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12 Sep 21. Royal Navy outlines future vision. The future of the Royal Navy and how it could further embrace autonomous technology, including drones, will be unveiled at DSEI this year. Led by a design challenge for young engineers from UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology (UKNEST), the Royal Navy will develop a Future Autonomous Fleet programme that could shape how it operates over the next 50 years. Stemming from the design challenge, the future vision envisages drones based in the stratosphere to be launched at a moment’s notice; uncrewed fast attack crafts housing smaller autonomous boats; aircraft carriers propelled by both sea-based biofuels and wind power; and an underwater flagship at the centre of the fleet. Other conceptual ideas include the increased use of artificial intelligence to assist with low-level planning and underwater transport units carrying anything from munitions to food.Although in the conceptual phase, the Royal Navy is on track to implement one of these futuristic visions into reality over the coming decade – The Persistent Operational Deployment Systems (PODS).
PODS are interchangeable modules that can be fitted to the surface fleet. Similar in design to a shipping container, the PODS create the idea of a ‘plug and play’ warship and will enable Royal Navy ships of all sizes to be more adaptable and versatile when deployed.
Delivered using innovative technology such as heavy-lift drones or autonomous boats, a ship will be able to receive the equipment it needs to be re-tasked quicker without the need to go into a port to collect it.
Large in size, the PODS will house assets vital to supporting Royal Navy operations. These may include an autonomous boat for surveillance and reconnaissance, quadcopter drones to deliver supplies, humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores or medical equipment. Versatile in their approach, they have the capacity to become an additional medical room for service personnel at sea or a control centre for Royal Marines’ operations.
Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Nick Hine said, “In a future scenario if we find ourselves unable to compete traditionally in terms of mass, we must think differently if we are to regain operational advantage. The young engineers who worked on this project are thinking radically and with real imagination and reflects how the Royal Navy is thinking too.”
Outlined in the recent Defence Command Paper, the Royal Navy is focussed on investing in a more innovative and automated fleet. Enhanced by the £24bn increase in spending across four years as announced by the Prime Minister last November, the Royal Navy will improve the sustainability, lethality and availability of its vessels.
UKNEST young engineer, Fiona McIntosh said, “The collaborative nature of the project, coupled with us being unconstrained in the ideas and technologies we discussed, really helped us base our concept on technologies we thought would be key to innovation over the coming decades. The sessions were really interesting and it was great to see all of the concept designs in a presentation to senior Royal Navy Officers at the end.It was encouraging to see that the designs had some similar features and the groups had envisioned similar technologies being utilised by the future fleet. Hopefully we’ll see some of our ideas incorporated into future platforms.”
Supported by the future conceptual ideas, the Royal Navy continues to be at the forefront of maritime technology as it adapts to meet future threats and maintain competitive advantage. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
12 Sep 21. £400m investment for the Royal Air Force. The UK’s Chinook helicopters will be enhanced with state-of-the-art defensive systems, while the RAF’s C-17 Globemaster fleet will receive a software and hardware upgrade.
The RAF will be boosted by an investment of almost £400 million to enhance the capabilities of two of its vital assets – the C-17 Globemaster aircraft and the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
UK’s C-17 fleet – which recently played a key role in the UK’s evacuation from Afghanistan – will receive a £324 million investment. This will upgrade software and hardware to improve airlift capability as part of a contract with the US Air Force.
The UK’s fleet of Mk5 and Mk6 Chinook helicopters will be enhanced with state-of-the-art defensive systems, as part of a £64 million contract with Boeing Defence UK (BDUK) which will make them harder for adversaries to detect.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin said, “Whether evacuating people in Kabul, transporting people to hospital during Covid-19 or providing crucial logistics on the battlefield, the C-17 and Chinook provide an invaluable service to our Armed Forces across the globe. This investment ensures our aircraft are equipped with cutting-edge technology to face a myriad of emerging threats from adversaries.”
The investment builds on commitments outlined in the Defence Command Paper earlier this year, which confirms an operational obligation to both aircraft as part of the Integrated Force 2030 approach. This is further supported by the £24bn increase in defence spending over the next four years, announced by the Prime Minister in November 2020.
