Examination of Witness (Questions 276-308)
Q276 Chair: Welcome to the Committee.
You come here on a regular basis, and we are most grateful to
you for coming in again so soon. Because you have been here so
recently, I don't think it's necessary for us to ask you to introduce
yourself. As you have recently returned from helping the Americans
in Afghanistan, do you mind telling us what you think the key
issues have been in Afghanistan as a whole and in Helmand over
the past two years?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: The reality
is that I came out at the beginning of July, so I'm already four
months out of date and in a collapsing circuit, one might say,
by way of an informed position. At the time I was in Afghanistan
I was principally driving towards the reintegration programme
in support of General McChrystal's adjustments in the campaign,
but I was obviously privy to a host of conversations and had access
to how they were developing their thinking and approach.
I think it's quite important not to see Afghanistan
as we tend to, which is to clump it into an act that started in
2001and I recall that only too wellwith the removal
of the Taliban and how it is now, saying, "Well, it's been
a long campaign and look at where we are now." It has been
a long, bloody and difficult campaign and it was always going
to be that. However, one has to see the wave pattern of the initial
removal of the Taliban, most of whom just went to ground and/or
disappeared, because the Afghan people had dismissed them and
they had lost their authority. They recognised retribution as,
sort of, "That's entirely understandable," on the basis
of what had happened in the United States. There was that period
when our eye was taken off the ball and we somehow thought it
would be an easy ride.
Q277 Chair: Our eye was taken
off the ball by Iraq?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I think
Iraq, obviously, was a large factor, but it was also, in many
ways, a sense that these things somehow have a beginning, middle
and end. It's a never-ending story. Savage wars of peace continue
well beyondwell, I'll be long dead by the time Afghanistan
plays out and through. We are still engaged with Kenya. We don't
have any combat troops there, and we left it a long time ago,
but the truth is that there is a continuation of policies, diplomacy,
force and use of military force, training, training individuals,
good governance, building capacity and so on. That has gone through.
The interesting thing with Afghanistan, in particular,
was this cold realisation, which came about in the period towards
the end of 2008 and in early 2009, that the situation was really
very serious, to borrow a line from General McChrystal's assessment.
A lot of the expectationyou know, hope is not a planwas
that it was going in the right way, but in this case, there was
a realisation that it was not, and that it was going in the wrong
You have heard me before, referring to what
I saw when I turned up in 2009, which was a sense of perceived
and real intimidation that had taken a grip across the country.
It was very persuasive and intrusive across areas where we had
no people, or in areas where we did have people but were not actually
connected to themthat sense was there. Therefore, the campaign,
in many ways, took a clear and new direction with the assessment
that General McChrystal wrote. It took him three months to write
it, and it took four months of contested consideration in Washington
before the force or the resource that was needed to execute it
was agreedthe President made his decision, as I recall,
in the early part of Decemberbecause it was such a change.
In many ways, what we are seeing is a change
in direction, and we should not view the campaign today as being
from 2001. We should see it from 23 August 2009, as we understand
how that began to change. I think I have put on record that in
the first meeting that General McChrystal had with President Karzai,
he arrived in his dress greens. That was not to impress the President
with how many medals he had or who he was, or because he was a
very swish dresser. It was not the case; it was to show due respect
to the sovereign President. I sensed that President Karzai had
not enjoyed that level of respect, and that level of understanding
that here was a sovereign nation, over the previous years. There
was a sense of him being given responsibility.
A number of campaigns were running concurrently,
which were independent of the sovereignty of the nation. Sovereignty
is important to the Afghan. General Mattis and General Petraeus
created the counter-insurgency doctrine, which I call an extraordinarily
good piece of work. They changed the direction, and brought in,
in many ways, the embracing of what we had seen from Afghanistan,
understanding, living with and going in and among the people;
that was being drawn through. I recallin fact, I think
that it is recorded in a Bob Woodward bookGeneral McChrystal
saying that it was not either counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.
It is both, in the sense that both have to be brought to bear,
which is important. The campaign that we are seeing is one that
has been drawn from that period of 2009, when the change in direction
was set by General McChrystal in that first year, and it is now
being delivered by General Petraeus.
Q278 Chair: Yet we were told earlier
today by General Parker, and last week by others and General Messenger,
that the McChrystal doctrine was not a new thing. It was a development
of a process. Do you think that that is wrong, in view of what
you have said?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Yes,
I would. I am a straight-talking individual.
Q279 Chair: Ah, it's wonderful
when you have retired.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I was
pretty straight-talking when I was serving, actually. Everyone
in uniform would sit there listening, waiting for the comment.
