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16 Jul 21. Eurodrone effort gets $118m funding boost, updated production timeline. Europe’s fledgling Eurodrone program received a boost Thursday in the form of a €100m (U.S. $118m) grant from the European Union, while an official promised a long expected, €7.1bn production contract will be signed by October. The grant for the pan-European medium-altitude, long-endurance drone was announced in Rome, where officials from manufacturers met with the head of European defense contracting agency OCCAR, which is handling the deal.
“This is the beginning of European defense. The member states have finally decided to rely on European industry. It is an important step towards independence,” said Adm. Matteo Bisceglia, the director of OCCAR, which stands for Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation.
The Eurodrone project to build a twin-turboprop aircraft —in both an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance version and a battlefield version — aims to wean Europe off its reliance on U.S. and Israeli UAVs.
Led by French companies Airbus and Dassault Aviation as well as Italian firm Leonardo, the project envisages a €7.1 billion production of 20 sets of three drones for four national customers — Spain, Italy, Germany and France — with deliveries in 2028.
The long-awaited signoff on a production contract with the nations will take place in October, said Bisceglie. “The drone is a step to having something made by European industry which is ITAR-free,” he said, referring to the U.S. regulatory regime dubbed International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
The recently announced €100m grant for the Eurodrone program comes from the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, an EU initiative aimed at supporting the bloc’s defense industry.
Another €37 million grant was also announced to support a European consortium developing the European Secure Software-defined Radio program. Speaking at the announcement ceremony, an Airbus official stressed that the Eurodrone would be the only UAV able to fly in unsegregated European airspace.
“What makes Eurodrone different from any other drone is that it is civil certification-ready,” said Francisco Sanchez Segura, Airbus executive vice president and head of engineering. “We raise the game to a higher safety standard.”
Asked what technologies were being included now to ensure that safety, Sanchez Segura said it was more a case of leaving space in the drone to accommodate the right technologies as and when customers wanted them.
“We are leaving provisions both in volume and system architecture so we can plug in those systems when they are required. So they are not in today maybe, but there is room in the aircraft to allocate them in the future.” (Source: Defense News)
15 Jul 21. Ranger Regiment’s first task likely be fighting Islamists in East Africa, says Defence Secretary. Speaking to The Telegraph in Fort Bragg, Ben Wallace outlines how Britain is already identifying missions for the new unit. Boris Johnson in an armoured vehicle of the new Ranger Regiment during a visit to Aldershot Garrison in Hampshire to mark Armed Forces Week. The Army’s new Ranger Regiment’s first deployment will likely be to fight Islamists in East Africa, said the Defence Secretary.
Warning of the danger from the Islamist al-Shabaab group, Ben Wallace said: “We have to help Somalia [and] we have to help Kenya be resistant.”
Recent history of intervention ahead of a crisis showed “an awful lot of ‘going in at the last minute’”, he said.
Deploying special operations forces to global trouble spots before state failure would “help avoid catastrophic failure” in the future.
Speaking to The Telegraph in Fort Bragg, the home of the US Green Berets, upon which the Ranger Regiment is based, Mr Wallace outlined how Britain’s network of defence attachés would be expanded to help identify missions for the new unit.
“We’re going to invest in our defence attaché network, improve their capabilities, improve their training, improve that quality, improve how they work with the Foreign Office, and other government departments in commercial [activity],” he said.
Adding, “they have to be our eyes and ears”, he said the network would also seek to identify trade and security and defence opportunities.
“Defence diplomacy matters. We never really put our heart and soul into it, and we should do.”
He said defence’s contribution to Global Britain was to help improve resilience in fragile areas, “so conflicts don’t break out, countries don’t slide into terrorism and corruption doesn’t take root”.
“Defence plays a really important role in delivering that. Kenya is really important to us and Somalia is a big challenge [with] al-Shabaab, [where] British tourists get targeted.
“It’s not in our interest for our friends to come under attack.”
The United Nations Security Council voted in February this year to renew the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a peacekeeping force first deployed in the country in 2007.
UN members unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the mission in the country, backing the Somali government to continue fighting al-Shabaab.
AMISOM has nearly 20,000 troops on the ground, mainly from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, but in recent years it had struggled to make headway against the terrorists.
Mr Wallace said the new Ranger battalions would “absolutely” be busy, and Britain’s interests in East Africa should be supported.
As he continued his global trip to build defence relationships, the Defence Secretary outlined how the Ranger Regiment in five years’ time could include elements from the RAF and Royal Navy, as well as reservists from 77 Brigade.
“People join the Armed Forces to be forward and present and busy,” he said.
