Examination of Witnesses (Questions 113-227)
Chair: Good afternoon. Many thanks for
coming to give evidence to our inquiry into operations in Afghanistan.
You are most welcome here. I'm afraid it looks as though there
may be interruptions caused by voting in the House of Commons.
That's just part of our democratic duty. I am sure that we will
get through this.
We also have, I'm afraid, a huge number of questions
that we want to ask you, a huge number of people asking the questions
and a large number of witnesses, so we will all require a lot
of discipline. It looks as though we're just about to come up
to a vote. If I could ask you please to introduce yourselves smartly.
Some of you have been before us before, some of you have not.
Lindy Cameron, would you like to begin?
Lindy Cameron: My name is Lindy
Cameron. I was until recently the head of the Helmand PRT and
the NATO Senior Civilian for RC South-West.
Q113 Chair: You have now come
back from the PRT. You have been replaced. Are you a DFID employee?
Lindy Cameron: No. I'm currently
working for the Foreign Office, so I'm still basically on leave,
at the end of my Foreign Office posting in that job.
Q114 Chair: And you've been replaced
by another Foreign Office person.
Lindy Cameron: That's right. Michael
Major General Capewell: Good afternoon.
Major General David Capewell. I am the Assistant Chief of Defence
Staff for Operations.
Air Marshal Peach: I am Air
Marshal Stuart Peach. I am Chief of Joint Operations, holding
operational command for Afghanistan.
Chair: Thank you
Karen Pierce: Good afternoon.
My name is Karen Pierce. I'm the Policy Director for South Asia
and Afghanistan at the Foreign Office. I'm also the Special Representative
for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Q115 Chair: You have taken over
from Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.
Karen Pierce: In the latter capacity
as Special Representative. I was already the Policy Director.
Peter Watkins: Peter Watkins,
Director of Operational Policy, Ministry of Defence, and responsible
within the MoD for policy towards Afghanistan.
Chair: Thank you
all very much.
Q116 Mr Dai Havard: Are you filling
two roles, then?
Karen Pierce: I'm double-hatted.
Can we start with a series of questions to you, please, Lindy
Cameron? From the perspective of the PRT, how would you say that
the security situation in Helmand is? Would you say that things
are improving, and if so, would you say that they are improving
Lindy Cameron: I'd say that they
are significantly improved. The way that Governor Mangal tends
to describe this is that when he first arrived in the Province
two and a half years ago, it was only possible for him to move
in a fairly small area, and with air support. It is now possible
for him and his staff to drive to most of the districts of central
Helmand, and I think that's true for most Government officials.
For example, he drives on a fairly regular basis to Nad-e-Ali
and has also driven recently to Marjah. It is certainly true that
security is significantly better in central Helmand than it was.
Q118 Chair: How would you say
that governance, as such, has changed? For the better or for the
Lindy Cameron: Again, significantly
improved for the better. When Governor Mangal arrived, there were
district governors in six of the 14 districts of Helmand. There
are now district governors in 12. There are four district community
councils. If you look at Nad-e-Ali as a case study, participation
in governance has gone up significantly. People now engage with
the district community council and the district governor in a
way that is a significant change even from when I arrived last
July for my recce visit. I remember sitting in Nad-e-Ali for a
security shura, listening to gunfire on the perimeter that was
being held. I contrast that with walking into the district governor's
office now, looking at the row of offices where there are staff
from various Government Ministries in a way that AREU described
as something the like of which it had not seen in any other district
in Afghanistan, let alone in Helmand. I think we've really helped
Governor Mangal achieve the kind of district government and district
community councils that have shown a significant improvement in
governance in the last couple of years.
Q119 Chair: And the role of women
in Helmand? What has happened to that?
Lindy Cameron: I think the key
thing for women in Helmand, much like for everyone there, is the
improvement of security. We also have two female MPs, two female
provincial councillors and five councillors on the community council
Obviously there are still some big challenges,
particularly in the justice area. One of the things that we have
put a lot of effort into is helping women access the justice system.
My rule of law team did a lot of work with the Department of Women's
Affairs at provincial level, to help them work out what needed
to be worked on. For example, a small team went up to Kabul to
do a study visit to look at women's refuges and shelters up there,
and understand what best practice they could bring back.
Bob Stewart: I'm sorry, Chair, but I
can't hear a word. I've only got one ear. Either you are speaking
very fast, Ms Cameron, or I am totally bloody deaf. Could you
speak up? I cannot hear a word you're saying.
Q120 Chair: The volume will go
up. Do those women MPs go both to Kabul and to Helmand?
Lindy Cameron: Absolutely, yes.
I've met Nasima Niazi in Lashkar Gah on a number of occasions.
I would say that she is a pretty feisty lady.
Q121 Mrs Moon: On a scale of one
to 10, how much do you think the role of women has developed?
If one is as it was under the Taliban, and 10 is that they have
complete freedom of movement and independence, and a right to
their own choices, where are we? What do you mean by, "Things
have improved"? How much have we gone on that scale of one
Lindy Cameron: It depends a little
on what your expectations are about Afghanistan broadly. Helmand
is a rural and quite conservative province in many ways, and it
is hard to calibratesay 4 out of 10, perhaps. There has
been a significant improvement from Taliban times, in the sense
that clearly women are participating in government, both as officials
and as representatives, in a way that was totally unheard of.
They are also able to have a public face. For example, I attended
a meeting for international women's day last year, where 600 women
got together in the provincial council building. I can't describe
to you what a fantastic event it was. There were brightly coloured
clothes everywhereand relatively few burqas in sight, I
have to say. There was a real sense of women being able to gather
in a public forum and celebrate being women. I think there has
been a significant improvement, but you have to recognise that
this is in the context of a very conservative and rural society.
It was also quite different in different parts of Helmand. The
role that women play in Lashkar Gah, for example, is quite different
from the public role that women will be able to play in somewhere
like Musa Qala, which is a much more conservative and rural district.
Chair: You have just come back from running
the PRT. When the Defence Committee was there in January, General
Rodriguez told us that the British PRT in Helmand was the model
for the others, and he complimented us on its quality. Therefore,
it would be right for us to say thank you for the obviously huge
role that you played in that.
Q122 Sandra Osborne: Also to Lindy
Cameron, can you tell the Committee how effective the working
relationship between civilians and the military is on the ground?
Lindy Cameron: I have to say that
it is extraordinary. I have never seen civilian-military co-operation
work this well. I think that we've really got to a place where
we've got the funding, staffing and the personal relationships
right. I felt very supported by the whole range of Government
Departments back here in Whitehall in my role inside the PRT,
and equally by the military and civilians. We've evolved that
relationship, so we have essentially gone from being a PRT that
partners only a single British brigade to being a PRT that partners
a divisional-level regional command led by General Mills. In a
sense, the scale of the challenge has increased, but I think we've
managed to maintain those excellent relationships. Fundamentally,
if you look at how Operation Moshtarak played out, for example,
I think that my military colleaguesI turn to them to commentfelt
that they were able to rely on a PRT that was able to both plan
and deliver the civilian side of that operation very effectively.
Q123 Sandra Osborne: What restrictions
did the different terms and conditions of service have on your
ability to deliver the goods?
Lindy Cameron: I would say that
I don't think that they did. I have a PRT staffed by international
staff from the UK, the US, Denmark and Estonia, and by both military
and civilian staff. Effectively, we have a range of people who
are able to do different things. For example, the system of military
stabilisation support teams that the UK uses, which gives us a
military team able to go out on the front line with patrols to
very dangerous areas, allows me to have the eyes and ears of the
PRT right up in the front line backed up by the resource at district
level and resource at provincial level. That draws on the expertise
of a wide range of UK, US, Danish and Estonian backgrounds.
Q124 Sandra Osborne: I think you
said that you had sufficient funding, is that right?
Lindy Cameron: Yes.
Q125 Sandra Osborne: If there
was one extra resource or capability that you could have had,
what would it have been?
Lindy Cameron: To be honest, I
got everything that I asked for in course of the year. Again,
to give an example of Operation Moshtarak, just before Christmas,
when it became clear that Helmand would be the focus of the main
effort for the whole of ISAF in the early months of 2010, I wrote
to Stuart Peach at PJHQ and to the Stabilisation Unit with a list
of additional requirements I thought that we would need for that
operation, which were delivered. When I needed extra resourcesfunding
or staffingand extra capabilities, I got them.
Q126 Sandra Osborne: So everything
in the garden was rosy.
Lindy Cameron: The point is that
what you're looking for is to ensure that the UK's funds are used
in a good value-for-money way in the context of the operation.
We are also very lucky in Helmand in that we have access to a
broad range of international funds as well; for example, the US
provides significant CERP funds and US AID provides significant
funds too. We're not short of cash or funds in Helmand at this
Air Marshal Peach: Just to add
the military side to Lindy's answer, with which I completely concur.
Since the Committee last visited, 2010 has been marked by a series
of changes and evolutions in how the military and civilian effort
in Helmand has been integrated, and "integrated" is
the key word. The arrival of the US Marine Corps; the integration
of General Mills's headquarters alongside the UK; the civilian
effort that the US brought with them; the effort that the US Marine
Corps made within its own ranks to understand where it was and
help to deliver; and the practical steps that we have taken to
learn from each operation that stabilisationwhat we might
call "hot stabilisation"straight after a military
operation is a crucial part of the outcome; all of those lessons
were learnt and applied this year, 2010.
Q127 Chair: Yes, we had some helpful
evidence from General Messenger. Was that last week or the week
before? Peter Watkins, did you want to come in?
Peter Watkins: I entirely agree
with what has just been said.
Q128 Mr Havard: We took evidence
last week, and Professor Farrell had some interesting things to
say about this area. Everyone recognises the quality and the effort,
and the good work that the PRT has done and was doing. However,
he questions the command, control and governance regimes of the
input, in the sense that he is saying that there is now an American
senior civilian in the area, but the marines have a different
tradition and a different way of looking at these things. In a
sense, throughout his evidence what he suggested was that these
things are located in different places.
I will just quote this to you: "Look at
this from the marines' point of view. They see a PRT that is very
cosy with the Task Force element and is very cosy with Governor
Mangal. And yet the marines are supposed to be running the whole
show. As far as the US military are concerned, the PRTs fall under
military command because that's what happens with American PRTs"and
so on. So he raises a question about the continued arrangements
and I asked him, "What price the PRT then"? I would
just like to hear your views on whether or not he is right and
on what those tensions are, because he ends up using this phrase: "It
will have to be resolved, but maybe resolved through creative
management by the key players"whatever that means.
Lindy Cameron: I think that my
view is, as has been said, this has evolved significantly in the
last year and it will continue to evolve. There is a senior US
civilian in Helmand now, but in fact the agreement between the
UK and the US is that the UK head of the PRT is also the NATO
Senior Civilian for RC South-West, and the US senior representative
is his or her deputy for that role.
So we worked through the way that we can use
that US civilian surge most effectively, ensure that the US Marine
Corps gets the US political advice that it obviously needs for
its own purposes and use those resources effectively in Helmand.
You are right. Obviously, from our experience
it is much easier to work in close co-operation with a military
unit that is co-located. But clearly one of the particular challenges
of the last year in Helmand has been that there are now effectively
Sitting suspended for a Division
in the House.
Q129 Chair: You were in full flood
when we broke off to vote, Ms Cameron. Did you complete your
general sentiments or would you like to say them again?
Lindy Cameron: Perhaps I should
summarise them in a couple of sentences. The situation in Helmand
has evolved significantly, as has been described. Therefore,
naturally the relationships on the civilian side and the mil side
are evolving to reflect that change. Basically, we have agreed
a situation as I described with the UK and US senior representatives.