When I turned up in Kabul in 2009, I looked at an organisationa
structureand a relationship with the embassy and with the
Afghans, as well as the civ-mil connection, which was not fit
for purpose. You can dress it any way you want and put lipstick
on it, but it was not fit for purpose. In that short space of
time, General McChrystal turned all that. He restructured, reconnected
and re-engaged. He drew the pieces together and changed the overall
Q280 Mr Havard: You say that there
was the counter-terrorism operation, Operation Enduring Freedom,
the ISAF thing and all that stuff going on, but this is a much
more joined-up operation. You have counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism
in a unified package, with support and so on. It is not just a
simple change, saying, "Let's end the separate mission that
the US were conducting and integrate it with the rest of the ISAF
mission." Or was it? You seem to be saying that this is something
conceptually different to that and much greater than that. As
I understand it, there is four times more SF activity going on
than there was during Operation Enduring Freedom, but that does
not matter, because it is part of a more unified process. Is that
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Correct,
sir. The term "unified" is exactly the right one. There
is a way to go yet, so the idea that the civ-mil peace is tidy
would misrepresent the reality. It is a lot better. The relationship
between ISAF and the United Statesbetween the different
approacheshas been brought together. Chains of command
have been improved, and they needed to be, because they were pretty
ineffective. They were operating in single lines of operation.
I sense that time will draw out the legacy of the McChrystal year,
in terms of the change of culture and the change of force command
control, as well as the sense, whether it was in Europe, Washington,
or even Westminster, that this was do-able from a military point
of view. The campaign began to conform and respond to that. That
was a new draw.
America would not have sacked Dave McKiernanhe
is a fine officer whom I worked with in 2003, when we went into
Iraq, and has a good track recordif he had been able to
embrace the change that was seen to be necessary and that was
then brought about by General McChrystal. At that time, there
was a range of relationships between NATO, ISAF, America and Karzai,
who was going through the difficult period of an election. All
that occurred at the same time that he was building relationships
that, in many ways, General Petraeus is now able to fuel off so
as to proceed on a course that was set in that earlier period
of change. The movement in that period was a Herculean effort
by all those involved. At that time, it was driven and the course
was set in a quiet and unassuming way, but with his inevitable
delivery, by McChrystal. That included both counter-terrorism
and counter-insurgency, and it brought those together, because
they had been parallel activities or divergent activities, and
they had not been inclusive of the population per se.
Chair: I regret saying that it is wonderful
when you retire, because I remember from what you told us in Iraq
that you did not seem to mind speaking most controversially, even
when you were not retired.
Q281 Mr Brazier: General Lamb,
would you like to share with us your views on the effectiveness
of the PJHQ, which figures heavily in the pamphlet that you recently
co-authored, and particularly on its general effectiveness and
on the specific issue of overlap with the Operations Directorate
in the MoD?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: My views
on the PJHQ are partly expressed in the paper that we pushed out
for the Policy Exchange. I had the good fortune to sit at the
back and listen to General ParkerI have a huge amount of
respect for himand his observations were right on the money.
He talked about the need for such an organisation, when you are
dealing with a complex, multi-service commitment, to be able to
prepare, deploy, sustain and recover. The term that is in question
is the issue of command.
I read a recent article by the Professor of
the History of War at Oxford, Hew Strachan, who nicely captures
the dilemma of theatre and the rear, in a way that is hugely insightful.
He is a master of the pen; I could probably kill somebody with
one, but I certainly cannot write with the damn thing. He puts
it nicely when he talks about this operational and strategic divide.
That was an area of some confusion.
I remember having a conversation with the American
ambassador responsible for counter-terrorism, whose name escapes
me. At the end of the discussion, he came out and said, "Graeme,
I see all the intelligence that you have, and you are getting
great access"because of the position that I was in"and
I see some other stuff above that, which you do not see, but the
truth is that I just don't see it in the same way as you have
just explained." I said, "That will be because you are
4,500 miles away." It is that simple.
There is a real danger that you end up with
very sound and good reasons, from good people working extraordinarily
hard, back here. They are trying to understand something, but
they are already behind a massive time lag in following the nuances
of change, and they are not living and breathing it. So, the theatre
level of command is very important. The concern remains, whether
about Sangin, Helmand or Basra, over this continual perspective
from little Britain, which is where our people are. But they actually
sit within a broader campaign, and it is the success of that campaign,
not of Helmand or of Basra, that will deliver the out-turn. Our
forefathers had the ability to understand. Churchill and his chiefs
crossed the Atlantic two or three times to sit down and discuss
the campaign against Germany and Japan over a number of days,
and to set the broad course of action. Are we doing that? People
will say that we have modern communications, but I say that they
are sometimes just an excuse.
The question is how is the campaign being directed,
both from an overall grand strategic point of view, or whatever
the right level would beI defer to Hew Strachan on this
oneand from a theatre perspective. It is about the delivery
of the campaign as a single action, not a series of individual
national activities, which is where the campaign has gone to.
We have Germans training the police, or not, as the case may be,
and us responsible for drugs, or not, and not doing as well as
we could have done. I don't apportion blame very glibly; I just
see it as it is. At the same time, we have the Americans with
the high-value targets, the counter-terrorist approach, the drones,
and what I call the specific targeting programme. All of that
There is an importance in drawing all those
together, because it is the sum of the parts that makes the Forcethe
Coalitionso superior to the individual asymmetric attacks
or approaches that the opposition has taken. It learns and morphs
very quickly, as Nick quite rightly pointed out, but the truth
of the matter is that we need to bring not only the whole of Government,
but the whole of the campaign, to bear.