“You don’t provide resilience to your allies cutting your toenails in bases in Britain. You provide resilience to your allies by being out and about and helping them. That’s what Britain’s good at.”
Captain Anthony Kirkham, 35, based in Fort Bragg and attached to the US 82nd Airborne Division from the Royal Irish Regiment, said service in the new Ranger Regiment would be popular in the military.
“People join to deploy and have an effect. It’s operations, guaranteed,” he said.
Also in North Carolina, meeting US Special Operations commanders, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the Chief of the General Staff, said: “The world is becoming more complicated and one of the implications for the Army is that there’s a greater demand for … not just special forces but specialist capabilities.
He added: “Our special forces community has been very stretched by the demands of the post-9/11 climate.”
He said the UK Special Forces Group was now having to “manage some of the implications of the rise of great power competition”, a very different proposition from that of fighting a counter-insurgency or a regional counter-terrorist campaign. “That has been quite absorbing,” he said.
General Sir Mark said the Rangers would act as a “third piece of the jigsaw”, an interface between conventional and special forces.
“We’re going to build on the success of our specialised infantry battalions…and take it to the next step, which is to convert an infantry capability into a specialised whole-army capability.
“We are at an inflection point. This isn’t a moment when you’re flicking the light switch. This will be a journey over several years.
“As part of that trajectory, one will see a re-balancing of outputs between tier-one special forces and Army special forces, of which the Ranger Regiment is the prime,” he added. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
15 Jul 21. Milley Marks Full Operational Capability of NATO Command in Norfolk. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff marked the full operational capability of NATO’s Joint Force Command — Norfolk, saying the command is integral to the alliance’s strategy for maintaining peace.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke to assembled dignitaries on the USS Kearsarge along with the U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Andrew L. Lewis, the Joint Force Command — Norfolk and U.S. Second Fleet commander.
The NATO command is the only Joint Force Command in North America. If deterrence fails, the mission of the command is to fight and win the Battle of the Atlantic.
Preventing that war is paramount. “In my view, the world is entering a period of potential instability as some nations … and clearly terrorist groups and perhaps some rogue actors, are seeking to undermine and challenge the existing international order,” the general said. “They seek to weaken the system of cooperation and collective security that has been in existence for some time. The dynamic nature of today’s current environment is counterbalanced by an order that was put in place 76 years ago, at the end of World War II.”
That war was the most destructive in human history. Between 1914 — the start of World War I— and 1945 — the end of the second World War more than 150 million people were killed. These were wars between great powers and they were incredibly destructive. “That is the butcher’s bill of great power war,” Milley said. “That’s what this international order that’s been in existence for seven and a half decades, is designed to prevent. That’s what JFC-Norfolk is all about. It’s to prevent that outcome.”
The addition of nuclear weapons made great power war even more unthinkable. Leaders in the immediate post-war world gathered to set up processes, policies, laws and organizations commonly called ” the international order” today.
NATO was a brainchild of those leaders and the defensive alliance was designed to provide collective security for Europe and North America. “Without question, NATO has been the most successful military alliance in human history,” Milley said. “And NATO is still very much a vital and critical part of our regional security framework, and indeed, our global security framework. In fact, in my view, it’s the linchpin that holds together the period of great power peace that we are now enjoying.”
The success of the alliance is being challenged, the chairman said. The international order is under attack. “Nations, non-state actors, sponsors of terrorism, cyber criminals are all the backdrop of the current security environment,” the chairman said.
Another factor that is concerning is the change in the character of war, the general said. Milley defines the character of war as “how we fight, the organizations we fight with and the technologies that we use.”
The last time there was a major change was between the world wars with the introduction of aviation, tanks, new naval technologies and the technologies — radio, radar and more — to tie them all together.
All nations had the same technologies, but only one got it right, at first. “Germany, combined those technologies, and the German way of war, and combine them to organizations and leader development in such a way that Nazi Germany was able to overrun Western Europe in 18 months,” Milley said. “Other countries combined it in different ways. And they didn’t have success.
“And I would tell you that the same thing is happening right this minute,” he continued. “There’s a whole set of technologies that are driving fundamental change.”
The United States military and other NATO allies have to get that change right. “If we don’t put the pedal to the metal, and do this right, over the next 10 or 15 years, we are condemning a future generation,” he said. “I would argue that the country that masters those technologies, combines them with their doctrine, develops their leadership to take maximum advantage of them, is likely going to have significant and perhaps even decisive advantage at the beginning of the next war.”