Of course, naturally it is a challenge working with a headquarters
based in Leatherneck rather than in Lashkar Gah but, for General
Mills, Governor Mangal is as much a partner for him as he is for
me, and the key thing is that, for both of us in the military
in RC South-West, a region that has only two Provinces, the Helmand
Government is in a sense the key counterpart and therefore quite
a lot of[Interruption.]comes forward to Lashkar
Gah and spends time at the PRT. It has set up a dedicated office
in the PRT building to make sure that the civilian-military relationship
is very much focused on supporting the Afghan Government.
Q130 Chair: And that works?
Lindy Cameron: Yes, it does.
Air Marshal Peach: The word "cosy"
was used in evidence previously. The fact is that, in order to
understand governance in Helmand and the South-West part of Afghanistan,
we do need to have that level of relationship with the Governor,
and that is precisely what we have got. I know that General Mills
is very grateful for all that Lindy has done to enable that depth
Q131 Mr Havard: I am sorry, I
missed part of your answer, but I will look at it later. As for
the point about governance, I spoke to Governor Mangal last week
myself and your stories match. I checked the consistency. The
question of governance in Helmand was very interesting. In fact,
in fairness to Professor Farrell, he was contrasting the benefits
there are in the Government process that is developing in Helmand
as opposed to the difficulties there are in developing the same
set of arrangements in Kandahar and around that area of the South-West.
Lindy Cameron: To be honest, both
the Afghan Government and also the Coalition partners learnt a
lot from Helmand about what to do in Kandahar.
Mr Havard: I hope so.
Lindy Cameron: Absolutely. The
point is that they actively learnt those lessons. For example,
Minister Popal who runs the independent directorate of local governance
literally had a sort of top-10 list of things that he thought
worked in Helmand, which he wanted to apply in Kandahar. For
example, the system of district community councils, which would
roll out under the ASOP programme, and the way that we had supported
district government by pushing forward the district delivery programme
were both lessons that he took. He also took away the lesson
that actually what you needed in order to get effective government
at district level was a strong and capable provincial local government
again. He went away with a number of "to-do's" to push
his ministerial colleagues on to get them to support that proposal.
Q132 Mr Havard: We wanted to know
whether or not all the benefits of doing the PRT in the way that
you were doing it will now be subsumed by a new dominance of Americans
coming into the area, or whether there will be the synergies that
Lindy Cameron: The US marines
have now been in Helmand for more than a year and have also been
at the scale they are at for more than six months now. I am clear
that basically for six months we have been operating a system
which is working well, and which they recognise the strengths
of as well.
Q133 Chair: Karen Pierce, we are
just about to move on to some questions about the consent of the
Afghan people but, before we do, it would be right to give you
the opportunity to comment on what Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles said
yesterday in the Foreign Affairs Committee. He was reported in
the Daily Mail as saying that, "Politicians were consistently
deceived by the military over how well the campaign in Afghanistan
was going". He said that the top brass were "misleadingly
optimistic", and that if any official or minister cast doubt
on them, they were attacked as "defeatist". Do you
have a similar view?
Karen Pierce: No, I don't, Mr.
Chairman. I have been working on Afghanistan for just over a
year, but I worked on it in 2001 immediately after 9/11. I have
a lot of experience of working alongside the military. I think
of myself as a politico-military expert and, in my view, that
is not how the British Government, whatever the party of the day
is in power, actually does its business. There is actually quite
a healthy debate in Whitehall to share information and analyse
it. You will obviously get different points of view, but I think
that the advice that goes to Ministers is pretty heavily sifted
to ensure that it is the best possible advice and balance of factors.
Q134 Chair: Air Marshal Peach,
we had General Messenger in front of us last week and he said
that until about two years ago the operation in Helmand had been
really under-resourced. We asked whether he had told us this
at the time, and I think that the implication of his answer was
that he didn't remember having been asked that question at the
time. That may well be fair enough. But do you recognise that
there is a worry about our being given the good news and not being
given the bad news?
Air Marshal Peach: I recognise
the worry, but I don't recognise the phrase "consistently
deceived". I think we are honest in our advicecertainly
from my headquartersinto the process that Karen has described.
I think we are in tune with events on the ground. We almost
accept that there is an evolutionary process here of both understanding
the environment in Helmand over the last five years, which has
been a process of understanding both the tribal dynamic, the Taliban
itself and its local factors as well as the Taliban factors more
broadly. That evolution is what, I think, Gordon Messenger was
trying to describe. I don't think there is any sense that I could
think of where our advice, as Karen suggested, has been anything
other than a healthy debate.
Of course, the other point to make is very important.
Throughout the process since 2006, the commander of the force
has been an American General. We must always put the Helmand
operation in that broader context of both the region and the whole
of the country and there, of course, the debate takes place between
capitals and between higher headquarters.
Q135 Mr Hancock: You were Director
General of Intelligence up to 2006. The Secretary of State at
the time sat in this room just before our troops were deployed
to Helmand telling us that, on the best evidence they had and
all the intelligence that they had got together, this was going
to be a pretty low-key, peaceful event. He didn't really expect
many casualties. He certainly wasn't expecting to have the problems
that pursued. Was he told the truth about that situation at the
time or was it just lack of intelligence that prevailed upon him
to give us such a misleading statement?
Air Marshal Peach: I can't comment
on the last point. I would say that we knew what we knew and we
were working very hard to understand what I think the Committee
would agree is a very complex tribal dynamic. It's a very complex
part of Afghanistan. It's historically part that we didn't understand
as much as we do now, because we've been there for a number of
Q136 Mr Hancock: But we'd already
been there for five years at that time.
Air Marshal Peach: But we were
not in Helmand.
Mr Hancock: No, but we were in Afghanistan.
Q137 Mr Brazier: Could I just
come in on the edge from that? We had a presentation last night
from Sir Graeme Lamb and Colonel Richard Williams, both of whom
have spent some years not only serving there in a military capacity,
but have been back many times since in a civilian one. One of
their central points was the concern that your organisation at
Northwoodit is not a personal criticism of you; park completely
the moral dimension of the quote that we are discussing and just
think about mechanicstended to act as a barrier between
the people on the ground who often needed rapid instructions from
politicians as to what was needed. It is a rather strange system,
looked at the from outside, in the era of instant communications,
to have commanders on the ground and politicians who have to make
decisions with the chiefs of staff advising them and thenone
doesn't have to go into all the stories about the difficulties
of getting anyone to answer the phone in the middle of a Twickenham
match, and various other thingsa group in the middle who
are acting as the command structure. Why can't the command be
done on the ground and the political reference, or reference for
policy guidance, be directed back to the Ministry of Defence?
Air Marshal Peach: Operational
control of the force is delegated forward to Afghanistan, so command
in that sense is exercised in Afghanistan through the national
contingent. That is held, as I explained to the Committee on a
visit to PJHQ, by a British three-star general forward in Kabul,
who is also double-hatted as the deputy commander of the international
force. Operational command sets the conditions and enables command.
My headquarters is manned 24/7 and I'm not here to comment on
what others may have said, which I have not seen.
Chair: I don't want to spend time on
this today, because I want to get back to the consent of the Afghan
Q138 Mr Hancock: May I direct
some questions to you, Karen? Do you believe that the Afghans
are convinced that we're going to stay for the long haul or are
they convinced that we're all going to be gone by 2015, maybe
leaving them in a difficult position?
Karen Pierce: The Afghans worry
that they will be abandoned again by the international community
in general. One thing that they will quote to you is the fact
that they see this as the third American engagement with Afghanistan
and they consider that they were withdrawn from, or disengaged
from, prematurely on earlier occasions. We are starting to explainI
think they do understandthat while British Forces will
be out of combat by 2015, British engagement, military training,
development and other assistance, alongside that of other western
nations, will continue. I think that the NATO Lisbon summit will
make some of that clear, by looking forward to a longer-term partnership
between NATO countries and Afghanistan.
Q139 Mr Hancock: Who are the Afghans
you're talking about who are concerned about us not sticking around?
Is it just the Karzai Government and the people who are propping
him up, or is it much wider than that?
Karen Pierce: You will hear it
among the opinion formers. It's a view that they express privately.
It's sometimes a view that appears in the Afghan papers and it's
sometimes a view that you will hear on the seminar circuit, or
reflected by other people in the region, such as the Pakistanis.
But, as I said, it is gradually coming to be understood that western
engagement as a whole will continue in Afghanistan for many years
yet, partly because one of the objectives is to get Afghanistan
on what I might call a more normal development trajectory, such
that the more normal structures of the international communitythe
UN and so oncan take up a more regular role.
Q140 Mr Hancock: Have you done
any work in trying to analyse the counter-view to that from within
Afghanistan? There are people in Afghanistan who would welcome
the Coalition Forces leaving ASAP. What have you done on that
Karen Pierce: There has been a
number of studies, some of them funded by DFID, that explore those
questions. If you look at the most recent opinion poll on the
subject, which I think came from the BBC, some 70% of Afghans
say that they want ISAF to be in their country. Afghan formal
consent has been given for ISAF to be there, and that is noted
in the Security Council resolutions that endorse the ISAF mandate
On whether Afghans want international forces
to leave, I think there is a general view among Afghans that they
do not much like foreigners. Lindy was pointing out earlier that
this is a view that you get at the local levelthey don't
much like the people in the other districtand it is a view
that you get at the provincial and national levels. To that extent
it is not a society that automatically embraces foreigners but,
in terms of working alongside ISAF, in practical terms, we see
rather good co-operation from the Afghans.
Q141 Mr Hancock: How do you judge
people's reactions to the widespread corruption of the Afghan
Karen Pierce: It is something
that has been covered in the two DFID studies, and it is also
an issue that is covered in regular polling. The Committee may
be aware of the Asia Foundation poll that has just been releasedthis
is a poll that the Asia Foundation does annually. In that poll,
there are two concerns cited by Afghans as governing their attitudes
to the future: one is security, which Lindy mentioned, and the
other is corruption. We are well aware of the importance of corruption
not only in terms of helping to develop the Afghan economy, but
also in terms of what you might think of as hearts and minds,
and Afghans as a whole being comfortable with the level of service
that they get from their Government.
Q142 Mr Hancock: Do either of
youMs Cameron as well as yourselfbelieve there is
a genuine prospect of seeing the level of corruption reduced in
any foreseeable time scale? That might give people more confidence.
Karen Pierce: The two international
conferences that were held this yearthe London conference
and the Kabul conferenceset out mini action plans to help
tackle corruption, and some progress has been made. It being the
kind of society it is, where warlords have held sway for quite
a long time over various districts, it will take a long time for
corruption to fall. Transparency International has done some work
on this, but we are already starting to see some of the mechanisms
that were committed to at the Kabul conference bear fruit.
Lindy Cameron: At a practical
level in Helmand, it's clearly quite a challenge for the Government,
and I think Governor Mangal would certainly say that it is something
that he feels he needs to take consistent, repeated action on
to make sure that people have increased confidence in the Government.
He has been extremely tough on corruption, including, on a couple
of occasions, actually having members of his staff arrested when
there were allegations against them. He has taken quite tough
action at some personal risk. That is now playing out in a very
positive way, and people's confidence in the Government is beginning
It also helps that people's confidence in the
police force, at very local level, is improving in Helmand. You
see that partly in people no longer insisting on having a police
force from entirely outside their district or province but actually
wanting the kind of local police force which, at times in times
gone by, has been a generator rather than a preventer of corruption.
Now they actually have enough confidence in the police force that
they are starting to ask for well trained local police, because
they think that they can have confidence in those government systems.
Q143 Ms Stuart: This question
is to both Karen and Lindy. Could you give me your definition
of corruption? I am slightly puzzled because there is the non-transparent
way in which money goes in but does not come out on the other
end, but then there is the quite transparent way in which money
is inappropriately used and given to groups that favour one side
rather than another. What is your definition of corruption?