If you look at the movement of troops, as Nick
quite rightly pointed out, it was an absolute no-brainer to me
and Nick Parker sitting in theatre. It was felt, for a vast number
of legitimate reasons, back here that we will be seen to have
failed in that, but that is just a battle of the narrative, and
that is the narrative back here that needs to be run out. The
right decision was about where we need to apportion our Forces
in order to deliver the best effect in a campaign sense.
Q282 John Glen: Can we turn back
to the attitudes of the Afghan people to the Coalition? What is
your assessment of how they see things evolving by 2015 and beyond?
Do they believe that the Coalition will just evaporate, or won't
have such a long-term commitment?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: We are
light years on from where we were, in a dislocated relationship
with the population. We are now very much more joined up in that
sense. A sense of how this plays out to where we will no longer
be delivering combat force is not unimportant to the Afghans.
They see that as a natural transition to a problem that they themselves
would realise exists, if you rubbed them hard enough, and that
is about the level of intimidation. They did not enjoy their time
under the TalibanI am not talking about everyone, because
they weren't all over the place, but the majority of themand
the Hazaras had a bloody time. I remember going to Bamiyan in
2001, and there were grim reflections of people's time under the
Taliban. It wasn't just the Buddhas being knocked down, but real
people being knocked down. That was their greater concern.
We see this in stark terms, which is right.
While we are here now, we are gone in 2015. As Nick quite rightly
pointed out, the direction that has been given is that we will
cease combat operations in 2015. What we continue to do in the
way of training is for 2015, and for the government of the day
to decidehow they want to play it out, the authority that
is given and how the Afghans want the relationship. That is the
next phase. Reducing some of the campaign's forces, as set out
in the near term, is, in my view, again entirely sensible because
the Afghans begin to take the responsibility. The Afghans taking
ownership of their army and police and, in a sense, their national
responsibility, is an absolutely essential part of the transition.
Q283 John Glen: Do they see themselves
as having sufficient support beyond 2015? Is that distinction
in the nature of the evolving role of the Coalition?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I cannot
speak for the Afghans, but my sense is that they are entirely
comfortable with the idea of us beginning to relinquish the position
that we hold in the coming years, in a way that puts them back
into that sense of sovereignty, which is very Afghan. You often
hear people saying, "Well, there is no nation of the Afghans",
but I would contest that in every way.
Q284 John Glen: Moving into the
area of a political settlement, there is a lot of debate over
the degree of corruption and the role of President Karzai. How
do you see him, in terms of being an impediment to a political
settlement? Are we stressing enough the problems of corruption
and trying to sort it out?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Corruption
is pretty omnipresent anywhere in the world.
Q285 John Glen: What I'm trying
to get to is the issue of how it impedes a reasonable political
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Others
will disagree, but my view is that an election took place, and
there were inaccuracies during that, but the outcome was that
President Karzai was affirmed as President. That is a democratic
process. It may look a little ugly, and it may be slightly tarnished
and rough, but that is the hand you've got. I have heard said
in a number of other countries, "Oh, he is not the man we
want. He's not going to do what we want to do," and you
think, "Well, that's pretty bloody undemocratic." He
is the bloke we've got, and therefore one has to try to help him
help us help him, and so on. The transition is quite important.
Quite often, we will look back and say, "President
Karzai is this" or "President Karzai is that."
What I found fascinating is that when Stan McChrystal took President
Karzai out to the shiresI am sure that exactly the same
is occurring with General Petraeuspeople were weeping because
their President had come to see them. Their President, not ours.
We somehow missed the importance of the sense of nationhood, nationality,
and sovereignty, as it runs across for the Afghan.
Q286 John Glen: But the amount
of corruption and the need to continue reform within the Afghan
Government still remain. What you are attesting to is the democratic
legitimacy, fundamentally, of Karzai. Is enough being done to
address the corruption that is still embedded within the Afghans?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: You have
the campaign for the rule of law, and people are actively engaging
with FBI investigations. Some will hit the walls and be adjusted.
Others will begin to chip away. The idea of delegating some authority
is back out, because we were the ones who, in many ways, constructed
the Bonn Agreement and how Afghanistan should be governed. We
centralised the power. That was quite counter-culture. It made
eminent sense to Westminster or Washington, but I don't think
that it made too much sense if you were living out in the shires
Q287 Mr Havard: Yes, some form
of Jeffersonian democracy might work somewhere, but not necessarily
in Afghanistan. As for President Karzai being in transition, he
is in his last term as President. We are talking about a continuum
that takes us beyond 2014, when the next President will be in
place. Presumably there will be another presidential election
in America during that period. There are lots of questions about
how the transition will work. How do you see the changes made
by the Afghans and others to that constitutional structure affecting
the ability to do the things that we have declared we want to
General Sir Graeme Lamb: If you
take a run across to Iraq and look at Prime Minister Maliki, that
continues to be a transitiona political change in progress.
