Daniel Korski

Noises off, officers

Noises off, officers
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David Cameron is caught between a rock and a hard place. His government is rightly committed to its AfPak policy and the need to keep ties with the United States strong and close. But the Prime Minister and his aides probably also know that the assessments offered by a number of senior military officers of the campaign are rose-tinted, and suspect that the US administration may pivot and head for the exit far quicker than is comfortable for its allies. This is a tough choice; a wrong move could damage transatlantic ties and set back the fight against Jihadism. Staying the course will mean greater opposition from both Right and Left.


Unhelpfully, the government is also beginning to see signs of the kind of sniping from the Army that beset the Labour government. Writing in The Times, ex-officer Alan Mallinson lays into the Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, arguing that as an RAF officer he cannot possibly understand a land war. In a number of others ways, the article seems to be carrying a message from the Army.

This is an unfortunate return to norm. Modern warfare is testing the theories of traditional civil-military relations. But nothing good comes from repeating the fights seen under the last government between Gordon Brown and General Richard Dannatt. The government must be given the space and help to charts its course.

Sir Jock is clearly coming to the end of his tenure, but to suggest that the campaign is failing because he is an RAF officer, rather than an Army officer is absurd. Though an Army officer at the top of the military will send a helpful signal to the soldiers in the field – given the presumption that he will better understand their predicament – modern warfare is a complex multi-agency, tri-service environment. To be conducted successfully, it needs politicians, officials and officers who can operate at the strategic level and across all departments, rather than in stovepipes. A switch to a soldier may have benefits, but would they really be so great, given the decreasing operational role that UK forces are playing compared to the US?

So noises off, officers.