Karen Pierce: We would tend to
follow OECD standards on that. I can't cite what the definition
would be, but when we help to set up things such as the Major
Crimes Task Force and help with governance, it is certainly about
making sure that money isn't diverted and that officials aren't
improperly receiving funds that ought to go to legitimate sources.
Q144 Ms Gisela Stuart: So it can
be transparent but still go to groups favouring one side rather
Karen Pierce: I don't know if
that was covered by the OECD definition, but certainly the way
we run our funding and the things we look at, and that we want
the Afghan institutions to look at, would cover that sort of thing.
Afghans themselves sometimes have a rather different definition
of corruption, which can mean people doing something inappropriate
without necessarily the sense of financial gain.
Q145 Mr Havard: I notice in the
same poll from the Asia Foundation that you cited an interesting
element relating to its concerns about unemployment as well as
corruption, and I think that there is an interesting shift there.
I note that Afghan Government structures have actually stopped
150 aid groups doing their work because they have not been transparent
and put forward accounts. Is that right? I took that from The
Times, but I don't normally believe what I read in it.
Karen Pierce: I don't have access
to any more precise information than that which you have just
quoted, but it is the case that various bodies are being stricter
about how money is spent and accounted for.
Lindy Cameron: On the point about
corruption, it is worth saying that in Helmand one of the big
challenges is the funds from opium production. In a sense, therefore,
not only are people focused on the Government funding, but there
is an abuse of power issue that is quite important. One of the
key things is that Government officials are trusted not to abuse
power in order to allow access to ways of getting money from the
drugs system, for example.
Q146 Mr Hancock: How much of an
impediment is President Karzai to getting a settlement in Afghanistan
generally, and are we putting enough pressure on him and his Government
to reform and reduce corruption? He made great play two weeks
ago of saying that there was transparency when he received cash
because it came in bags that allowed people to see the money.
He felt that that was a good indication of the transparency of
the operation. The Americans were upset about Iran giving money,
but I would like to know whether the UK has ever paid large sums
of cash over in the same way.
Karen Pierce: I can assure you
on the latter point that we don't pay cash over like that. DFID
has very strict controls for tracking where its money has gone
and what it has been spent on. That applies in Pakistan as well
as Afghanistan. With regard to your first question on the settlement,
President Karzai has launched a process to aid reconciliation.
He has set out three conditions that may be familiar to the Committee:
renounce al-Qaeda, give up the armed struggle, and work within
the Afghan constitutional framework. He has inaugurated the higher
peace council, the body that came out of the May Peace Jirga,
which is intended to take reconciliation forward. He has set out
the decree so that reintegration can happen. After that, the next
step is for the detailed guidance to be elaborated and sent out
to the provincial and district governors so that they can get
on with that on the ground. President Karzai is making efforts
to bring those people in the insurgency who want to reconcile
into the fold.
I think that there is a second aspect to what
is sometimes thought of as a political settlement, and that is
internal political processes within Afghanistan, of which things
such as election reform becomes an important part. That is also
being taken forward. We have seen already a marked improvement
over the way the parliamentary elections were handled during the
Presidential Elections last year. Those are, of course, things
that the Afghans are running themselves, so there has been a learning
curve. In terms of the way that parliamentary elections have been
handled, they are climbing that learning curve reasonably successfully.
Q147 Mr Hancock: How do we exercise
pressure on President Karzai on corruption? What do you effectively
do on that issue? It is one thing saying that we don't want corruption
to go on, but what do we actually do? What is the stick that we've
got to beat him with to get them to do something, or is it simply
that we offer bigger and better carrots?
Karen Pierce: I would not like
to say it's a choice between carrots and sticks on an issue like
corruption. The whole way the international community works with
the Afghans is trying to help them learn how to run their country
effectively. So, rather than pressure and sticks, it's more about
tutoring, helping, and helping to build capacity.
We have three main ways we do that. One is through
planning and establishing commitments from both the Afghans as
to what practically they are going to do on corruption and from
the international community as to what assistance it will provide
for that. The main vehicles for that have been the London and
Kabul conference commitments. On a regular basis, the UN leads
an effort inside Afghanistan to monitor where those commitments
have got to, and anti-corruption is obviously part of that. The
British Ambassador has a programme fund, some of which is devoted
to anti-corruption measures. He provides political oversight of
that, so that if there is a problem with such-and-such a ministry,
for example, the ambassador will go to talk that through with
the Minister or, as necessary, with President Karzai. Behind that,
there stand Ministers, who take up such issues as and when they
need to with President Karzai and his Ministers.
Q148 Mr Hancock: We heard from
Ms Cameron earlier about women in the regional and national Governments.
Would the average Afghan woman be satisfied that we are doing
enough to give her greater stability in her life and greater optimism
for a better future, and to give greater protection to her and
her children, particularly girls?
Karen Pierce: It is an issue that
the Government take very seriously. If it's helpful, Mr Chairman,
I have figures relating to Mrs Moon's earlier question about how
life has changed for women since the Taliban. I could read them
out or write in with them.
Chair: Could you write in with them,
please, because that would be helpful.
Karen Pierce: There is a long
way to go, but the women's voice, in terms of internal affairs
in Afghanistan, is getting stronger. Encouragingly, at the May
Peace Jirga, a very high proportion of the delegates who were
sent from the Provinces were women. The Provinces that submitted
delegation lists that did not look representative were asked to
rethink, which had a salutary effect. When the Peace Jirga started
there was some tension, which the Afghans remarked on themselves,
between the women and the mullahs. But by the second day of the
Peace Jirga, those tensions were starting to dissipate, and the
mullahs were relying on the women to act as secretaries and scribes
for the committees. Most people think that that was a good start.
The number of women parliamentary candidates has also been going
up gradually. Again, that will be a slow process, but the voice
is getting stronger.
Chair: I don't know that that would be
the reaction in this country.
Q149 Mr Hancock: But are the women
who get elected the sort of women who care enough about other
women in the villages of Afghanistan who have been subjected to
generations of abuse and mistreatment? Are they the sort of women
who will carry forward a commitment to women generally, or are
they just no different from menthey are in the political
game for what they can get out of it?
Karen Pierce: That is a bit of
a caricature, if I may so. As in any political system, you will
find both types of female politicians.
Chair: I think you are right.
Q150 Penny Mordaunt: I would like
to ask Karen Pierce and Lindy Cameron what you think the impact
of civilian casualties has been on the success of operations.
Lindy Cameron: I am not sure that
is for me to comment on. I would have thought that that is really
for my military colleagues to comment on.
Q151 Penny Mordaunt: I was thinking
with particular reference to the policy of courageous restraint.
Chair: The reason this is coming to you
is that we asked General Messenger that question last month, so
we feel we have had a military view. That was helpful, but we
may ask the same question of General Capewell and Air Marshal
Peach. That is whyyou may have been able to see the civilian
Lindy Cameron: If I can, perhaps
I should reflect Governor Mangal's view, which was that he very
much welcomed General McChrystal's increased focus on preventing
civilian casualties. Certainly for him, every time there has been
a casualty incident, he takes it extremely seriously. He looks
to engage with and understand both what happened and the public's
response to it. He very much welcomed the increased focus and
the transparent relationship between the military and his Government
on understanding incidents as they happened.
Q152 Penny Mordaunt: On securing
the consent of the local population, what would you say the impact
of that has been?
Lindy Cameron: Certainly that
increased focus has been reflected in helping him have a more
effective and credible relationship with his population.
Air Marshal Peach: General Petraeus
has continued the policy of General McChrystal. He has simplified
the language in terms of the guidance given to soldiers. I can
say, because I think the figures come from the United Nations,
that the majority of casualties are caused by the Taliban, and
the number of casualties caused by the international force has
dropped by 30% in the last six months. Every alleged incident
is taken very seriously, with immediate investigation, and there
is a tendency for the facts to not quite bear out the initial
Karen Pierce: I used to be in
the UK Mission to the United Nations, and I can reinforce what
Sir Stuart said about every civilian casualty that is caused by
ISAF being taken very seriously, because we used to talk about
it in the Security Council. I would make the point that any casualty
caused by ISAF or the ANSF is accidental, and those caused by
the insurgency are a deliberate targeting of civilians. That point
isn't adequately understood in some parts of Afghanistan.
Q153 Mr Brazier: May I ask the
panel as a whole to briefly assess progress on the Afghan National
Forcesthe army and the police?
Air Marshal Peach: The general
sense of progress is very positive in terms of the target numbers
being metover 250,000 between the Afghan army and police.
More importantly in many ways, it's positive in terms of capability.
We are now regularly seeingit is happening as we speakoperations
being routinely led by the Afghan army at brigade level, brigade
level being a sizeable force, and ISAF in a mentoring and supporting
role. We are now working on the next steps around developing the
specialist areas of the Afghan army, which I am sure your advisers
can brief you on in terms of logistics, signals and so on. So
the Afghan army is succeeding in both numbers and capability.
Obviously, the Afghan police have been more of a challenge. I
think the Committee is aware that we helped to create the Helmand
police training centre in Lashkar Gar. It has been very successful.
It has been used as an exemplar of how to change the dynamics
for policing locally by the NATO training mission in Kabul.
We are pushing out a lot of young and not so
young men who have already been policemen in Afghanistan for some
time, but who have not received any formal training. When you
visit, you don't just see a stack of new recruits. There is a
sort of age mix, so that we are catching up on the training. In
addition, and it is quite an important point, there is a lot of
work going on now, both in Kabul and locally, to train the leaders.
The key to success is thickening the ability of the Afghan armyboth
the senior and non-commissioned officer leveland the ability
of their officers to take the leadership role from ISAF. We are
now trying to develop the same thing with the police. I must say
we are aided extremely well by the central ministries in Kabul,
which really understand the importance of developing Afghan Security
Forces. That is an overview.
Chair: May I interpose? Madeleine, do
you want to ask Air Marshal Peach about that?
Q154 Mrs Moon: You are painting
a very positive picture, but we got rid of Abdul Wali Khan, the
warlord-cum-police chief in Musa Qala. The British objected to
his presence and his historic allegiance with the Taliban, and
Karzai insisted that he was reinstated. When I asked Governor
Mangal about the fact that he was still there and still causing
problems, he said that he recognised that. What can we do when
we remove those in the police whom we see as being corrupt, and
then they are imposed back on to the community by Karzai? Are
we making progress?
Air Marshal Peach: That is one
case, and I am not going to comment on a specific case. It is
for the Governor to argue the point up to Kabul. Lindy explained
earlier that we have the combination of a district governor, an
army commander who understands the local conditions and a district
policeman who is in tune with the local district governor, although
he may not be from the same tribe. When we have those three actors,
with international forces very much in support in the background,
things move quickly on the security line. You are absolutely right
that where there are examples of that not working, the Afghan
officials, particularly in Kabul, have to do something about that.
The overall sense in Helmand, in the three key
districts where we arein the centreis that that
triumvirate approach is working. Again, I am painting not an overly
optimistic picture, but a picture of evolution, particularly this
year, as we have been able to thicken the governance effect at
the local level. We have enabled that through the creation of
the Helmand Police Training Centre, which has now produced well
over 1,000 policemen to do that local policing in Helmand.
Major General Capewell: To go
back to training, by any international standard, the training
delivery process across Afghanistan has got to be seen as a success.
I have been involved in training around the world for the last
30 years and the industrial scale of the effort by the NATO training
mission is a substantial success story. It is patchy in areas
and literacy is a problem, but I can read you the figures. We
now have 138,000 in the ANA and 120,000 in the ANP. This is industrial.
Of course, this is right at the heart of the issue of the transfer
of lead security responsibility. We need that quantity and quality
of people to be able to hand over eventually.