NATO is still the most powerful alliance in the world, and the United States is still the most powerful and capable military in the world, the general said. “The challenge to us is, we have to keep it that way,” he said. “We have to maintain the readiness of the present, we have to modernize for the future. We are ready right now. Those who think we are not are mistaken. And any adversary that seeks to challenge the United States military resolve will do well to respect this military, and our alliances and NATO. (Source: US DoD)
14 Jul 21. Troubles legacy: Victims’ concern over government statement. Victims of the Troubles have expressed concern ahead of an expected government statement on how it plans to deal with Northern Ireland’s violent past. It is believed the proposals involve a statute of limitations that would end all prosecutions in Troubles-related cases pre-dating the 1998 peace deal.
Some victims groups believe such a move would effectively introduce an amnesty for those who committed serious crimes.
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis will address MPs later.
It is believed any proposed statute of limitations would apply to former members of the security forces as well as ex-paramilitaries.
‘Pain and trauma’
However, Northern Ireland’s five main political parties, the Irish government and several victims’ groups have been highly critical of any suggested blanket ban on prosecutions for Trouble-era offences.
“Victims and survivors should not be treated this way,” the WAVE Trauma Centre said in on Tuesday when news of the planned statement emerged.
The victims’ group added that if Mr Lewis “is serious about effectively dealing with legacy he must talk to those most impacted by pain and trauma”.
Reports that the secretary of state is about to announce a plan to end Troubles prosecutions also angered relatives of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine, was among 21 people killed in the IRA bomb attacks, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to protest against the reported proposal.
“At what point did your government lose all sight of its moral, ethical and judicial backbone? ” Ms Hambleton’s letter asks.
“How is this considered to be a deterrent for any future terrorist organisations?” she added.
Victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 also expressed anger over the reports.
“We see this as the British government’s cynical attempt to bring in an amnesty and a plan to bury its war crimes,” said a statement from the families.
“The Ballymurphy Massacre inquest findings in May this year is the perfect example of why there should not be a statue of limitations.”
The expected government statement follows significant recent developments in a number of high-profile Troubles prosecution cases.
In May, two former paratroopers were acquitted of the 1972 murder of Official IRA man Joe McCann after their trial collapsed due to the inadmissibility of prosecution evidence.
Both soldiers had been interviewed by a police legacy unit, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), in 2010 and it was that evidence which formed a substantial part of the prosecution’s case.
But the judge ruled that evidence inadmissible and as the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) did not appeal against that decision, the case could not proceed.
Then, earlier this month, the McCann murder trial collapse had implications for two other high-profile cases – the Bloody Sunday trial and the prosecution for the murder of 15-year-old Daniel Hegarty.
The PPS met the families of Daniel Hegarty and two men killed on Bloody Sunday to explain that given “related evidential features” to the McCann case, prosecutors no longer believed there was a reasonable prospect that key evidence against the soldiers accused of their loved one’s murders would be ruled admissible.
The Bloody Sunday case was due to be formally dismissed in court last week, but instead it was adjourned following a legal challenge by a brother of one of the men shot dead on Bloody Sunday. (Source: BBC)
13 Jul 21. UK and US extend carrier cooperation agreement. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin extended an enhanced cooperation agreement on carrier operations as they met in Washington. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his US counterpart Lloyd Austin have extended an agreement to enhance cooperation on aircraft carrier operations as they met in Washington.
The two met in Washington DC for a day of high-level talks on a range of shared security challenges, discussing the UK-US defence partnership, NATO, Afghanistan and the Carrier Strike Group.
UK-US defence cooperation is the broadest, deepest and most advanced of any two countries in the world, combining the biggest defence budget in the world with the biggest in Europe, and the pair discussed opportunities to further deepen that partnership.
Mr Wallace and Mr Austin extended an existing agreement covering Enhanced Cooperation on Carrier Operations and Maritime Power Projection, due to expire in January 2022, by an additional year.
It comes as UK and US forces make their way 26,000 nautical miles around the world as part of the UK-led Carrier Strike Group (CSG21), projecting reach and influence and reassuring allies with a series of over 70 engagements, joint exercises and operations.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace sai, “It was great to meet up with Lloyd Austin again after our meetings in London and Brussels. The US continues to be the UK’s most important defence partner and we are working together, across all domains, to confront future threats. There is much to do but the extension we agreed will ensure that we can cooperate even more seamlessly with our forces across the globe.”
The extended agreement lays down guidelines to ensure the generation, training and operation of both nations’ carrier forces are harmonised and effective, maximising and maintaining interoperability as both forces evolve and modernise to meet the threats of the future.