Negotiated by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the five-and-a-half-year C-17 contract will continue the highly-specialised support for the aircraft under the ‘Virtual Fleet’ concept, where all nine operating nations have access to a world-class support solution.
Upgrades will include enhancements to the ‘Beyond Line of Sight’ satellite-enabled communication equipment, a wider field of view via the ‘Head-Up Display’ in the cockpit to help increase pilot situational awareness and widening the scope of the current free-fall parachuting capability.
The five-year Chinook helicopter contract managed by DE&S will see the installation of state-of-the-art Infra-Red Suppression Systems (IRSS) across some of the fleet, offering better protection from threats posed by new missile systems using the heat (infra-red) signature of the aircraft to target. IRSS technology will counter with ‘blanking plates’ on the helicopters which mask the hot components and redirect airflow to cool the exhaust gases, making it more difficult to target.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said, “I am delighted with the introduction of these state-of-the-art upgrades to the Chinook and C-17 Globemaster, as well as the significant benefits of nine allied nations working together on C-17 as a ‘Virtual Fleet’.
These measures will ensure our Chinook and Globemaster squadrons can operate wherever and whenever needed across the globe.
The contracts will support around 200 jobs across the UK. Around 100 will be sustained at BDUK sites across the country as the Chinook upgrade is rolled-out, contributing to an estimated 450 people employed in Chinook support across the wider Defence supply chain.
Around 50 new jobs will also be created at RAF Brize Norton, taking the total to around 100 employed on-site to provide maintenance and logistics for the C-17 fleet. This new agreement announced today provides continued support to the C-17 under a ‘Virtual Fleet’ concept whereby the UK and eight other nations who operate the aircraft have access to cost-effective and efficient support, as well as additional spare equipment, parts and resources.
09 Sep 21. UK threatens drone strikes if the Taliban don’t rein in terrorists. Britain could deploy a new fleet of drones to conduct strikes in Afghanistan if the Taliban do not deal with the terrorist threat in the country, the defence secretary has suggested.
Ben Wallace said the number of potential terrorists was likely to have grown in the 20 years since the 9/11 attacks and that if the Taliban moved away from their commitments and hosted terrorists then the threat emanating from the country could rise.
Wallace was on a visit to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, where a new fleet of Protector drones, able to operate in civilian airspace, will be based from 2023. He said: “I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect Britain’s citizens’ lives and our interests and our allies when we are called upon to do so, wherever that may be.”
He said he believed that the threat was “more global” and the “reservoir of people who might cross that line into violence is probably greater than it was” before the September 11 attacks.
The last evacuation flight of British troops left Kabul airport on August 28, ending the UK’s 20-year military involvement in Afghanistan.
Wallace said that Nato’s withdrawal could inspire terrorist groups including Islamic State, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram to mount attacks and that under international law Britain had the right to defend itself from such plots.
This month the Protector became the first UK military drone to fly in normal airspace alongside other commercial aircraft.
The Ministry of Defence has announced a £260 million contract for 16 of them, which will replace nine Reaper drones from 2023 onwards. Protectors can fly a maximum of 5,000 nautical miles for up to 40 hours in a surveillance role without weapons. The Reaper, which has been in operation over Iraq and Afghanistan, travels much more slowly and can fly for only about 15 hours without weapons.
Each Protector will be remotely flown by two pilots and a mission intelligence co-ordinator. They can take off and land automatically at the press of a button and can fly alongside civilian aircraft in “unsegregated airspace”.
This could allow them to be used for missions above British towns and cities, including surveillance during flooding, or to monitor migrants in the Channel. Another use could be for counterterrorism missions in Britain, although Wallace said this was “highly unlikely” and would require a request from the Home Office.
He said the Protector could be used anywhere in the world to defend against attacks.
Although Wallace, a former Scots Guard, did not believe there would be an immediate surge in terrorism emanating from Afghanistan, he warned that “more failed states, more poverty, usually leads to more insecurity”.