Q155 Mr Brazier: May I come back
to Sir Stuart for a moment? I have pressed him on this issue in
the private briefings we get regularly from the MoD. What is the
picture on recruiting Pashtuns, in particular those from the South,
into the army and the police? Given that the Taliban are a Southern
Pashtun organisation, the level of recruitment from that group
must be crucial to credibility.
Air Marshal Peach: It is improving.
It is near to the targets that are set centrally.
Peter Watkins: I can give you
the figures either verbally or in written form. There is a series
of targets, and the target for Pashtuns is 44%. The current figure
is 43%. I know what you are going to say nextthere are
Pashtuns and Pashtuns. The number of Pashtuns from the South is
considerably lower than we would wish.
Q156 Chair: What does that mean
in terms of numbers?
Peter Watkins: I am afraid I don't
have the figure with me. One reason for thatit is a vicious
circleis the insecurity that is still in the South. People
are worried about serving in the army because they feel that their
families may be targeted. As we improve security in the Southand
we are doing sowe expect the number of Pashtuns from the
South to increase.
Lindy Cameron: If you look at
it from the perspective of somebody in a district, clearly, what
they will always see is a national army force, which is a balanced
composition. What they would like to see are policemen from their
local area. Part of the reason we put so much effort into the
Helmand Police Training Centre is that people are increasingly
asking, as they gain increased confidence in the police force,
for policemen not just from their province, but from their district.
They want local boys who recognise who the good guys and bad guys
are, and who can really effectively do local community policing,
as well as the more sophisticated end. They want to see a police
force from their area, which would reflect that Southern Pashtun
Q157 Mr Brazier: You have anticipated
my next question. You do then see a real difference in the behaviour
of the police on the ground?
Lindy Cameron: Yes, absolutely.
To reinforce what Air Marshal Peach said, we are not going to
be over-optimistic about this. We are starting from an extremely
low base. Indeed, when I went to Helmand a year ago, one of my
biggest concerns was actually the reputation of the police force
at local level in areas like Marjah where, for example, the historic
corruption of the police force was one of the reasons why that
area turned to the Taliban in the first place.
You are talking about a slow-building confidence,
but the fact is that people now see a police force that they have
confidence in. They have confidence that they have been drug
tested. They can have confidence that they have been trained
in how to hold their weapons and in how to man a guard post effectively.
There was a visible difference in the way that police behave.
You were talking about a police training centre both in Lashkar
Gah and the one in Camp Shurabak in a way that is slowly building
people's confidence. The reason why I am sure of that is, because
when you talk to people in Marjah about what they want, they no
longer say, "We want anybody but the local police force."
They say, "We want you to recruit and train police from
our area who understand us."
Q158 Mr Havard: Some of that echoes
the discussion we had with Governor Mangal himself, and how he
can deal with some of the more recalcitrant district police chiefs
that he needs to manage. The management would partly seem to
be reducing its capacity by ejecting more of those trained policemen
into these areas. It is quite clearly one way of helping to achieve
that. He did make a plea about the business of the local police.
I think that he is right. This is an area that should have been
given attention years ago. His plea is that, whilst the training
for the national army is such that the middle rank officer corps
area needs attention, the same level of attention needs to be
given to police officers. That is my understanding of it. He
doesn't express it that way. My understanding is that a district
governor would be like a police superintendent. It is inspector
level. He is making a plea that we give more resources by putting
particular emphasesperhaps bringing people here as well
to train them.
Air Marshal Peach: We are doing
precisely thatnot so much the last point, but we are doing
exactly that right now. We are trying to develop the Helmand
Police Training Centre into that level. It won't be called "inspector",
but it will be that sort of level. We are working closely through
officials with the Ministry of Interior because ultimately it
is in charge of the police in Kabul. That is very positive, and
a long way from where we were.
Lindy Cameron: The first NCO training
course in 30 years was run in Helmand Province this year at the
Helmand Police Training Centre. One of the challenges for NCOs
and the police force at Helmand is that they have to pass a literacy
requirement, which is a very challenging issue for many people
who want to join. There are some people who are filling policemen
slots, who need to work on literacy in order to get those NCO
slots, which is why part of the training course we run is actually
Q159 Ms Stuart: I have two things
about the training of police. Visiting it, it also had a European
component. Has not part of Europe gone there as well? The second
thing is that the UK keeps saying that there are NATO partners
who don't send any troops active on the ground. At least they
could help us more with training. Is that making any progress?
Peter Watkins: Perhaps I can pick
up on the EUPOL point. EUPOL are active at national level mainly,
developing national police capacity particularly in things like
forensic skills. At the local level, we are providing about twenty
Ministry of Defence police to assist with the training.
Q160 Chair: Is it right to say
that, until the London conference earlier this year, there was
an expectation that the Germans would do the training of the police
in the way that the allocation of responsibilities like narcotics
to the United Kingdom was divided out? That has been dropped,
Peter Watkins: Following the Bonn
conference in 2001, there was an allocation of responsibilities
across the G8. You are correct, Chairman, that Germany was allocated
police training. Italy was developing the justice system. We
got counter narcotics and the Americans got training the army.
Since then, there has been a less rigorous segregation, and we
have also been active in police training. But we don't regard
police training as a major UK line of activity. We don't, for
example, have a carabinieri-type force, which is ideal for training
police in those circumstances. So we have focused more on niche
activities by, for example, supporting the EUPOL mission in Kabul,
and the training that I mentioned we are doing in Helmand.
Q161 Mrs Moon: I want to raise
some issues in relation to the Armed Forces, about whether we
deployed enough people ourselves in 2006 and whether you feel
there was an impact on our failure to deploy sufficient numbers
of troops in that year.
Peter Watkins: The context hereand
perhaps I can focus on what has happened over the last two years
as being importantis that we have been seeking to rebalance
our contribution in Helmand. That has been by a combination of
a series of force uplifts, which the Committee will have been
following, from 8,300 in early 2008, to 9,500.
Chair: Speak up, please.
Peter Watkins: There has been
a series of force uplifts, which the Committee will have been
following, from 8,300 in early 2008 to 9,500 now. There has also
been a reduction in our area of responsibility, so we have transferred
a series of areas to the US Marine Corps.
Q162 Chair: I am going to stop
you, because I think that Madeleine Moon was talking about 2006.
Peter Watkins: I can't comment
on 2006 beyond saying what General Messenger said last week about
the availability of resources influencing the range of tasks that
could be carried out. There were certain tasks that, as he said,
could not be carried out because there were not the resources.
The obvious example is Marjah, which was not addressed before
the beginning of this year.
Q163 Mrs Moon: So did we have
enough personnel to carry out the tasks that we had in 2006? What
was the impact of not having enough personnel in that year on
the tasks that were generated for the forces that we had then?
Air Marshal Peach: Can we return
to that in writing, because without seeing exactly what those
tasks were and exactly what the forces were in 2006, it is hard
to answer that?
Q164 Mrs Moon: Do we have the
correct force levels now, and what would you say if we offered
another 5,000 troops?
Air Marshal Peach: We have the
correct force levels now in terms of what we call force density
for the tasks that we are undertaking in central Helmand in three
key districts, where the force level, as Peter has indicated,
is around 9,500. Those tasks have evolved since 2006, when it
was an initial deployment. As that deployment has developed, so
has the geography. There has been a steady increase in the number
of troops deployed; there has been a steady increase in the understanding
of where we are and what the local conditions are; and there has
been a steady increase in force density to understand what we
need in that counter-insurgency for that part of Afghanistan.
That assessment varies by district; it is quite different across
the whole of Afghanistan.
We can honestly say that we have the force density
for the tasks that we now need, which is linked to the previous
answers given to Mr Brazier. The task is now increasingly to bring
this partnershipthis integrationof not just civil
and military effect, but of leadership of the Afghans. That has
grown from mentoring at unit level, through support at battalion
level, to support at brigade level in the past year. There has
been a steady process of evolution since the Afghan Forces started
to be developed a few years ago. I am very confident of that assessment.
Of course, situations change, and the situation could change again
in future, and we must be cognisant of that.
The insurgent has definitely reacted to our
progress on the ground. I think that we can be confident that
we are now in a position where, in the three key districts where
British Forces are deployed and in the Helmand Province where
the majority of the forces are US Marine Corps, tactical progress
is being made and, importantly, that progress is being sustained.
That sustainment of security is what gives Governor Mangal the
confidence to say what he said when he was in London last week
and the confidence in the civil effect that follows up.
Q165 Mrs Moon: It has been suggested
that there are glossy, over-positive descriptions of the success
and capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces and that,
in fact, many of the operations in which they take the lead are
small scale and are always backed up and that it is only the fact
that they are backed up by British and American Forces that makes
them successful. Is that an accurate description?
Air Marshal Peach: In part. But,
of course, for every one of those stories which is a negative,
there are many unreported stories which are very positive. There
have been many positive operations, at the tactical level, undertaken
by the Afghan army, where UK, US, Danish or Estonian Forces have
been very much in the background. I can think of a couple in the
summer that were not widely reported, but were extremely successful
and virtually led totally by the Afghans. I think that Lindy would
agree that there have been a number of quite serious security
challenges in the district capital of Lashkar Gah, which have
been entirely handled by the Afghans. I would go as far as saying
that when we have contacted them and said, "Do you need that
back up? Do you need this or that support?", they have said,
"No. We have the situation under control and we are dealing
with it." I do not accept that that is over-positive. That
is the reporting that we are getting from theatre.
Q166 Mrs Moon: What has been the
impact on the morale of UK Forces of the withdrawal from Sangin?
Air Marshal Peach: The withdrawal
from Sangin has to be seen in that process of evolution around
the battle space, as we have concentrated, as required by NATO,
on the three key districts in central Helmand. One of the obvious
ways of achieving that force density was to concentrate, where
we have ended up. This manoeuvre, this relief in place, is always
one of the moreas I am sure Committee Members with military
experience and your advisers would agreecomplex tasks.
It was achieved with great skill by both the UK and American Forces.
It was a large-scale logistics effort. Of course, the fight in
that area continues. We must be sensitive to that, and to our
American friends and colleagues who are now suffering losses.
I do not think that it is fair to say that it
has had any effect on the UK Force morale. The soldiers who have
now conducted that relief in place have returned to the UK. The
new battalion or battle group which replaced them has moved to
a new area and the operation, in an integrated fashion, between
the UK and the US continues. What I am trying to say to the Committee
is that it isn't really a story. It is normal, routine, military
business. Sangin is a difficult place, I am not denying that.
It remains a difficult place. The tribute that I freely offer
is to the way in which, at a tactical level, both UK and US Forces
have gone about their business in making that adjustment.
Q167 Bob Stewart: Forgive me for
returning to 2006 when you do not want to talk about it. You are,
however, the resident experts. The question we asked was about
what went wrong in 2006. I will be specific. You may not know
the tactics in detail, but you will have heard and you will have
been briefed on the strategy and the tactics at the time. Why
did we put 3 Para in platoon housesunprotected, unsupported
and without helicopters? Who was responsible for that? Was that
a military decision? Or was it a military and a political decision?
Who gave that order to put our troops into isolated locations
where they were taken out one at a time and we had to use massive
airpower to save them? Who was responsible for that?
Chair: Air Marshal Peach?
Air Marshal Peach: We were not
in our current positions
Q168 Bob Stewart: Of course you
weren't in your current positions, but you have been briefed,
Air Marshal, on what happened in 2006, because if you haven't,
there is something wrong. What happened in 2006 that caused us
here, back in this country, such heartache, particularly with
3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment? Since then, the tactics
have been such that we have lost of a heck of a lot of soldiers.
You have concentrated our minds back on 2008-09, and dodged 2006.
The purpose of the question was 2006.
Chair: You are the military witnesses
in front of this Committee. We would like to know what it was
that caused these concerns to be raised with the British public.