Exactly the same will occur in Afghanistan. An enormous amount
of work is being done. Everyone recognised back in 2002-03, just
as we did in Iran, that we need good governance. You then put
lots of people in. There is lots of talk, papers are written and
money is spent, and you turn around and say, "What is the
output measurement of individuals who are now back in government,
who have been trained in finance, or in the Provinces'?"
A lot of that is going on, and it will increase because the importance
has been recognised. I sense that it has been a little late coming,
and that is the whole Government approach. The situation is often
is put down as security stopping us being able to something, in
which case nothing was done. Kipling wasn't wrong when he talked
about "doers". My view is that it will move forward.
Chair: We now have a vote. I guess that
there will be only one vote, so I propose suspending the Committee
for 15 minutes. Will you please come back at 4.15 pm? I am sorry
to give you a break for 15 minutes while we do our democratic
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Q288 Sandra Osborne: I wanted
to ask about General McChrystal's strategy, but I think you have
made it perfectly clear that you see that as a positive strategy
and one that has already reaped rewards. What impact have civilian
casualties had in terms of the counter-insurgency strategy, and
has the policy of courageous restraint made a difference in relation
to securing the consent of the local population?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: On the
position that General McChrystal took, to change a culture, quite
often you push the boundary and then settle back into a position,
which is where I think the campaign and General Petraeus are taking
it to. General Parker explained that rather eloquently.
The importance of casualties to the Afghans
had been a long-running sore. The assumption would be, "We
are seeking the bad guys and if the two of them are among a group
of whatever they may be and they are killed in the process, then
by association they shouldn't have been there, or that's just
how it is, because the bad guys are pretty evil individuals."
But I think that some of that, year on year over the years, was
a sore that grew that the insurgency then bled off. They were
able to see that this was an attack against them and against tribes,
individual clans, families, villages and communities. They operate
in the communication space incredibly better than we do. It is
the area in which we are horribly deficient. It was important,
therefore, to change that dynamic through the way people droveso
it was how we were perceived by the populationand how we
tried to reduce the casualties in the use of force and other ways.
Hobbes's world is a grim old place. Both sides
are getting broken up, killed and damaged in the process of this,
and people try to apply a Surrey map to it, which just doesn't
work. Trying to reduce those casualties is recognised by the people.
There was an incident in the North, in Kunduz or wherever it was,
when a tanker was blown up and a number of locals who had been
told by the Taliban to get the fuel were killed. McChrystal went
straight there, and a lot of people said, "What are you doing?
We haven't had the inquiry yet and Germany are upset about this."
The bush net of Afghanistan is every bit as good as the bush nets
you will find in other parts of the third and second world. It
is often far better than where we have a clever communication
space. It went around the country that here was someone who was
genuinely trying to reduce civilian casualties, and the vast majority
of Afghans got that. So McChrystal was seen as somebody who was
in charge of ISAF and the Coalition Forces who was genuinely aware
of Afghans. That is not how they had perceived it before. That
doesn't mean that the previous Generals were not conscious of
that responsibility, but it was not seen that way by the Afghans.
That change in culture was very important, and him taking Karzai
down on visits and standing shoulder to shoulder was very important
for perceptions and, therefore, visualisation.
The adjustment in doing everything we could
to reduce casualtiesfrom those injured in road accidents
to those killed under a collateral damage profile in the rules
of engagementwas an important cultural change for ISAF
and the Force, and that has borne fruit.
Q289 Chair: Why do they operate
in a communication space incredibly better than we do?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: It is
long-standing. I travelled by train from Scotland today and read
Paul Wolfowitz referring to a piece in one of the letters. I remember
him coming out to Iraq and saying, "Graeme, we've got to
get this message into the beltway." I said, "Hey, that's
your job, with due respect. My job is to get the message out to
the old shepherd over the hill who doesn't have a radio or television.
We are here to try to make his life better. The beltway is your
drama." And he said, "Fair call." Our sense is
that we tend to keep looking backwards to the broadsheets, what's
driving neo-politics, and popularityto today's headlinesrather
than recognising that that is important. At the end of the day,
Clausewitz wasn't wrong with his holy trinity of public, politicians
and armed forces. Equally, we must recognise that there are some
very important audiences regionally. That is why, in Iraq, we
put a lot of effort into not manipulating or manoeuvring, but
being able to express our case to al-Jazeera, because it was well
In '82, we all remember that rather dull JockMcDonald,
I think he waswho went on, night after night, on the BBC.
Eventually we thought, "He's the guy telling the truth",
so that mattered. The range of the audiences we are looking forwhether
it is the Sons of Malik, through twitteringare widespread.
Often we think that we have a really great message here, but it's
retired General Lamb. I get up and I'm a white guy, a Brit, so
there's no way I can carry the message.
So, they are very good at understanding who
the messengers are in this world. They have taken a great deal
of time building up and setting the conditions in the madrassahs
in Pakistan or the like, so you have people who are absolutely
inclined to a view that says that the twin towers was a CIA plota
ridiculous view, but it is believed because they are able, in
effect, to bring that to bear. We are badly responsive and, actually,
rather ignorant in the way that we think that a message that makes
eminent sense back here is absolutely or entirely appropriate.
