The Spectator

A British ‘kill list’ does exist. We used it in Afghanistan

A British 'kill list' does exist. We used it in Afghanistan
Text settings

The Highlights

Frank Keating

Guardian Faber Publishing, pp. 336, £

The following article is by an ex-serviceman who served in Afghanistan.

They’re making a list, they’re checking it twice - and Number 10 will know whether you’ve been naughty or nice. And if you've been very naughty, you'd better watch out for a metallic glint in the sky. Britain doesn't have anything called a 'kill list', but it does have something called ‘JPEL’ - whose existence the government will neither confirm nor deny.

The ‘Joint Priority Effects List’ is not new, nor is the very use of such a list. As with Special Forces operations, the UK government – with good reason – will consistently refuse to comment on its existence. Intelligence work is often as much about source protection as it is about keeping information ‘need to know’.

During active operations in Afghanistan the JPEL included child rapists, bombers and the very worst of humanity. Individuals would not find themselves on it unless they were particularly horrid folk. If the list in Syria really is only 5 people long, it may be because they just haven’t yet gathered intelligence on the rest of them.

Targets are given a codename, rather than their own name. If the British public could see some of the names given to these figures in Afghanistan (or even the themes used to name them) there'd be an uproar. They range from celebrity names to porn stars, favourite sweets to characters in the film Anchorman.

The practice of naming targets - or 'objectives' - after yourself was perhaps a taboo too far - although it did happen from time to time. The American forces preferred to name objectives using two words (usually devoid of any humour). The ever-ingenious British managed to circumvent this by merely deleting a space.

An important part of armed forces training isn’t how you capture or kill someone on a list, it’s why such a list is there in the first place. Calling the JPEL a mere 'hit list' is disingenuous. It is a fused product of several intelligence sources, and often the result of blood, sweat and tears. The list is a by-product of professionalism on the part of those who seek to keep our country safe - by exercising an inherent right of self-defence on behalf of the crown.