Those concerns remain.
Peter Watkins: I don't think we
are in a position to say precisely who took what decision in 2006.
We have said already that this campaign evolved. We learnt a lot
from, as it were, doing it. Our intelligence and our understanding
of the area have steadily improved, and as our knowledge and experience
have increased, we have learnt the lessons and applied them. I
set outI am sorry if it irritated the Committeewhat
we did from late 2008 onwards to rebalance our Forces and ensure
that there was an equitable division of labour across Helmand,
taking advantage of the large inflow of American Forces.
Q169 Chair: Can I put it to you
in a different way? Last week, I read out to General Messenger
the following quotation: "the British have consistently dispersed
their kinetic effects over time and space so that they never achieve
the lasting dominance over any particular area necessary to neutralise
Taliban influence there." One of the examples of that was
the platoon houses strategy. I read it to General Messenger last
week and asked him why this had happened. Are you able to answer
Air Marshal Peach: Not this afternoon.
I will give you the answer in writing through the Ministry of
Defence. I am not prepared to just extemporise over four years
ago, when I was not in the operational chain of command.
Mr Brazier: I am conscious of the fact
that Colonel Stewart is a distinguished former regular soldier,
but I think the thing that seems so very odd to very large numbers
of people in the retired military community was that the strategy
we adopted there was completely out of line with the way in which
the British Army has historically operated. The idea that you
put little penny packets of people dotted around the countryside
without any support was something that we have never done before
or since. It suggests to us that there may well be something wrong
with the whole command structure that is applying, which goes
beyond the responsibility of individuals. We obviously can sit
here in safety and comfort in this room, but every ex-soldier
I spoke to about it was just incredulous at what was going on.
Chair: We are not asking these questions
because we are trying to second-guess the military. I am not a
person of military experience myself, but it would be quite helpful
to have an explanation from the military as to what it was that
happened and why. But we will now move on.
Mr Hancock: I would hope that in doing
that, we would reflect on what has been given in evidence to the
Committee by people such as Butler and other generals, who have
been there and come here subsequently to give evidence about what
they were experiencing at the time.
Q170 Mrs Moon: One of the things
that I would like to put on record is that you, Air Marshal, made
a comment about the withdrawal from Sangin being understandable
to ex-military and to our advisers. It is important that those
of us on this Committee who are not ex-military understand, because
in explaining to us and making it clear to us who are not ex-military,
hopefully you will also make it clear to our constituents, who
are also largely not ex-military. There is a huge problem. There
is an expectation that the military can explain themselves to
the military, and it is this Committee that must be the filter
that gets the explanation for our constituents and the British
public, who are funding this and who are the people to whom, ultimately,
we are all responsible. I would like to make that clear.
How do you feel the image of UK Forces, in relation
to NATO and the USA, has been affected by our withdrawal from
Air Marshal Peach: In terms of
our relationship with the United States Marine Corps?
Mrs Moon: Our relationship and our reputation.
Air Marshal Peach: Our relationship
and our reputation are undiminished. General Petraeus, General
Rodriguez and General Mills are on record paying tribute to the
tactical skill of the British Armed Forces and the British Army
in the particular case of Sangin. In fact, we must remind ourselves
that in the case of Sangin it was the Royal Marine Commandos,
40 Commando to be precise, who conducted the relief in place of
the US Marine Corps, and all of the commanding generals in NATO
have paid tribute to that. I deduce, therefore, that there has
not been any effect on our reputation. It is important that we
pay sufficient regard and tribute to the sacrifice that we have
made in Sangin. As I have just indicated to the Chair, we will
write to the Committee on how we ended up in Sangin in 2006.
Q171 Chair: When we were in Lashkar
Gah in January, we heard that the Americans were astonished by
what we had managed to achieve with a very small density of troops.
That perhaps describes the other side of the reputation coin to
that presented by the question that has been asked. Let's now
Bob Stewart: I thought that Madeleine
and I were going to talk about sustainment. I am worried by how
we will sustain our operations with such small forces. For example,
the battalion that I commanded returned last week. It had 12 dead,
more than 100 wounded and seven triple amputees, who had two legs
between them. How often are infantry or Royal Marine soldiers
going back? I know what the answer is for units, but, given the
way that the Armed Forces have trickle-posted their soldiers,
what is the average tour interval between an individual going
out to Afghanistan and returning again?
Chair: Hold on, we are going to move
on to tour intervals in a moment. We are talking about sustainment
at the moment.
Q172 Bob Stewart: How do we sustain
that sort of thing? No one has ever mentioned battle casualty
replacements. If you lose 100 from a 500-strong unit, you are
pushed. Do we have effective battle casualty replacements? Are
battle casualty replacements put into units in the middle of tours?
Air Marshal Peach: Yes we do and
yes they are. If you wish me to go into detail, I can do that
in writing. That is a subject that we continually refine through
lessons identified then learned. I, of course, join the tributes
paid to your former regiment. We are, of course, dealing with
the consequences of the severely wounded, as well as those lost.
Tour intervals are managed by the single services
through a process of harmony. We can, again, go into statistical
detail on that. On the sensitivityif I have properly used
that phraseof tour intervals, it is very much the job of
the chiefs of the single services to monitor that. Where my headquarters
plays a particular supporting role to that process is in ensuring
that there are no elements in our force structure who are asked
to go more often than others. Those are what we term "pinch-point
Bob Stewart: I accept that that is not
Chair: I want to move on to that issue.
Q173 John Glen: Looking at the
harmony issue, I understand that there's been some progress in
that respect, in terms of not breaching it so significantly. Could
you give your view on when we get to a situation where that breach
would not happen at all? Perhaps the Air Marshal and then the
General could comment.
Air Marshal Peach: It would be
difficult to say that it would never happen because, as I just
suggested to Mr Stewart, it depends. There will always be people
who are in high demand and short supply, particularly as campaigns
evolve; therefore, we have to manage that carefully. The percentages
are actually falling at the moment for all three services, and
we can provide the Committee with written detail.
Q174 Chair: But the percentages
of breaches of harmony are falling.
Air Marshal Peach: The breaches
of harmony are falling.
The key point is to understand that with the
word of evolution comes an evolution within the forcedifferent
skills and different types of unit mixes are required. For example,
if a unit is deploying as a battle group to undertake partnering
and training in support of the Afghan Forces, it requires a different
mix of ranks and of skill sets to undertake that role, compared
with forces deploying to do ground-holding, as we may have talked
about in 2008 or 2009. As that structure evolves, so the skill
set evolves. That is a complex process and requires a great deal
of interaction within the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal
Air Force where appropriate. In other words, the skill set looks
different; for example, we've been discussing briefly 3 Para,
and it would look very different now on the ground in a unit that's
doing the mentoring and training that we talked about earlier.
Major General Capewell: The figures
at the moment are that less than 1% of the Royal Navy, 6% of the
Army and 5% of the RAF are operating above harmony guidelines.
I think that it's important to remark that each service has different
harmony guidelines, and I couldn't comment on the detail of the
intricacies of that arrangement. My judgment is that this is recognised
as a key issue to ensure that the sustainability of the forces
is delivered over timewe all recognise that in terms of
the Afghan campaign, we have to apply this calculus to 2015.
Q175 John Glen: Just thinking
about the situations where individuals are deployed multiple times
to Afghanistan and Iraq, do you have any data on that?
Air Marshal Peach: It is very
complex. May we write to the Committee on the data? The point
that I would make is that people who have deployed multiple times
won't necessarily be doing the same job or be in the same rank.
Of course there is recognition and reward here as well; where
people have been recognised both for their bravery and for their
skill in the field, they may well return in a senior NCO rank
as opposed to a junior NCO rank or in a senior officer rank as
opposed to a junior officer rank. Those would count as multiple
tours, but in different roles. I think that we all know examples
We can provide the Committee with more detail,
but with so many thousands of people cycling through Afghanistan
every year, it is an evolutionary thing and is moving very quickly.
In certain skilled areas, there will be people who have done multiple
tours, for example, pilotswhether Army, Navy or Air Forcewill
often do shorter tours because they have to sustain other skills
otherwise they will be lost. Other people do longer tours in staff
appointments where it is important to have that breadth of understanding
from a longer tour; for example, for people supporting Lindy in
the PRT. We are sensitive to the fact that those fighting need
as short a tour as possible. One size doesn't fit all.
Q176 John Glen: In recognising
that diversity of experience and the fact that people go back
in different roles, do either of you have a view about how many
multiple tours it's reasonable to ask individuals to take, or
does your previous answer mitigate against an absolute number?
Major General Capewell: I think
that is an entirely personal question. People very quickly recognise
whether they can put another tour in. I think the general view
among my colleagues would be that three six-month tours in five
years is about as much as you would want to do.
Chair: Whereas the Chinook pilots in
my constituency do two-month tours, and many more than three.
Q177 Sandra Osborne: Could I ask
about the allowances given for tours? You talked about rewards.
Is it the case that the allowances given for tours have been changed
to the detriment of members of the Armed Forces and that that
is causing a problem with morale?
Major General Capewell: Not to
my knowledge. I think the operational bonus package now is as
good as it has ever been.
Air Marshal Peach: The operational
allowance package is as good as it has ever been, to my knowledge.
We do everything we caneverything we canto provide
as much welfare as we can. It is not a cash constraint; the constraint
is literally the environment, rather than anything else. We are
providing as much welfare as we can, and I receive very few complaints
about that. The operational welfare package has been publicised
and is, I think, pretty generous. That's the feedback we get from
the Forces who are deployed.
Q178 Sandra Osborne: So people
are not worse off now than they were, say, a couple of years ago?
Air Marshal Peach: No, I think
they are quite considerably better off.
Q179 Mr Hancock: May I ask about
the suitability of some troops to be redeployed after they've
been on perhaps one or two tours? I don't want you to answer the
question this afternoon, because I think you probably need to
get the information, but I would be interested to know, when you
reply to us on the question from John, how many service personnel
have been deemed fit for service but not for further deployment
to a combat area.
Air Marshal Peach: That is a very
interesting and very good question. As you know, the Secretary
of State for Defence has launched a mental health initiative.
Some very preliminary research is being undertaken. Again, it's
a very rapidly evolving picture. Of course, there's a physical
ability to deploy to do jobs, and then there's the other question
you're asking. All I will say is that I have extremely high confidencethis
is a very important point to me personallyin the medical
support our Forces receive from the point of being wounded and
the other medical support they receive in Afghanistan all the
way through the clinical pathway to this country. I have very
high confidence in that.
Mr Hancock: If you could write to us
on that, it would be very helpful.
Air Marshal Peach: We will.
Q180 Mr Hancock: The suitability
of people to do tours and to go back into combat is an issue that
the Committee has been conscious of, because of the letters we've
received as individual MPs and other comments that have been made
to us, so that would be helpful.
May I direct these questions to you, Major General?
We've gone through years of complaints about shortages of things
that have been requested by commanders in the field, and newspaper
stories etc. relating to everything from helicopters and proper
armoured support vehicles to personal armour and so on. What's
your assessment now of the situation, and what are the challenges
with which you continue to be confronted?
Major General Capewell: That is
an important question. Perhaps I can make a general response to
it and then dip down into some areas that you may wish to take
a little further. I don't think there's any question now but that
we see this campaign as set properly on a campaign footing, where
we have resource streams that are agile, behind a pretty dynamic
threat picture. The threat evolves; the Taliban techniques evolve,
and in many ways we have to anticipate that, pre-empt it, and
adjust our resources accordingly. My general remark is that the
approach to the campaign in terms of a national effort to sustain
it and to deliver the technology required to defeat the threat
is in reasonable shape. It's never perfect because the position
in theatre is dynamic. That's the nature of these things. Perhaps
as an example, I can dip into the question of the counter-IED
Chair: I was going to ask Madeleine Moon
to ask a question about that.