He said that there were no imminent terrorist threats similar to 9/11 on the horizon, but added: “We certainly see a whole group of people who have the knowledge of doing terrorist attacks and we see people trying to communicate with each other to do that in the future.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, chief of the air staff, said there were terrorists who were “quite willing to commit atrocities on the streets of the UK and we have got to be ready to tackle them along with our allies”.
US officials estimate that Isis-K has about 2,000 hardened fighters in Afghanistan, many of them disaffected Taliban members. Countries in the region fear the number will increase if the Taliban are considered to be too “moderate” by some of their members. (Source: The Times)
07 Sep 21. Major London arms fair proceeds amid COVID fears, Afghanistan shock. London’s Excel Center found itself converted into a huge emergency hospital when the coronavirus pandemic struck last year. Thankfully, it wasn’t required. Now the halls, having reverted to an exhibition venue, prepare to host the DSEI 2021 show against a backdrop of new emergencies and challenges for the defense sector.
The four-day exhibition and conference, along with an associated virtual show called DSEI Connect, opens Sept. 14 in the shadow of a strategic shock to NATO countries and others caused by the U.S. exit from and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
How that plays out for foreign policy and defense cooperation in the Western alliance is too early to say, but the potential implications and lessons from the withdrawal are likely to generate plenty of discussions among industry executives and senior military officials attending the show in London’s dockland center.
Away from the international stage, there’s plenty to discuss at a more local level following the British government’s integrated defense and security review, published in March.
However, the show will likely be short on Defence Ministry proclamations. DSEI 2019 saw nearly 20 announcements emerge during the four days, but with the integrated review having sucked up some news only a few months ago, analysts are anticipating little more than a handful this time around.
Still, as attendees negotiate COVID-19 safety requirements at the show, they could see information emerge on programs treated in the review — for example, the planned procurement of a new ground-based air defense system, or the British Army’s ongoing travails over efforts to modernize its armored vehicle fleets.
Several of the Defence Ministry’s strategic developments are awaiting their unveiling: It was hoped a land strategy could be launched around the time of the show, but that now looks more likely to appear later in the fall.
There are better hopes for a long-awaited space defense strategy to finally emerge, but nothing is certain, according to analysts.
Overall, the show organizers have themed the exhibition to reflect the outcome of the wide-ranging integrated review now beginning to impact the structure and requirements of the British military.
“When people walk away from the show, they will definitely have got a vision of multidomain integration,” said retired Air Vice Marshal Gary Waterfall, the senior military adviser to DSEI. “The first keynote speech given by Gen. Sir Patrick Sanders, head of Strategic Command, will really set the tone.”
Waterfall said the growing importance of issues like data, artificial intelligence, space and energy sustainability will emerge from the show. “The chat will be very much focused on the integrated review implications, what it means and how everyone works better together,” he said.
John Louth, an independent defense analyst in Britain, said the U.S. administration’s actions and what they might mean for future military cooperation require a fresh look.
“If the British are being serious, then they have really got to open the integrated review and the industrial strategy again. Both are heavily predicated not just on U.S. technology and capability, but Washington being the principal partner we operate with,” he said. “Anybody who has half a brain has to think about hedging their bets on equipment collaboration. If you are in the U.K. government right now, you may want to start thinking more overtly about proper collaboration [with Europe].”
The rival future combat air programs led by Britain and France as well as the Eurotank project led by France and Germany could offer avenues for increased cooperation, the analyst said. Both topics are expected to feature prominently in discussions on the show floor and in officials’ speeches broadcast to live and virtual audiences.
The idea of reopening the integrated review was echoed by a retired senior British military commander as the exit from Afghanistan came to a close. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph on Aug. 25, the former deputy commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. James Bucknall, said Britain should revisit the introspection and reverse planned Army end strength cuts of 9,500 to just 72,500 troops.
“If the last few days in Afghanistan shows anything, it is that numbers count. Strategic patience is all — you must have the critical mass to sustain an operation. The defense review removes that capability,” he warned.
Former chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. David Richards, said the lesson to draw from Afghanistan was that Britain and its European NATO allies must spend more on defense, as they were “totally dependent” on the United States.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry is going “all in” on novel weapon systems, such as swarming drones, artificial intelligence systems, directed-energy weapons and hypersonic technology, said Dan Darling, a senior military markets analyst at U.S.-based analysis firm Forecast International.