The unique interoperability of the UK and US carrier forces is demonstrated by the key role US forces are playing in the UK’s current Carrier Strike Group deployment, CSG21. Nine ships, 32 aircraft and 3,700 personnel set sail in May, led by the UK’s new aircraft carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, on the Strike Group’s seven-month maiden operational deployment around the world.
The integration of US destroyer USS The Sullivans and ten Marine Corps F-35B jets into CSG21 shows our intent to further improve interoperability between NATO Allies as we jointly develop 5th generation carrier strike capability. The deployment is emblematic of how the US and UK work together to defend our shared values, uphold the rules-based international order and tackle the threats of the future. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
12 Jul 21. Will the FCAS and Tempest jet programs merge? Germany’s top Air Force officer hopes so. European nations are pursuing two separate programs to build sixth-generation aircraft and a bevy of advanced systems within the next two decades, but at least one lead Air Force official hopes the efforts will merge.
The Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System, or FCAS, program is about to launch the next phase of its research and development effort this fall, which is around the same time Team Tempest — led by the United Kingdom and including Italy and Sweden — hopes to kick off a new R&D phase.
Both are years away from a flight-ready demonstrator aircraft. In the meantime, the German Air Force chief of staff said he has spoken to his Italian and British counterparts about possibly combining efforts.
“It can be that we go on different tracks. Hopefully we will merge eventually,” Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz said in an exclusive interview with Defense news en route to Berlin, Germany, from Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport outside of Constanta, Romania.
Gerhartz noted that the operational impetus behind the Tempest program is “exactly the same as what we think will be important in 2040-plus.” Both efforts will result in a sixth-generation fighter jet with new engines, advanced sensors and weapons, increased automation, and the ability to manipulate unmanned systems and coordinate with existing platforms.
Interoperability is at the forefront of European defense officials’ minds — and that of their allies — while debating future weapon systems. Gerhartz noted in a speech at Mihail Kogălniceanu that NATO allies used to run into challenges when they tried to build multinational aircraft, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon during the 1980s.
France eventually opted to leave the Eurofighter Typhoon program to develop its own fighter jet, the Rafale, and the nations that ultimately took ownership of the Typhoons developed separate configurations and systems, which impeded full interoperability.
Now, however, these allies are “striving for commonality,” Gerhartz said in the interview. He noted that during the run-up to the Eurodrone UAV program, each of the four nations of Germany, France, Spain and Italy had their own weapon system in mind. “But in the end, we all agreed on one” design, he noted. “We really have to make sure that we stay in commonality to make maximum use [and] added value out of a common project.”
The idea of Team Tempest and FCAS merging has been brought up before. Dirk Hoke, who until July 1 was CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, noted last summer that Europe “can’t afford two new systems.”
Airbus is serving as Germany’s industry lead for FCAS, while Dassault represents France and Indra leads Spain’s participation.
FCAS observers have questioned whether the French and German industry groups and governments can work through key differences to progress with the program. Dassault and Airbus reached an agreement in April, after multiple reports of issues regarding workshare splits and intellectual property, while the three ministries of defense announced their own trinational deal shortly thereafter.
Germany’s parliament in late June approved funds for FCAS to move into the next two technology phases, 1B and 2. The Bundestag Budget and Defence committees approved a package of about €4.5bn (U.S. $5.3bn) for those two phases, which would run between 2021 and 2027, respectively, culminating in a prototype test flight. The so-called FCAS system of systems is scheduled to be operational in 2040.
The German Defence Ministry also requested an additional pot of funds that would supplement any German-specific efforts related to FCAS, such as the development of an avionics test bed, additional satellite communications capabilities and multilayered sensor integration.
Although lawmakers approved funds, additional hurdles remain amid federal elections. If the Green Party sees success in the September elections, as is predicted, its reticence for nuclear weapons and armed drones could severely impact the program, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
For some aerospace observers, there is certainly the case for two fighter jets: one pan-European model, and one solely built by the French.
“That’s the way it’s always been … but Brexit has disrupted this template,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for U.S.-based marketing analysis group Teal Group.
If history repeats itself, it would not be surprising if Germany were to eventually join Team Tempest, Aboulafia noted.
Meanwhile, Team Tempest is also hoping to enter its next phase before fall. The United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding last year, with the plan to launch an trinational program this summer. U.K. defense officials have also hinted at partnerships with Japan, and have left the door open for other nations to join the program.
BAE Systems leads the industry participation for Tempest, while Leonardo, MBDA and Rolls-Royce are also involved. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
12 Jul 21. Consultation open around CNC role. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launches consultation on the role and remit of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has recently launched a consultation on the role and remit of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), giving interested parties the chance to have their say on the issue.