Q181 Mrs Moon:
The counter-IED fight is the area on which most of our constituents
are particularly focused, because they see the role that those
play in a large number of deaths. Can you give us the latest position
on that and also, how will the additional money you were promised
in June be used and will it actually help tackle the problem?
Major General Capewell: On the
counter-IED fight, it is fair to say that the IED is the weapon
of choice for terrorists and insurgents globally. I think it is
also fair to say that it's only in the last four or five years
that we have institutionalised an approach to this internationally.
I can give you an example; there is a counter-IED Task Force in
NATO now. Each nation has a counter-IED Task Force. It is institutionalised
across NATO and, particularly in the US and the UK, we have very
regular sharing of expertise and technological exchange, which
deals with this not only in a technological sense, but in an upstream
threat sensethe intelligence required to deliver against
thisas well as the defensive techniques required in theatre.
The Prime Minister announced £67 million
in June for the counter-IED piece. £40 million of that has
gone to EOD teams and the Mastiff vehicles. £11 million has
gone to remote control vehicles and some of the residue has gone
to military working dogs.
I spend every day thinking about this problem
because of the obvious force protection requirement. There is
no question but that the technological advances to defeat some
of these devices are very advanced now, but you cannot just see
this fight in terms of the technological approach. You have got
to look at techniques and practices in theatre. As the Taliban,
the enemy, develop their techniques against us we have to respond.
We have stratified our effort into both a technological approach,
which has many upstream requirements outside theatre looking at
different intelligence streams and also, as a defensive method,
inside theatre, whether that is improvement in vehicles, improvement
in individual equipment or the way we deal with it as a whole
force, rather than just as individual nations.
When you look at the institution of the counter-IED
fight, while it is not perfect, Fort Halstead, our research establishment,
is full square behind this. This is a main effort requirement
not only because of the cost to blood and treasure in theatre,
but because we recognise this as a long-term issue that will extend
beyond any campaign in Afghanistanas I said in my opening
remarks, they are the weapon of choice for terrorists and insurgents.
Q182 Mr Donaldson: You have mentioned
technological improvements. I have a firm in my constituency who
recently put forward proposals to the MoD to help bomb disposal
operatives in Afghanistan. I won't go into the detail of it for
obvious reasons, but they have found getting through the procurement
procedures in the MoD to be an absolute nightmare, with delay
after delay, even when those technologies have been tested and
approved by people who are operationally competent. Do you get
frustrated at times with the pace that these things move at?
Major General Capewell: No,
because I genuinely think and have no question in my mind that,
while I don't know what technology you're talking about, there
are novel approaches to this problem out there that need to be
harnessed. Without going into too much detail, the fight against
Taliban bombs that have a low metal content and so are hard to
detect is a very important technological question. In terms of
this enemy development, we watch it carefully and do the best
that we can. If you would like to give me more detail about the
firm that you are concerned with, I will take it up immediately
to see if there is anything to offer to us.
Chair: It would be helpful if this could
be an issue that could also be looked at in the reform of acquisition
process review that is currently going on.
Q183 Mr Donaldson: Just briefly
can I go back to the issue of sustainment? Are you satisfied that
the current six-month and 24-month length and tour intervals are
correct? Can you confirm that 3 Commando Brigade use this 6:24
ratio for their deployments in Afghanistan?
Major General Capewell: I cannot
speak for 3 Commando Brigade, believe it or not, because I don't
look after them. It might sound strange. Bearing in mind what
the Air Marshal has said about the individual dynamic, which is
right in the middle of this because it changes on each tour for
each person, I am generally satisfied that the tour interval management
is within generally agreed management norms for these sorts of
Mr Donaldson: Would it be possible to
have a written confirmation of the position with reference to
3 Commando Brigade?
Chair: That would be helpful.
Q184 Mr Hancock: I would like
to take you back to new equipment questions, particularly three
or four individual issues. One is the helicopters. What restrictions,
if any, are still being placed on the day-to-day operations by
the current level of helicopter availability? Of the 12 helicopters
that SDSR announced, only three will be in theatre in a reasonable
amount of time. What is your opinion of the current state?
Major General Capewell: Eight
Chinook Mark 3 are being delivered. Seven of those are being delivered
for training purposes and the remaining aircraft will be delivered
by the end of this year. That is Chinook.
Q185 Mr Hancock: How many will
then be deployed direct to Afghanistan?
Major General Capewell: Twelve.
Q186 Mr Hancock: Is that 12 new
helicopters for Afghanistan only?
Chair: Hold on, are we not mixing up
the 12 new ones and the eight old ones?
Air Marshal Peach: We do not normally
go into the numbers of individual aircraft because it changes
according to the campaign. But from my perspective as the operation
commander, I need the aeroplanes in training here to prepare the
crews to give the sort of relief that the Chair was talking about
to his Chinook pilot constituents, because we have to have sufficient
pilots and crews to cycle them through. And we need more aeroplanes
in the home base.
Q187 Mr Hancock: Air Marshal,
the question really is about the number of helicopters available
on the ground in Afghanistan to allow proper operations to be
carried out and the proper protection of our troops.
Major General Capewell: If you
spoke to any commander today on the ground they would say the
same as I am about to say. There are sufficient aviation assets
across the whole range of helicopter requirements to deliver the
mission in terms of their force density and the campaign progress
that the Air Marshal has described.
Q188 Mr Hancock: And to transport
our deployed troops safely around the country rather than have
them trek across land in vehicles that may be unsuitable?
Major General Capewell: You have
to recognise that the calculation between whether to go by air
or by land is a commander's decision at the time based on a range
of issues to do with enemy threat requirement and mission demands.
Q189 Mr Hancock: When do you expect
the Warthog to be in theatre and properly deployed?
Major General Capewell: We can
write to you on the profile of Warthog.
Mr Hancock: No. When you expect it be
in the field?
Air Marshal Peach: I think it
is very soon.
Q190 Mr Hancock: Within six months?
Major General Capewell: I think
Air Marshal Peach: I think we
will have to reply in writing.
Mr Hancock: Would both of you say
Air Marshal Peach: Warthog is
in theatre, and the numbers will increase over the next six months.
Q191 Mr Hancock: When is it there
as an effective vehicle that is available to all who need it?
That is the question, isn't it?
Air Marshal Peach: Yes, but it
is not the only vehicle, Mr Hancock.
Q192 Mr Hancock: I understand
that, Air Marshal. Are you then satisfied, with this responsibilityparticularly
you, Generalthat we now have enough of the right type of
vehicles available in Afghanistan?
Major General Capewell: If your
question is, "Is the balance right?" that is entirely
contingent upon the threat at the time. Am I satisfied that we
are making all our efforts to ensure that there is a sufficiency?
I am satisfied.
Mr Hancock: A sufficiency.
Air Marshal Peach: As the type
of skill set for the soldier changes, so the type of vehicle required
for different roles and missions, as they evolve, also changes.
We are doing a lot of work on that. The bigger vehiclesthe
Mastiffs and Ridgebacksare performing extremely well. The
reconnaissance vehicleJackalis performing extremely
well. Warthog is deploying as we speak. Other vehicles are being
modified and/or extended for different purposes. I am confident,
as the operational commander, that, not only in terms of sufficiency,
but in terms of flexibility to apply different vehicles to different
missions, we are paying great attention to that.
The same applies in an answer on helicopters.
The Chinook is not always the answer to every problem, so, again,
there is flexibility in approach there. I would add that, of course,
with the US Marine Corps present on the ground, we are integrating
our aviation with theirs, so we get more together from their Ospreys
and their Chinooks as well as ours.
Q193 Chair: Can I make a point?
Air Marshal, you are the Chief of Joint Operations, and we also
have the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff Operations in front
of us. You said just now that Mike Hancock's question was implying
some knowledge of when Warthog would deploy. We would rather hope
that there would be, among the two of you, some knowledge on that
Air Marshal Peach: I don't have
the numbers, Mr Chairman. Warthog is in theatre. We can get to
the numbers very quickly.
Q194 Chair: You may not have the
numbers, but it would have been helpful if you hadn't withdrawn
the Head of Joint Capability, who could have answered these questions,
from giving evidence to us. These are the issues that we interested
in, so if you could give us some answers on it
Mr Hancock: It looks like that decision
might have been above their pay grade, Chairman, because none
of them seem to be aware of why that happened. We're not absolutely
sure, are we?
Peter Watkins: You mean the presence
of the Head of Joint Capability?
Chair: It was the Head of Joint Capability,
Air Commodore Stuart Atha.
Peter Watkins: Yes. I can give
you a very precise answer on that. We were asked to reduce the
size of the MoD witness panel from four to three, and, I'm afraid,
he was the one that we pushed off.
Chair: I see. I apologise for attacking
you in a totally unfair way.
Air Marshal Peach: The point that
I would make is that, going back to Mr Donaldon's point about
individual companies being addressed separately, the protective
patrol vehicle mix has evolved very quickly. We have continued
to develop those vehicles to meet the requirement. We are doing
exactly the same with helicopters. Very few of our helicopters
now fly, for example, with the same type of rotor blade or engine
as they did three or four years ago. We have adapted our equipment,
whether by need of the responses that David has made clear to
the enemy threat or, indeed, to get more out of them in terms
Q195 Mr Hancock: I would like
to ask two further questions, because we are going to be short
of time. One is about Close Air Support. How does it compare now
to how it did, say, three years ago? As that really only affects
fast jets, what use are we making of the Apache helicopters for
close support attack?
Air Marshal Peach: Close Air Support
by aeroplanes and Close Air Support by aviation helicopters are
complementary. The Close Air Support delivered by the Apache helicopter
in an integrated fashion with the US Marine Corpswith their
own helicopter gunshipsis important, as is air. The UK
air contribution is delivered by the Tornado. The Tornado has
a range of options of weapons; I won't go into types and performance
of those weapons, but I can assure the Committee that the Close
Air Support delivered by Tornado has been singled out a number
of times for its accuracy and discretion. I mean discretion in
the sense of being able to discern what is going on on the ground
before lethal force is applied. I know both of those statements
would be supported by NATO commanders.
The way in which air and aviation have been
integrated in 2010 by the UK Armed Forces, the Royal Air Force,
the Army Air Corps and the Fleet Air Arm with the US Marine Corps
has been exemplary. I know that General Mills would absolutely
endorse that. So, it is a team effort; it gets better all the
time; and it is applied with discernment, not only in the sense
of rules of engagement, but in the sense of understanding what
is going on on the ground before lethal force is applied. In other
words, there is courageous restraint being applied from the air
to the ground. I think the UK's contribution can be compared to
any in that regard.
Q196 Bob Stewart: Do you accept
the supply of ammunition for attack helicopters in 2007 ran out?
Chair: That is a completely different
Q197 Mr Hancock: My final question
is about the sustainability and the robustness of the strategic
airbridge. How will you fill the gap between the VC10s and TriStars
being taken out of service in 2013 and the other planes coming
into service? There is a gap, isn't there? How will that be achieved?
Major General Capewell: There
is a gap. Perhaps I will make a remark first about the effectiveness
of the airbridge. The joint commander has just conducted a major
relief in place between two brigades; you will have seen that.
In broad terms, if the judgment of whether this airbridge is successful
is the achievement of the transfer of military authority at the
right time and the right place, that mission was a success.
In so far as the downstream replacement of VC10
and increasingly obsolete Hercules aircraft, there is SDSR work
in place now to address the spending round requirements to look
at that gap. Some of that gap is to do with the delivery from
commercial contracts of new aircraft, which can be solved by spending.