There will also likely also be a focus at DSEI on unmanned and underwater defense capabilities in light of a joint U.K.-France effort on autonomous mining systems, and with Belgium and the Netherlands partnering on a new mine countermeasure ship that includes unmanned surface and underwater vessels, he noted. “This appears to be an area of growth for Europe,” Darling said. (Source: Defense News)
07 Sep 21. Airbus highlights space, defence and helicopters at DSEI. Airbus will showcase its leading range of products and services in the defence, space, secure communications and helicopter segments at the DSEI exhibition at Excel, London 14-17 September.
The Airbus stand H6-122 will feature models of the A400M new generation airlifter and Skynet 6A military communications satellite, plus a large new model of the H175M medium transport helicopter.
Visitors can learn more about Airbus Helicopters’ H175M-based proposal to meet the United Kingdom’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) needs.
Airbus’ expertise in secure communications will be a key theme at DSEI including the Skynet military satellite communications capability. Airbus is focusing on the UK MOD’s future milsatcom requirements including leading the consortium for future Skynet services with its partners KBR, Leidos, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ.
New developments in secure communications will feature beyond line of sight (BLOS) through the rotor blade communications showcasing Airbus’ Proteus Unity Satellite Modem System. This new lightweight system utilises an adaptive waveform that ‘senses’ the blade position with no input from the platform itself, and adapts the transmission to always provide optimum communications.
In the Multi Domain Combat Cloud, Airbus will demonstrate how they are making multi-domain operations a reality. Airbus representatives will be joining expert panels including “Industry’s role in delivering the Digital Backbone and unleashing the power of Defence’s data” and “Army Warfighting Experiment: Harnessing technology to prepare for complex future warfare”.
DSEI will feature Team ICELUS, which brings Airbus, Fujitsu and Thales UK together to work collaboratively on the upcoming Systems Integrator (SI) opportunity for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems programme, known as LE TacCIS.
The LE TacCIS programme consists of multiple sub-programmes and projects with the aim of delivering the next generation of tactical military communications in the land environment, providing the means to make informed and timely decisions enabled by agile Communication Information Systems (CIS).
In May 2021, Airbus reached its 100th A400M delivery in the same week the A400M global fleet achieved the landmark of 100,000 flight-hours performing missions worldwide for all nine customer nations. 
 Belgium, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK
06 Sep 21. Foreign Secretary statement on Afghanistan response. The Foreign Secretary has updated Parliament on the UK’s international response to the situation in Afghanistan. Mr Speaker, with your permission I will update the House on the UK’s international response to the situation in Afghanistan. As my Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minster has set out, over the last three weeks, through a shared effort right across government and our armed forces, we have delivered the largest and most complex evacuation in living memory.
Between 15 and 29 August, the UK evacuated over 15,000 people from Afghanistan. That includes: over 8,000 British Nationals, close to 5,000 Afghans who loyally served the UK, along with their dependents, and around 500 special cases of particularly vulnerable Afghans, including Chevening scholars, journalists, human rights defenders, campaigners for women’s rights, judges and many others.
Of course, the work to get people out did not start on 15 August.
The FCDO advised British Nationals to leave the country in April, and then again on 6 August. We estimate that around 500 did so.
At the same time, the government launched the ARAP scheme for interpreters and other Afghan staff, getting over 1,900 out before the airlift began on 15 August.
Now as the security situation deteriorated, we accelerated that process throughout July and early August. In total since April, we have helped over 17,000 people leave.
And I want to place on record my thanks, and pay tribute to the Herculean efforts of our troops, our diplomats, our civil servants who have done an incredible job in the toughest of conditions.
And as we remember their efforts we also remember those of UK armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan trying to make that country a better place for the Afghan people.
Mr Speaker, now that the evacuation has ended, we have moved into a new phase.
We stand by our commitment to support those who have worked for us, and to take all remaining eligible cases. Securing their safe passage out of the country is an immediate priority. We are working through our diplomatic channels to that end.
And of course the Taliban have given assurances that they will provide safe passage for foreign nationals and those eligible Afghans who wish to leave.