That should be understood by those forward. We just don't do cross-culture
nowadayswe don't have Wilfrid Thesiger, who spoke six or
seven local dialects and lived with the tribes, so that he understood
them and they trusted him.
Q290 Mr Havard: Yes, we have had
a lot ofwell, someevidence on that. I spoke to Governor
Mangal last week or the week before. We have the "radio in
a box" and all that sort of stuff, so there are clearly attempts.
Like you, I met the Afghan farmer in 2003 who
had a bicycle and a donkey. I said, "What do you want?"
and he said, "A mobile phone." Well, he's had one for
a long time nowall of that stuff. I think you are right
The question I wanted to ask was this. While
you have all that happening in the population, out of that population
has got to come the country's own security services. Can you give
us your view of how you think that process is developingthat
is, the development of the Afghan Security Forces, mindful of
the fact that there are various components within that, such as
the army, the police and so on? What is your general, overall
assessment of how that process is now working?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Again,
we had the bringing in of General Caldwell, with the energy he
put forward, the money that went in behind him and the emphasis
on trainingNATO's response had been a tad lacklustre. The
investment in literacy before 2009 was zero, but now 27,000 individuals
are literate. That is not unimportant.
The army and police sat almost static at about
60,000 or 70,000, as I recall, from about 2002-03 right through
to 2005-06. And don't forget that the police weren't being trainedthey
were being given a uniform and told to go out there and be policemen.
For all this period, you had this. Look at the increase over the
near period, and not only in the infantrythe foot soldiers,
whether police or army. There is now real investment in signallers.
There were no schools for logistics, but there are now four, from
my recollection of when I left.
All these changes are really important, because
what they do is build up Q2quantity and quality. We had
almost no investment in quantity or quality for four or five years,
year after year. Suddenly we began to put some investment into
quantity, and only recently have we really increased that and
ramped it up exponentially, exactly as we did in Iraq, and at
the same time we have absolutely paid. Petraeus is driving that
really hard now. Stan set the correction, but Petraeus really
understands the idea of quality.
So, we have the investment in the quality base.
I think the number of training seats went from 1,900 to about
9,300, almost doubling up in areas, and doubling in the police
from about seven to about 14. All that has increased exponentially
in the near term, with a view to improving the leadership and
quality of the force. If you then put that in place alongside
the partnership, the partnership is a two-way street; you have
the Afghan police or army beginning to realise what is right and
what is wrong, because when that person is operating, somebody
says, "You don't do that, son." But we have the individual
on the other sidethe British or American soldierbeing
told some of the cultural nuances, which, no matter what little
training we can put in during the time we have available, has
an effect. If you put that together, my view is that we are on
a significantly better trajectory than we were. There was no trajectory
for 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, in the form of the police.
We have been able to improve a little, but we have been on a significantly
better trajectory since 2009. As George Harrison said, "Give
peace a chance." I sense that there are absolutely Herculean
efforts going on out there to improve the quantity and the quality
of the Forces, and they will make a significant difference.
Q291 Chair: What about the quantity
of ISAF Forces? Have we got enough troops there now?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I can't
remember the exact figures. Not every Provinces is a drama and
not every district is a security crisis. I would not want to speak
for General David or Nick's replacement. It is for them to lay
out whether they think they have sufficient forces. There is a
danger sometimes of thinking we need to throw in more forces.
I am quite clear that as you increase and ramp up the ANSF in
both the police and army, as you begin to build in genuine governance
and have PRTs operating and ranging widely, because one has managed
to get over some of the ridiculous security constraints of being
unable to leave the barracks or go outside the wire, but soldiers
can. My view is that as we go into 2011 we will be in a position
where I sense that it will not be an issue of numbers. Whether
it is in that period or the near period of 2012, I think we will
be considering whether we can reduce some of our force levels.
The overall capacity and effect that the ANSF and the Coalition
bring to bear will be significantly different.
Q292 Chair: Would you agree that
the force levels we had before 2009 and the general build-up to
the American surge were inadequate to do what we were asking them
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I would
put it that the numbers were inadequate, and that was realised.
President Obama should be given credit for increasing the numbers
twicethe initial force was 21,000 and then in effect 30,000
when NATO asked for the additional 10,000, and rightly so in that
period. The mere fact that you have a new campaign go in this
direction probably will increase the force levels from where we
were. Before, we were in a campaign that was just bumping along.
Q293 Chair: How did that come
General Sir Graeme Lamb: That
came about because of a realisation that the campaign of intimidation
was beginning to increasethe levels of violence, the levels
of control across the country. Hence the reason that you had the
Chairman, Admiral Mullan, go out and have that discussion with
General McKiernan, who had already asked for more forces, but
was in many ways not embracing the idea of a fulsome and fuller
campaign to be able to address the underlying problems that needed
to be addressed. That's what Petraeus did. His assessment set
the tone"This is very serious"and it was
a report to be read in a cold shower. His requests for forces,
if you recall, were 10,000, 40,000 and 85,000. There is a harshwhat
I call appetite. You could change to the new campaign, but it
would require at least a 40,000 figure to do that.