Some of that gap is to do with the retrofitting of theatre-entry
standard defensive aids suites, which I am not prepared to go
into. Some of that gap is simply to do with the management of
the fleet across the national requirement, so it is being looked
Q198 Mr Hancock: But you have
in place contingencies to fill that gap to your satisfaction.
Major General Capewell: Yes, because
we have recognisedagain, I deal with this on a daily basisthat
as you look at this campaign, although the air fleet is fragile
it is being managed intimately on a daily basis. To date, it has
not failed us. The only time it failed us was when the volcano
went off. This is a real question about delivering the mission
capability on time and at the right place. If we don't do that,
we will not meet the harmony requirements.
Air Marshal Peach: Even when the
volcano went off, in my 24/7 headquarters we came up with some
very imaginative solutions very quickly. We deployed ships to
get the boys back as fast as possible, and very few people were
delayed despite the volcano. It is important that we base the
analysis of the airbridge on fact, not on rumour. It is important
that we recognise the contributionwith old aeroplanes,
freely acknowledgedthat the crews make, which is phenomenal,
to keep the old aeroplanes running 24/7 to keep the airbridge
sustained. We have done a lot to try to understand the complaint
side of life, and a lot is done to try to make the journey to
and from theatre as comfortable as possible.
Chair: Thank you. Moving on to intelligence
and surveillance issues, Madeleine Moon.
Q199 Mrs Moon: There is a reluctance
to deal with whether you had enough personnel back in 2006. Can
I take you to 2006 and intelligence? Intelligence is collected
in a variety of ways, both human and ISTAR. In 2006, was our intelligence
robust and comprehensive enough before we deployed? If it was
not, why not, and are we in a stronger position now?
Major General Capewell: I really
do believe thisI cannot comment on 2006 because I was not
handling intelligence or operations in theatre at that time, but
let me attempt to answer what I think you need to know. It is
fair to say that, until the event, you never know whether you
have the right intelligence. It is very easy to look at the intelligence
business as monochrome and linear, but it simply is not. It is
just too chaotic and dynamic ever to predict whether you have
the right systems in place to answer the right questions at the
time. That is my opening remark.
Today, we are making substantial efforts to
ensure that the ISTAR requirementthe intelligence, surveillance,
target acquisition, and reconnaissance effortis properly
resourced, and my judgment is that it is improving all the time.
If you look at the wider area of intelligence-gathering technological
equipment, you only have to look at the way that drone technology
has improved over the past three to five years. If you look at
the stuff in theatre nowI do not want to go into too much
detailI think everybody would realise that there has been
a quantum change in how we look into the battlefield. There have
also been improvements in the human intelligence domain.
Q200 Chair: Before you move to
that, the gathering issue is only a small part.
Major General Capewell: It is.
In the intelligence cycle, there is a collection effort and a
fusion effort, and then an analysis and distribution effort to
ensure that people get what they need. Part of thatI think
this might address some of your concernsis that the networks
required to handle the quantum increase in information and intelligence
are also improving. They are not perfect because bandwidth always
remains a problem. You cannot have everything you want, so you
have to get the best you can.
So where does that leave me in my general judgment
about the ISTAR and intelligence effort? You have to look at how
the theatre is put together today. There is very clearly now an
architecture that is properly centralised and controlled by the
big American effort that is right at the heart of intelligence
collection. That is not to belittle other nations' contributions,
but I think it is widely recognised that the US capacity to collect
informationto get itwith all its technology is substantially
greater than the sum of that of individual nations.
Was that the case in 2006? I suspect not. These
things are dynamic, and technology has come on substantially.
Can I answer whether we had the right intelligence in 2006? I
Air Marshal Peach: I was in intelligence
in 2006, and we did our best with the knowledge we had. I am not
allowed at this level of classification to go into the knowledge
that we had at the strategic level, but it was fused with what
we knew at the tactical level. There are national strengths here
in terms of imagery exploitation and mapping which we used to
the maximum extent possible. I think even those deployed in 2006
would recognise that.
Inevitably, though, a fact of life in military
campaigns is that you understand the complexity on the ground
when you are there but understanding it from afar is very difficult.
It's particularly difficult somewhere like Helmand Province or
Afghanistan, where the tribal dispensation and the arrangements
through which authority and influence were traditionally brought
to bear had been reduced by narcotics to an extent that we did
not then know. I am prepared to say that. Details beyond that
on the intelligence picture in 2006 would have to be undertaken,
Chair, in a classified session.
Chair: Have you finished your questions?
I'm not sure you have.
Q201 Mrs Moon: Where was the lack of
intelligence coming from? Should there have been further intelligence
provided to us before we went in in 2006, perhaps from the Americans?
Chair: We have done this issue.
Q202 Mrs Moon: Okay. Then I want
to go back to bandwidth, because that's the other area where we
have a considerable amount of concern. Do we have enough bandwidth?
If we haven't got enough bandwidth, what are we going to do about
ensuring we have it? Is it an asset that we ought to be pursuing?
If we're not pursuing it, is it because of cost? Who's preventing
us from doing it?
Major General Capewell: I think
you have to look at bandwidth in a systems sense in two ways.
First of all, there is the bandwidth inside the NATO command structure.
That matures all the time as the totality of the campaign system
to collect intelligence gets better. From a national perspective,
we have a range of improvements moving into theatreProjects
Kestrel, Falcon and Swiftthe details of which I cannot
But it's also fair to say that in the way this
campaign has evolved, we are now moving towards a single intelligence
network that is getting better as people get more used to sharing
information and data across a large number of nations where hitherto,
there have been very small communities of intelligence sharers.
So breaking out of that to make sure that it works was also a
challenge in the past. It is not now.
My final remark on this is that the bandwidth
is increasing. You will never have enough bandwidthit's
just the nature of thisbut it is increasing and improving.
It is not todaycertainly to my knowledgea block
to mission development and progress in theatre, particularly in
the force protection arena.
Q203 Mrs Moon: Are we over-reliant
on the Americans for bandwidth, and what if they refuse us access?
Major General Capewell: I don't
think in a NATO senseI'm only talking in terms of the ISAF
structureswe are over-reliant on the US.
Air Marshal Peach: No. It is a
NATO campaign, and NATO does provide a great deal of communications
support to the campaign. We are in a partnership with the Americans
at the tactical level, and we look after each other. There's no
question of people turning things on and off, whether it's helicopter
support, bandwidth, medical support or whatever.
Q204 Chair: Is our equipment compatible
with the Americans'?
Air Marshal Peach: Most of the
Q205 Mr Brazier: I appreciate
we don't have your capabilities, colleaguethat's our fault
and not yoursbut I am, frankly, a little astonished at
what I've just heard. To give two completely opposite ends of
the spectrum, the American company Amphenol, in my constituency,
is the world's top manufacturer of the connectors for a whole
range of military avionic signalling systems. Staff there told
me they were astounded by how undemanding our bandwidth requirements
were for the various systems that went through them.
At the other end of the scale, I've heard from
a very decorated and gallant officer who was in uniform until
very recentlyin the last 24 hoursthe constant problems
of having to borrow American bandwidth. All the great systems
we've been hearing aboutwe don't have the means to get
the information to the people who need it without borrowing bandwidth
from the Americans all the time. Although the Americans certainly
are excellent allies and do try to help, they've got their own
priorities, and they can't always pick the pieces up for us. Are
we moving into the information age or not?
Air Marshal Peach: The systems
that David has outlined do give us a quantum increase in bandwidth.
Do our bandwidth requirements, historically, compare to the United
States'? I think that that was one of your comments. While the
requirement probably does, the means of getting there probably
didn't, but is improving rapidly. Therefore, there have been occasions
where we've cobbled things together, as I would put it, but they've
been cobbled together for the right reasons and have achieved
the right outcomes.
Chair: I suspect this is an issue that
we will be returning to.
Q206 Sandra Osborne: Your memo
states that the transition will be conditions-based. Can you outline
what these conditions are?
Peter Watkins: Broadly, the work
on conditions is under way at the moment. It's being undertaken
between NATO and the Afghans. The precise conditions will vary
from province to province and district to district. But in broad
terms the conditions that we are looking at are as follows: the
Afghan National Security Forces should be capable of shouldering
additional security tasks as ISAF reduces; security should be
at a level that the population can go about their normal lives;
local governance should be sufficiently strong that it underpins
security, as ISAF begins to draw down; and ISAF itself should
be properly postured so thatto use General Petraeus's phraseit
can "thin out" and provide a different sort of support
to the Afghans as they become more capable. Those are the broad
conditions, but, as I said, how they will look in each province
and district will vary, because each one is different.
Q207 Sandra Osborne: This question
is for Air Marshal Stuart Peach. When will the PJHQ review of
the transition arrangements be complete?
Air Marshal Peach: We're working
closely with our friends and colleagues in the Ministry of Defence
on that. Obviously, we have to wait for the Lisbon summit and
then we'll be looking at what that means on the ground. We're
doing some work for the National Security Council on that, so
when would it be complete? Probably by the end of the year, to
look forward to 2011 and beyond.
Q208 Sandra Osborne: Your memo
also talks about reinvesting troops as required. What does this
mean for troop levels and capabilities?
Peter Watkins: Again, this is
part of the detailed work that Air Marshal Peach referred to.
Basically, in conjunction with his headquarters, we are trying
to work out what this transition will look like on the ground,
in terms of what does it mean for the balance of roles and capabilities
that we have. But in terms of reinvestment, obviously one of the
options that is available to us is to put additional effort into
training. Air Marshal Peach mentioned earlier that there are some
areas of Afghan National Army capability that we think need to
be strengthened, now that we have the basic numbers much higher
than was the case. That is one option. But we can't, at this stage,
until we've done the detailed analysis, say precisely where or
in what number that reinvestment will take place.
Q209 Sandra Osborne: So it's a
tight time scale. If you've a date of 2015, that's very tight.
Peter Watkins: I don't think it
is such a tight time scale. The Afghan Government have set a target
of the end of 2014 to achieve a situation where the Afghan National
Security Forces have the security lead across Afghanistan. That's
another four years, so I don't think we think it's too tight.
Q210 Sandra Osborne: Can I ask,
Karen, what plans do the UK Government have, over and above the
military effort, for transition?
Karen Pierce: Specifically related
to transition, the main conditions for transition are security
based, rather than governance or development, although those are
factors. We would interpret that, for example, as follows. If
you want the Afghan army to be consistently capable in a particular
province, then you would need a certain level of governance to
ensure that operations carried out by the army were not then allowed
to dissipate. So we and DFID do some work to support that, but
primarily it's a security issue and the detailed work on transition
at that level will be done by NATO and the Afghans together, there's
a joint frameworka joint boardin Kabul that will
look at this province by province. NATO and ISAF have a consultation
mechanism whereby they can consult member states and the UN, and
other people who are relevant to the development of that particular
province. The Foreign Office would be involved in that, but it
would be something started on in theatre.
Where we have a major role is in the political
processif you likebeyond that. What does it mean
to bring forward certain Afghan governance capabilities? The main
vehicle for that is the Kabul process that I referred to earliercommitments
coming out of the Kabul conference monitored by the UN, that is,
both monitoring how the Afghans approach that and how the international
community approaches it, and trying to identify gaps.
In terms of even longer-term political processes,
obviously reconciliation and the political settlement is coming
to be high on the agenda. We have supported President Karzai in
his conditions for reconciliation and we have given practical
assistance to the Peace Jirga and now to the High Peace Council,
which will go into more detail about how to take forward reconciliation.
We would be involved in institution building and capacity building
to try to make internal governance in Afghanistan more effective.
We take part in those various levels.
Q211 Thomas Docherty: Can I ask
Karen and the Major General first, how confident are you that
UK and Coalition Forces can withdraw successfully at the transition
Karen Pierce: I was going to say
that we expect transition to start in early 2011 and finish in
2014. As explained earlier, that is the target date that Karzai
Q212 Thomas Docherty: For the
UK or the UK and Coalition Forces?