On 30 August the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2593. Driven by the UK alongside the US and France, affirming the international community’s expectation requirement that the Taliban should follow through on the assurances that they have given.
Last, week I visited Qatar and Pakistan. In Qatar, I met with the Emir and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed, to discuss safe passage alongside the international community’s wider approach to dealing with the Taliban.
We discussed ongoing efforts to re-establish flights at Kabul airport, where Qatari technical staff are working on the ground, and see how we can cooperate in handling the organisation of future flights.
I also announced our new non-resident Chargé d’Affaires for Afghanistan, Martin Longden, who is now working out of Doha.
In Pakistan, I met with Prime Minister Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi to discuss safe passage via third countries, and the importance of holding the Taliban to its commitments.
I also announced that we are sending £30m of support to Afghanistan’s neighbours.
This will provide life-saving support for refugees including shelters, household necessities, sanitation and other hygiene facilities.
At the same time I dispatched last week a new Rapid Deployment Team to the region, with an extra 22 staff in total.
They will reinforce our Embassy teams, our High Commission teams in those neighbouring countries, processing British nationals or eligible Afghans who are seeking to leave via third countries, which we want to do just as fast as we possibly can, once they can leave, and subject to the necessary security checks.
I also spoke to the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan earlier today, and the Foreign Minister of Tajikistan last week. And the Minister for South Asia, Lord Ahmad, last week visited Tajikistan and will return to the region shortly.
Mr Speaker turning to the wider international strategy. The international community is adjusting and it must adjust to the new reality in Afghanistan and recalibrate its approach.
The UK is playing a leading role.
My Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister convened G7 leaders on 24 August to discuss a shared response to the situation. That followed a G7 Foreign Ministers meeting.
And we are building a global coalition around four key priorities set out in a UK G7 paper that we have shared with those partners.
First, we must prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a safe haven or harbour for terrorists ever again.
Second, we must prevent a humanitarian disaster and support refugees – wherever possible in the region.
The UK has allocated £286m in aid for Afghanistan this year.
We are supporting Afghanistan’s neighbours, as I have already set out, and the Home Secretary has set out our resettlement scheme.
We are leading by example, which enables us to encourage others to step up in what will inevitably have to be an international team effort.
Third, we must preserve regional stability, which risks being shattered by the combination of renewed terrorist threat and an exodus of refugees.
Fourth, we must hold the Taliban and other factions to account for their conduct, including in particular on human rights and their treatment of women and girls.
I am taking this forward through our bilateral partners and we have a G7-plus meeting later this week.
The UK is also pressing for further discussions amongst the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and we plan to host an event at the UN General Assembly later this month as indicated by the Prime Minister.
Mr Speaker, we will not recognise the Taliban, but we will engage, and we will carefully calibrate our actions to the choices that they make and the actions that they take.
Given our strategic priorities, the ones that I’ve set out, we must also set some credible tests to hold the Taliban to the undertakings they have made on safe passage, on terrorism, on humanitarian access, and a more inclusive government.
And we stand ready to use all the levers at our disposal in that effort – political, economic and diplomatic.
Mr Speaker, we continue to galvanise the international community, and bring together the widest possible group of influential countries, to deliver on those strategic priorities and exercise the maximum moderating influence on the Taliban that we possibly can. I commend this statement to the House. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
06 Sep 21. The British Army say it is preparing to set out its stall and demonstrate how it will tackle the challenges of the future at DSEI, one of the world’s major Defence exhibitions. According to a news release, the British Army say it is “about to embark on the most radical transformation in decades taking it from an industrial age to a digital age force”.
“The ways it will do this will be explained at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) taking place at the ExCel London, Docklands, between September 14 and 17 2021.
The event, being held both live and virtually, is expected to attract more than 1,000 defence and security suppliers, including all the major prime manufacturers and more than 100 new exhibitors. It also attracts our international Allies and partners enabling discussions and opportunities for collaborative work.”
Major General Neil Sexton, Director Engagement and Communications for the Army, was quoted as saying:
“We really hope to see as many of our international allies and partner Armies from around the world coming into the east of London for that week in September in order to promote UK prosperity and the UK Defence Industry to them through the vehicle of the British Army.