Q294 Chair: But somehow, we had
got into the position where we were heavily deployed in Helmand
in those terms, yet it was far too lightly to achieve what we
wanted to do there.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Again,
if one reads the Petraeus-Mattis doctrine of counter-insurgencywhat
I call the correlation of forces, the numbers game, and all the
restthat is self-evident.
Q295 Chair: But how did we get
into that position?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Because,
before that time, we were asking, "Where is the enemy?"
My first point to General Stan in the briefing that I gave was
that our strategic communications suckthis was in late
August 2009. I had done my assessment and set the conditions in
the context as I saw it.
My second point was that we had, for seven or
eight years, asked the question, "Where is the enemy?"
The question that we should have asked was, "Where should
Q296 Chair: Why have we not asked
General Sir Graeme Lamb: I suppose
you will have to ask others.
Q297 Chair: You were, at the time,
in Iraq. Did you feel that you were having your forces whittled
out from underneath you in order to fulfil this new priority in
Q298 Mr Havard: In addressing
that, I think that you were here earlier, and you heard the question
that I similarly asked about our drawing down to train and to
divert power, so perhaps you could incorporate a comment about
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Don't
forget, I was in Iraq in 2006-07, for the summer period.
Q299 Chair: You could see all
the focus moving from Iraq to Afghanistan, could you?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: No. Often
it is about things such as the enablersthe number of special
forces, the number of Predators, the systems, the bandwidth, the
biometrics, which is just hardware stuff. There are also some
electrons that go with that and then there are some people, because
the dwell time was a continuous question, not only for usour
harmony guidelinesbut also for America. Dwell time was
a big deal because they had gone through a period where they had
increased the pressure on their own forces. They were going out
for a year, which was extended to 14 months and in certain cases
18 monthsand a year turnaround. In these campaigns, if
you are operating in Baghdad or Mosul, or where the Americans
werethe Marines in particular, who were out in Anbarit
is absolutely hard pounding.
We were in Iraq at that point on a campaign
that was the transition to handoverpickingthey were
the terms that I recall were around at the time. What is interesting
is that at the time that Americathat General Jack Keane
realised that the transition was not going to succeed, that the
situation was very ugly, and they changed their campaign focus,
we were ahead, because Basra was what it was. We always knew that
it required the Government of Iraq to take ownership of that,
both with their own forces and with their political forces.
The question that the Committee should askI
am not the one to answer itis, "As that campaign change
occurred, what was the discussion amongst the Coalition? What
was the discussion between America and us, and America and the
remnants who were still there, on that change in direction?"
I sense that we carried on in Basra with the campaign that we
were running with, and America had changed to a different direction,
and the two diverged at that point. The consequences then ran
out as we went through in and over time. Actually, it all worked
out fine in the endor where we are now, which is
Q300 Chair: Well, it worked out
fine after the Charge of the Knights, in a sense, because the
Charge of the Knights succeeded in Basra.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: It is
no different to whenI could be corrected on thisthe
Ardennes Offensive went through in '44. Montgomery had to shift
north very rapidly to help the Americans, because otherwise Antwerp
was under threat. So within a coalition, the answer is that is
what you do.
In this case, it is absolutely axiomatic that
for the problem that occurs in Basra, at the end of the day, you
have to bring forces in from outside, because of the nature of
the problem, in order to help. It is interesting to see what they
brought down; a lot of it, actually, technologyISR, some
helicopters, biometrics, bandwidth. It wasn't just foot soldiers.
Oh, and then Iraqis who were not from Basra, who we should have
embedded with. So, all of thatthe idea that your higher
authority, your higher headquarters helps youthat is why
Hew Strachan's work is so very correct in the way he identifies
it. Because in Afghanistan, in looking at where our force levels
were and our density, our ability to bring about Sangin
and Helmand are a hard nut, in many ways the hardest nut that
sits within Afghanistan. The idea that now this is "our"
space. You say, "No, this is the campaign space." Success
or failure there is quite important, but it's the overall campaign
that matters. As we saw, they push pressures up on to Kunduz and
around on to areas to the North in order to try and draw forces
away from that which was a correlation which was a superior level
of force against the forces that were arrayed against us down
in Helmand Provinces.
Q301 Chair: Do you think we suffered
reputationally by the withdrawal from Basra?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Yes.
Was it some sort of catastrophic moment, some end-of-Empire, end
of the British? Not at all.
Chair: That wouldn't have been the question
I would have asked.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: But is
it a sore? It is no different from that naval debacle in the NAG.
Most Americans say, "I can't believe you didn't fire back."
So these things have a compilation. America, though, and people
such as General Petraeus, General McChrystal, actually all the
people I deal withand I can only speak of thoseand
all the Senators and the individuals who I have gone across and
seen, are only too conscious of the incredible contribution in
blood and treasure that the United Kingdom has made to this campaign,
and the importance of that in the overall condition setting for
the opportunity of success.
