested in was the Iranian development work that is going
on in Afghanistan and we had an interesting discussion with General
McNeill about their involvement in the country and his idea of
possibly also putting forces over to the West in Herat in the
future and any mixed messages there may be in relation to the
politics of that sort of activity in the South. We are interested
in the Indian Government development programme building a road
which links the ring road into Iran for trade purposes and so
on, so the question really is about what was your experience in
relation to the politics of the relationships with the Iranians.
General Richards: I had little
interaction with the Iranians but I did meet the ambassador of
Iran about three times and obviously I was well-versed in the
amount of money and effort that Iran was putting into the West
of the country but also into the Hazara population in particular,
and it was clearly doing a lot of good work for Afghanistan. General
McNeill's concern is a new development that I am really not in
a position to comment on, I am afraid.