There has been a really big effort by the MOD to ensure the Army, Navy, Airforce, Strategic Command and the new UK Space Command are all presenting something which when you add it together produces multi-domain integration. And the theme for DSEI is of course integrated response to future threats, and the theme for the Army is Future Soldier and Integrated Army. Timing is everything and in two ways this show is really important; for about 18 months we have not been engaging in a physical fashion with our international partners and we are, we know, a reference Army for partners around the world.
We have 27 formal partnerships and a number of informal ones and we want to kick-off again post-Covid to a time in September where we have those physical relationships, discussions, planning together around all sorts of things including equipment capability.More importantly, probably than that, is that the UK had a significant security and defence review that reported at the end of March. That has set the British Army on a significant journey to modernise and to change the way it’s operating around the world. That it is training and educating its people and that it’s focusing on various elements of our equipment, so DSEI offers us a great platform to explain what we have called “Future Soldier”, which is the British Army’s transformation programme.” (Source: News Now/https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/)
06 Sep 21. Britain shows off Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to anxious Japan. Britain showed off its HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to Japan’s defence chief on Monday at a naval base near Tokyo, marking the start of a permanent military presence in a region trying to come to grips with China’s growing power.
Japan’s defence minister, Nobuo Kishi, and senior Japanese military commanders were shown round the carrier, walking between F-35B stealth fighters on the deck as Royal Navy officers explained how the jets launched from the ramp at the bow.
“One of the purposes of this deployment is to signal the start of a commitment,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse told a briefing on the $4.15bn ship. “The prominence of this region is rising significantly.”
Japan, which also plans to fly short-takeoff and vertical-landing F-35Bs from two converted helicopter carriers, is trying to broaden security cooperation beyond its U.S. ally to try to help it reign in Chinese influence it believes threatens the region, including the independence of Taiwan.
Japan, in a recent defence strategy paper, identified neighbouring China as its main national security threat and said it has a “sense of crisis” regarding Taiwan as Chinese military activity around the island intensifies.
“The visit of the British carrier strike group holds great significance, to maintain and strengthen a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kishi told reporters after his visit to the Queen Elizabeth.
JOINED BY U.S. AND DUTCH SHIPS
A close U.S. ally, Japan hosts the biggest concentration of U.S. military forces outside the United States, including the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, aircraft and thousands of Marines.
China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province, says its intentions in the region are peaceful.
Leading two destroyers, two frigates, a submarine and two support ships, the Queen Elizabeth set sail from Britain in May and has sailed through waters including the contested South China Sea, of which China claims 90%, before arriving in Japan on Saturday, the furthest port call on its maiden deployment.
It has been joined by a U.S. destroyer and a frigate from the Dutch navy, and is also carrying U.S. F-35Bs, which fly alongside British stealth jets.
After the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group returns, two warships will continue the British presence in the region, as London looks for a bigger world presence following its departure from the European Union.
While docked in Yokosuka, which is the home of the USS Ronald Reagan, Washington’s only forward deployed carrier, the Queen Elizabeth will also host visits from executives from leading Japanese companies as post-Brexit Britain looks to drum up business deals. ($1 = 0.7230 pounds) (Source: Reuters)
04 Sep 21. Proposed EU military force would ‘divide Europe’, warns Nato’s secretary general. Brussels using Afghanistan’s fall to push for a united rapid reaction force – Jens Stoltenberg says it would overstretch ‘scarce resources.’ A new European Union military force advocated by senior EU officials after the fall of Afghanistan would weaken the transatlantic alliance and “divide Europe”, Nato’s secretary general has warned.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Jens Stoltenberg said that while he welcomed “more European efforts on defence” a planned EU rapid reaction force risked overstretching the “scarce resources” of Nato allies.
The former Norwegian prime minister, who has been taking part in G7 leaders’ discussions on Afghanistan, also claimed that failures by the country’s former political and military leaders were a key factor in the “sudden collapse” of Ashraf Ghani’s regime, saying that there were “no clear plans to defend the country” and Afghan soldiers “didn’t get paid… didn’t get ammunition”.