Q302 Mr Havard: By design, default,
mistake or whatever, it consolidated the Baswarian nationalism
and the Iraqi nationalismtheir aspirations to have their
own country, do their own thing and get their own security.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Correct,
but it wasn't until they came down and did that. That was the
time. That is why there is some similarity in Afghanistanthe
importance of getting President Karzai to begin to accept and
own, as the sovereign leader, those issues around Kandahar and
the like, and how that goes forward. That is the route, which
is a difficult one, because you have got constant conflicts of
perceptions. President Karzai has a raft of audiences that General
Petraeus does not. He has a different set of audiences. Both are
looking for almost opposite statements, as is the United Nations.
So, de Mistura's position is very important. Mark Sedwill's ability
to be able to interface some of that. All of that is this complex
mixture of communication that needs to take place. Some of what
is said, you think is really unhelpful and is counter to what
we want to do, but actually it is necessary in order to contain
what I call the large majority of individuals who are looking
for some sort of route and progress.
Q303 Chair: Have we, the British,
learnt lessons from Iraq and Basra, that we are transporting into
General Sir Graeme Lamb: If you
look at the new Chief of the Defence Staff in the form of David
Richards and if you look at Nick Parker sitting here today, here
are people who have had intimate knowledge, in every sense, of
the Afghan campaign. They are hugely conscious of how this thing
has unfolded over time. They have personal experiences from Iraq
as to how that should be read across. The question you might have
to ask is not whether the generals have learned those lessons,
but has the comprehensive approach, have the other component parts
of the force, all drawn from that? Are we feeling, in effect,
that those lessons are now learnt? The most misused term I come
across in modern days is "lessons learned," because
they seldom are.
Q304 John Glen: I refer back to
the question that I think you probably heard General Parker address,
which concerns the deficienciesor notin the supply
of the UK Armed Forces with counter-IED capabilities such as protective
vehicles and helicopters. There has been a lot of commentary about
those gaps in provision over the various different stages. I wonder
what your perspective is on that, and what the situation is now
in terms of whether the Armed Forces are getting what they need.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Again,
I'm a retired old bloke, at the end of the day.
It is in the nature of a fellow or girl in uniform
not blindly to say, "We will overcome," but to work
with the hand you are given, because that is the practical, pragmatic
reality of what you have got.
In 2001I can speak about this from a
personal point of viewwhen we went into Afghanistan, I
remember having conversations and saying, "Somebody needs
to get me some serious ISR capability." The Predator, which
was the original one, was up and running and I said that whatever
it took and whatever it cost, I needed to have them. Each one
of those takes a belt-load of people to operate it. You look at
the Predator and think that it is unmanned, but it takes about
150 people to operate the damn thing, from the meteorological,
to the commanding, to the fliers, to the maintenance, to the sustainability
and all those aspects that come into play; my figures may be wrong,
but it is a belt-load of people. My view was to say, "Whatever
it takes, just get me an awful lot of these pieces of equipment,
as we need."
My sense over the years was that we tended to
run the two campaigns off supplementals. So the Treasury, which
we can often find fault with and throw a dart at, actually did
rather well on Urgent Operational RequirementsUORswhich
are one-time-use equipments. It is a story that is not well understood.
We tend to blame the Treasury for not doing this, but it put billions
of pounds of taxpayers' money into the requirements that we needed.
Did we as an organisation take the equipment
programme and shake it, break it, turn it around and deliver to
a campaign that everybody thought would be over by Christmas?
No, we did not. My father fought in a war that in four years went
from Fairey Swordfish biplanes sinking the Bismarck, to us flying
jet fighters. Even now we have I don't know how many Reapers and
Predators, but my view would be that we are well short of.
Q305 John Glen: Notwithstanding
the changing nature of the need, and the fact that there was a
deployment of resources from the Treasury in a timely way, what
could have been done differently in the provisioning? Are there
any lessons learnt from that overall experience, or is it really
quite typical of what you would expect, given the changing nature
of the need in the theatre?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Who would
have said that Bosnia would last as long as it did? President
Clinton absolutely got his time scale on that one wrong by some
margin. The idea that one can be very clever and say, "It
will last this long, and it will be over and we'll be back by
Christmas," is misleading. We then have the big programmes
that run all the way through these, whether it is aircraft, tanks
or grey hulls. They are running on to the institutions of the
three services and how they operate. One has no idea how short
or long these campaigns last.
Chair: But we do. We know.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Well,
we do know, and history helps us. At the same time, there is the
question whether this is a change in the nature or the character
of warfare. My view is that we are now seeing changes in this
century. Again, when talking about the Policy Exchange work, where
industrial violence can be brought about by just a few individuals,
which was the act of only a state before, that changes the ground
rules fundamentally and for ever. Consequently, understanding
that is no mean feat. There are some who understood it, there
are some who sort of got it, but were stuck with what we were
getting, and there are some good, honest people, who fight well,
who just won't get it as far asto borrow a line from Parkernight
Q306 Sandra Osborne: So what's
your view on the chances of a successful withdrawal by 2014-15?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: Again,
I would agree entirely with General Parker's view. I think it
is a respectable time scale given the way that the campaign has
shiftedthe commitment to that campaign in numbers and resources.