Karen Pierce: Transition will
be nationwide in Afghanistan. It will be about handing all the
provinces and districts eventually over to Afghan lead control
on security. Whether that enables such and such a country to reinvest
its forces, put them into training in a particular area at a particular
time, is one thing that we have to work out. The NATO-Afghan board
will look at which provinces and districts are ready and in what
order. Should there be pilot projects? What might be needed to
get them ready? Beyond that, it is not possible to give you greater
clarity. If you're saying, can we successfully withdraw by 2015,
as the Prime Minister said, we are obviously putting all our
energies into ensuring a robust and effective Afghan security
capability so that we can successfully withdraw by 2015.
Peter Watkins: The 2015 date is
a logical consequence of the target set by the Afghan Government,
with the full support of the international community, that states
that the Afghans should be able to take the lead by the end of
2014. We think that that is a reasonable and respectable aim,
based upon our growing knowledge and experience.
Q213 Thomas Docherty: I was going
to come on to the rights and wrongs of the date, but specifically
on whether you can successfully withdraw
Peter Watkins: The precursor to
that is, will there be an Afghan National Security Force at the
end of 2014 that can take the lead for security across Afghanistan?
Based upon the evidence that we have, we think that there can
Karen Pierce: This is about withdrawing
from combat; there would still be military assistance there and
possibly some support functions, not necessarily delivered by
the UK, but by the Americans and others. It isn't as if the whole
ISAF Force would completely come out of Afghanistan by 2015. There
will be training, assistance and support missions. How exactly
we phase and elaborate them will be the subject of detailed work,
probably starting next year.
Major General Capewell: My view
of all this is that underneath all that policy, which is absolutely
right in terms of setting the conditions, there is a sequence
of sound military planning in the MoD and particularly in PJHQ
to deliver that. The real question on all this is synchronisation
across the whole country, which is an ISAF responsibility.
Air Marshal Peach: In terms of
detailed planning, that is what we do. If you wish, you can look
back in history at an exemplar: we planned and executed withdrawal
from Iraq in 2009, and I know that that has been through the Committee
and the NAO, so we know how to do this; we have a plan.
Q214 Mr Brazier: Forgive me, Air
Marshal Peach, but surely our withdrawal from Iraq is not seen
as a successful role model, given the end state there.
Air Marshal Peach: If I may say
so, Mr Brazier, the question was how to withdraw, and that was
what I was referring to. I wasn't referring to the whole campaign.
The question was about how we tidy up, how we sort things out
and, as Karen suggested, how we change from role to role, and
so on. We do that through normal military planning. I was not
making an observation on the wider aspects of the campaign.
Q215 Thomas Docherty: I want to
follow up on the planning element. I guess this question is largely
for the gentlemen, but obviously it may involve others as well.
What do you see as the dangers in the Government announcing their
intention to withdraw as you try to do the planning?
Peter Watkins: There are both
benefits and risks in doing that. One of the benefits has been
that it has been quite widely welcomed by the Afghans themselves.
They want to take over the lead role for security in their own
country and have reacted quite positively to the 2015 date. As
I said, that is simply the year after the end of 2014, which is
the date that they themselves were intimately involved in agreeing.
That's the benefit, and I think we're seeing that benefit already.
The risk is, of course, that that date might
be misinterpreted by the Taliban and they might imagine that it
means that the international community will leave, but of course
that is not the case. As the Prime Minister, President Obama and
the Secretary-General of NATO have said, we are not just going
to leave. ISAF will retainthe countries of the Coalition
will retainForces and other capabilities in Afghanistan
to support the Afghans.
Major General Capewell: I think
it's widely recognised that the next four years are about many
things, but one of them is that none of us wants to go back, so
whatever we do, this has to be seen as irreversible in many ways.
I don't think there's any question that there'll be a very low
level of violence, as is normal in that part of the world. The
trick is to make sure that the Afghan Security Forces can deal
with that. That is the beauty of the transition plan: it gradually
delivers to the Afghan Security Forces increasing responsibility
for the management of that violence. It will take fine judgment
and some patience, but that's what we all want to happen.
Q216 Thomas Docherty: My concern
is this, and correct me if I'm wrong. The United States has said
that its ambition is to withdraw at the end of 2014, but it is
not set in stone in the way that ours is. The French have said
they intend to withdraw, but in effect have said it will be after
their alliesafter the United Kingdom. The Germans have
saidcorrect me if I'm wrong, Chairmanthat they will
do it as conditions are met. So I'm slightly puzzled as to how
you can say we have synchronisation of ISAF Forces when we have
four other major players that are each setting different time
scales and goals for their withdrawal from one another. We also
have this question: what if President Karzai turns round at some
point between now and the end of 2014 and says, "We are making
tremendous progress, but we aren't going to be there at the end
of 2014"? The United Kingdom has given an explicit guarantee
that combat troops will be out, whereas the Americans have given
themselves more wiggle room.
Peter Watkins: I think it's an
international goal. As I said, the objective of the end of 2014
was agreedI think it's been agreed twice by the international
communityat the London and Kabul conferences. This is a
shared goal. In terms of the steps by which we get there, that
will be conditions-based. I set out the process earlier. The entire
alliance is quite clear that the process by which we get from
here to there is a conditions-based process.
Q217 Thomas Docherty: My feeling
is that come what may, in 2014, UK combat troops are out of Afghanistan.
Is that correct?
Peter Watkins: The Government
have said that British troops will not be in combat roles beyond
Q218 Thomas Docherty: So when
you say it is conditions-based, it is until the end of 2014, and
then it is an absolute date?
Karen Pierce: It's the date that
the Prime Minister has set for Britain. ISAF as a whole has not
set a date. It is conceivable that we would not be in combat but
that another ally would be. It's possible. That's not anyone's
intention. The intention, as Peter explained, is to back this
commitment of Karzai's, which the international community's now
endorsed and the NATO summit in Lisbon will further endorse, to
have created a successful transition to Afghan Forces by the end
of 2014. So in that sense, the question whether anyone will be
in combat from the international community after 2014 becomes
a moot point. But at the moment, we're all focused on standing
up the conditions to meet that 2014 date.
Q219 Thomas Docherty: In your
best assessment, are we on target to hit, by the end of 2014,
all the conditions necessary so that ISAF Forces will be able
to hand over control?
Karen Pierce: I would say that
we are on target. There's a lot of work that needs to be done,
and we now must factor into that the detailed planning on transition,
so that district by district and province by province can be handed
over to the Afghans. It won't be a big bang; it will be a gradual
process of handing some provinces and districts over.
Peter Watkins: As Karen has said,
one of the key criteriathe leading criterionis security.
From that perspective, it is the growth in the numbers and capability
of the Afghan National Security Forces that is crucial, and that
certainly appears to be on track.
Q220 Mr Havard: You have a particular
understanding, andit's like a lot of thingsI have
an understanding as well, because I have a degree of experience
and knowledge in it. I think it is one of these things where Josephine
and Joseph Public don't understand it in quite the same way. After
the Lisbon summit, I hope the quality of the narrative is improved
in order to improve their understanding of it.
Karen Pierce: May I respond to
that? There should be a declaration issued by NATO specifically
on Afghanistan, which hopefully will help with that.
Q221 Mr Havard: Yes, but plain
English meanswhat you've just said could have a very variable
geometry. It could be districts within a province that are transitioned,
and then it looks very different in another province. It could
be a whole province gone over. There's a whole variable geometry
that you and I understand, because there's a level of assumed
knowledge here that the public do not have. All I'm saying to
you is that it can be explained much more simply and better than
it's been up until now.
Q222 Chair: Karen Pierce, can
I clarify in my own mind what it is you have just said? Because
of the Prime Minister's statement, we will leave, come hell or
high water, in our combat role by 2015, and if there is still
a need for combat troops to be there, we will essentially leave
it to the rest of ISAF, which, as we know, means the Americans.
Is that the position if there is still a need for combat troops
to be in Helmand?
Karen Pierce: No, Mr Chairman.
I was speaking in a hypothetical way.
Q223 Chair: So was I.
Karen Pierce: I think the way
you've put it is rather more concrete. It would be for Ministers,
not for me, to answer what might happen in the event of a situation
being X or Y in 2015. What I was trying to doI apologise
if I've been misleadingis simply say that it is conceivable
that there is one scenario in which a part of Afghanistan still
requires ISAF combat assistance, and that that assistance would
be provided. It does not automatically mean it has to be provided
by Britain, but this is really a question that Ministers could
only properly consider at the point at which it was a live question.
I don't want to give the impression that we would withdraw and
leave our allies in the lurch. That's not what I'm trying to do.
Peter Watkins: May I go back to
what Karen said? It is conceivable, but it is unlikely, because
we've all recognised that our Forces are in one of the most difficult
parts of Afghanistan. As the Defence Secretary has said, Helmand
will be one of the last provinces to transition.
Q224 Thomas Docherty: To clarify,
have you just told us that you aren't actually planning, in case
you get to 2014 and discover you're not ready, that there is a
problem? I think what you've just told us is that yes, it's conceivable,
but it's politicians' responsibility to deal with that issue,
and that you're not planning for the horrible eventuality, which
no one in this Committee would want, that there is a need for
combat troops in parts of Afghanistan.
Karen Pierce: No, I'm not saying
that. We undertake a range of contingency planning on a range
of different scenarios, and in that respect, Afghanistan is no
different from any other place where we have Armed Forces serving
or have had them serving.
Q225 John Glen: My understanding
is that the Prime Minister hasn't said that the pull-out of combat
troops by 2015 is contingent on any analysis of what's actually
happening in various provinces on the ground. He said that that
is absolutely going to happen at the end of 2014.
Chair: The words used were "make
no mistake about it".
John Glen: So if
there were circumstances where at the end of 2014 there was a
need for combat troops in Afghanistan, and given the absolute
commitment made by the Prime Minister, then we would be in the
circumstances that the Chairman described. There would be a need
for those combat troops to be provided by other allies on the
ground. Surely that's unavoidable, given the nature of the Prime
Minister's statement. It wasn't ambiguous; it wasn't contingent
on any planning activity; it was an absolute hard stop.
Peter Watkins: As I said earlier,
we are talking about a situation that's four years away. The priority
for our planning is, obviously, to ensure that the Afghans are
in the situation that they want to be in.
Q226 John Glen: Sure. I'm not
disputing that. But the Chairman put the point that if, in those
circumstances, there were a need for combat troops in 2015, given
the statement of our Prime Minister, we wouldn't be in a position
to provide them. Therefore, it follows that our allies would have
to carry on without us in 2015. That's a reasonable conclusion
from what he said and what you've said.
Peter Watkins: I would say that
that would be a logical deduction that is extremely unlikely,
for the reasons that I've said. There are four years in which
to develop the capability of the Afghan Forces, and that work,
as I said, is on track.
Karen Pierce: As the Foreign Secretary
explained on the Floor of the House, all our energy is going into
creating the conditions so that that 2014 transition is met.
Q227 John Glen: I understand that.
That's absolutely clear; nobody disputes that. What we're talking
about is the very real possibility that there will be no flexibility
from a British point of view as we understand it from the Prime
Karen Pierce: We would say it
isn't a very real possibility.
That, I think, is the difference between us.
Chair: I think we're reasonably clear
on this, and I think it's time to draw this session to an end.
Thank you very much indeed to the witnesses. I'm afraid it's been
a slightly scratchy session in some respects, and to the extent
to which that is our fault, I apologise. No doubt to the extent
to which that is yours, you do too. Thank you for your evidence,
which has been most helpful in our inquiry. Quite what our report
will say, I'm not sure yet, but time will tell.
1 Note by witness: This refers
to the issue of combat troops still being needed after transition. Back