Separately, Mr Stoltenberg said “many questions” should be asked about whether Pakistan or its military had aided the Taliban’s efforts, as he said that the “special relationship” between the country and the Taliban “of course… is part of the story”.
His intervention comes after senior EU figures said that the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan showed that the EU needed to be able to act independently from the US.
A new poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 62 per cent of people believed that the international reputation of the US had been damaged by its handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some 41 per cent said the same of the UK, while only a fifth disagreed.
Nato was at the centre of efforts to evacuate Westerners and Afghans who had helped foreign armed forces, as the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month.
Last week, as EU defence ministers gathered in Slovenia, senior officials from the bloc said that the chaotic withdrawal of Western forces showed that the EU needed to be able to intervene militarily in a crisis without relying on US troops.
Senior EU figures are calling for a unit of up to 20,000 troops to be able to deploy quickly across the globe, with officials expected to present a draft proposal for a “first entry force” in November.
But, responding to reports of the proposals, Mr Stoltenberg said: “I welcome more European efforts on defence but that can never replace Nato and we need to make sure that Europe and North America band together. Any attempt to weaken the bond between North America and Europe will not only weaken Nato, it will divide Europe.”
He added: “This is partly about money – 80 per cent of our defence expenditure comes from non-EU allies… It’s about geography – Norway, Iceland in the North, Turkey in the South, the US, Canada, UK, in the West, are essential for the defence of Europe… But it’s also about politics. Because any weakening of the transatlantic bond will also divide Europe.”
Mr Stoltenberg continued: “Any attempt to establish parallel structures, duplicate the command structure, that will weaken our joint capability to work together because with scarce resources we need to prevent duplication and overlapping efforts. The specific proposals have not been discussed in Nato, we have not seen any details.”
Mr Stoltenberg said the deployment of thousands of “high readiness” troops by America, the UK, Turkey and Norway to aid the evacuation showed that non-EU Nato countries had “unique capabilities which are essential for the defence of Europe”.
Mr Stoltenberg acknowledged that the Taliban takeover was “of course… related to the fact that Nato allies decided to end this military mission in Afghanistan”.
But he added: “I think the lack of logistics support for the Afghan security forces was one of the main reasons why we saw this sudden collapse. And that’s a leadership responsibility. The brave soldiers, many of them trained by Nato so we know them very well, who have proven again and again that they’re willing to risk their lives in combat against the Taliban, they didn’t get paid, they didn’t get ammunition, there were no clear plans to defend the country. And then the president left the country. And of course, then all of that led to the sudden Taliban takeover. So we were aware of the risks of the Taliban returning, but no one anticipated the speed.”
Mr Stoltenberg said that “after investing heavily in the Afghan security forces over 20 years” it was “reasonable to expect that they would have been able to withstand the Taliban for a longer time”.
Mr Stoltenberg said he had launched a “lessons learned process” as part of Nato, which would be “clear-eyed and honest about the failures and what didn’t work” during the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan, “but also to recognise the gains we have made over these years”.
Last month, Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of MI6, said that the Taliban could not have completed their takeover of Afghanistan without backing from Pakistan. Asked about the allegations, Mr Stoltenberg said: “I will be careful about speculating too much. I think we should be willing to ask many questions, because there are obviously things that didn’t work as they should.”
He added: “We all know that Pakistan has a special relationship, a longstanding relationship with the Taliban that that the Taliban leadership operated in Pakistan. They stayed there for many, many years. So of course, that’s part of the story, the fact that the Taliban was able to operate from Pakistan.”
Mr Stoltenberg separately echoed remarks by Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, who has said that Britain will need to work with China and Russia to exert influence over the Taliban. “I strongly agree that the whole international community, including Russia and China, needs to work to prevent Afghanistan being a place where terrorist groups can operate freely and prepare, organise, plan, finance attacks against our own countries,” he said.
Mr Stoltenberg praised the role of British troops in the evacuation, saying: “It is critical, and this is from the bottom of my heart, also to praise the United Kingdom and the efforts of British soldiers in conducting the evacuation. That was a massive undertaking.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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