Are we seeing the same level of political diplomatic engagement
in the regionChina's place, position and interests, both
from a resource, but also, in fact, a stability point of view?
There is Russia, Iranall these individual playersand
Turkey, which is a significant player in this game. Are we addressing
that with the same energy that the young men and women in Helmand
and those who are committed in Afghanistan are? My view is that
the jury's still probably out on that, and that the Foreign Secretary
could do better yet.
What I saw in 2009 was a campaign that I have
referred to as people marching along looking very smart and being
overtaken by lemmings. The route was one that, in effect, would
be really unsatisfactory in every sense. That has changed. Listening
to the campaign that General McChrystal put together and the direction
he gave it, and the way that General PetraeusI know him
wellis able to take that and push it forward, my view is
that, as we were in Iraq, and as I look toward a whole range of
little things beginning to occur, we should be cautiously optimistic
right now. Watch as we go through, because I sense that that position
will improve. So when you look as far as 2014-15, with a new set
of directions and all the work that is going on, my instinct tells
me that this absolutely has a shot at the title.
Q307 Mr Havard: On the current
campaign, one of my questions was going to be about whether we
are sufficiently joined-up across the UK Government to be supporting
the current campaign. You made a few comments earlier on about
that, and perhaps that has improved dramatically. Whether it is
sufficient or not, I would like you to say something about that,
and also about whether that is true across the international Coalition,
because there are slight differences there. Perhaps in doing that,
you could contextualise some of the things you were just saying
about how that develops Afghanistan's economic situation, its
position with its neighbours, and its general context. At the
end of the day, we have discussed this beforethe regional
dimension to this question is just as important as the domestic
question in Britain or in Afghanistan itself.
Chair: This, you will be relieved to
hear, is the last question.
General Sir Graeme Lamb: The well-known
fact that there is $1 trillionand risingworth of
resources sitting in Afghanistan was neither understood nor recognised
by me in 2001. I'm not sure that it was recognised by David Richards
when he was there in 2006. We had inclinationswe knew that
the Russians had oil and gasbut we had no idea of the volume
or potential wealth that sits in there.
I sense that you have two common interests for
the region, and those involve Turkey, Russia, Iran, Pakistan,
India from a little distance, and China from a little more distance.
The first is the real need for regional stability and Afghanistan
is an unknown player in that. We have some great diplomats. The
idea of engaging in that and helping where common interests meet
in bringing about that stability is very important.
The second is, in fact, straightforward and
selfish self-interest needs. If you are India and you have no
copperit is a developing nation and it is absolutely on
a big development spreeat the end of the day you need copper.
If you are China, the answer is you could probably take every
single resource that exists in Afghanistan and you'll still be
short of what you need for a population that is growing at the
rate it is and has to create 24 million jobs every year. So there
is the demand from just those two before you then look at Turkey
and all the rest.
I therefore think the opportunity of a successful
outcome in Afghanistan is something that we have been slow to
identify and slow to engage in. It is not necessarily about having
the really huge multinationals come in, because what they will
do is hedge their futures off in a reserve, which is Helmand,
Afghanistan. We don't want that. We want some small companies
to go in that have to meet an in-year or very near to in-year
or three-year target return of a profit on actually extracting.
The Chinese embassy buying the mine outside Kabul, one of a series
of very large, very rich copper deposits, was jolly good. That
was $3 billion. That's not the half of it. The important part
is what that brings in over 30 years in the way of revenue to
But the most important part is what does that
bring in the way of jobs for Afghan people, whether it is railroads
or an infrastructure that comes in and all the support for that?
It's about getting small starter companies up, which we were not
so good at doing in Iraq and we don't seem to be doing so well
in Afghanistan. We should be looking to get in those who are looking
for a near-term profit, whether it is in gold, oil, gas or some
of the exotics like lithium. That is what we should be pushing
hard to bring about: getting that investment init's all
about the money.
Q308 Mr Havard: Do you have you
any confidence that our approach to helping them to develop their
processes to do thatour cross-Government approach and the
international community's approach to developing Afghanistan along
an Afghanistan plan, as opposed to some other beautiful planis
what is really happening here?
General Sir Graeme Lamb: No. But
I think your comment is absolutely right. What is the Afghan plan?
How do we help the Afghans secure what they see as being important
rather than what we see as being important? I heard comments when
I was in Afghanistan saying, "Right. We need to concentrate
on marbles and gems." My experience of gemstones in Africa
is not a particularly attractive one. So the truth is say, "No,
to hell with that." It is about the practical part. We should
turn around and listen to what they want and let's help them make
sure that they safeguard it, otherwise the resource will be raped.
Safeguard that resource and at the same time give them the ability
to see how they can make both near money and then mid-term money
in order to be able to fund a nation state.
Chair: On that very important point,
I think we should finish. Thank you very much indeed for coming
to help us. It was, as always with you, extremely interesting
and, as usual, pretty controversial.