The CNC is the armed police force in charge of protecting civil nuclear sites and nuclear materials in England, Scotland and Wales. The consultation seeks views on whether legislation should be introduced to amend the remit and powers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
Chief Constable Simon Chesterman said: “As a part of the wider policing family, our core role at the CNC remains the security and protection of the nation’s civil nuclear infrastructure and failure to deliver this is not an option. The CNC and CNPAs core objective in the project is to maintain our core Mission and to remain effective, efficient and relevant through a period of change in the civil nuclear sector.
“Our Ambition is to be recognised nationally and internationally as the United Kingdom’s leading organisation for the provision of protective policing for the civil nuclear industry and other critical national infrastructure.
“This consultation will investigate whether changing the legislation will allow us to utilise our expertise in deterrence and armed response, either to support other critical infrastructure sites or to assist other police forces in an emergency. I would urge anyone who lives in an area with a site we protect, or who works in either the policing or nuclear sector to have a read and see what we hope to achieve with the support of BEIS as our sponsoring government department.”
Read the BEIS Consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/civil-nuclear-constabulary-service-expansion-and-diversification
12 Jul 21. The money spigot opens for mainland Europe’s next-gen fighter. German lawmakers approved funding for the French-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System last month, paving the way for a decades-long race to build a futuristic aerial weapon system that could transform the European defense industry landscape.
Program nations have always considered Germany’s parliamentary approval a potential bottleneck, so the Bundestag’s Budget and Defence committees’ blessing was something of a final hurdle to kick the research program into high gear.
Berlin will spend upward of $4bn on the trinational phases 1B and 2, which include design and some initial work toward a flyable aircraft prototype. Given the assumption that France and Spain would contribute similar amounts to FCAS, an eye-popping $12bn or more is slated to go toward the development stage, set to begin after 2027.
German lawmakers made note of the political pressure they felt to let the program advance, effectively signing off on an investment that is still awaiting the results of a key scoping study, not to mention a shovel-ready industry contract.
In particular, leaders in Berlin and Paris consider FCAS something of an uber-program for Europe that could breathe life into the continent’s defense ambitions — or altogether topple them.
The main industry players are Dassault Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines for France; Airbus Defence and Space as well as MTU Aero Engines for Germany; and Indra Sistemas and Airbus’ Spanish subsidiary for Spain.
While the program is meant to equally represent all three nations, there are some formal arrangements in place that afford greater prominence to France. For example, the contracting authority resides with the French military procurement agency DGA. And within the management structure, French officials will fill the jobs of program director, technical director and operations lead, with Germany and Spain naming deputies.
Work on the future weapon is split into seven “pillars,” as program officials have come to call the division of labor. Each pillar has one lead company and two supporting companies, ensuring all countries are represented at all levels, though to varying degrees.
Work on the program’s central aircraft — the most prized element — is led by Dassault, with Germany’s and Spain’s Airbus operations as support.
The lead on engine development falls to a German-French consortium of Safran and MTU, with Spain’s ITP Aero as the main subcontractor. The area of unmanned components, which includes drones and manned-unmanned teaming concepts, is led by Airbus Defence and Space and is supported by France’s MBDA and the Spanish SATNUS industry alliance.
Germany’s lead company also is in charge of the “simulation environment” work package, but the “simulation environment” pillar is equally shared among the three national primes.
Spain’s Airbus subsidiary will spearhead sensor development, with France’s Thales and a German industry consortium of Hensoldt, Diehl Defence, EST, and Rohde & Schwarz in a subcontractor role. Spain, by way of Airbus, also has the lead on the seventh pillar, which is about advanced stealth technologies.
There is also a new deliverable called “Item 0” on the books, German officials wrote to lawmakers last month when they made the case for the program to proceed. Equally shared among the three national primes, the goal is to consolidate study results thus far into a preliminary design for the Next Generation Weapon System — roughly all FCAS elements devoted to combat — and keep tabs on the interplay between the various program pillars.
Given the complicated national and industrial interests at stake, the program promises a turbulent ride in the years ahead. The intellectual property regime alone is all but certain to keep an army of lawyers on their toes for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a really, really complex system; it’s not just an aircraft,” said Jean-Pierre Maulny, deputy director of the Paris-based French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs. As the program progresses, he said, the work has the potential to advance the kind of European arms industry consolidation that officials on the continent have been talking about for years.
Meanwhile, the negotiations so far have shown that “the companies want to protect their interests, which is normal,” Maulny said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
11 Jul 21. Afghanistan not yet going to ‘hell in a handcart’, says Gen Sir Nick Carter. The Head of Armed Forces’ comments come after Boris Johnson tells MPs he has reservations about the deteriorating situation in the country. The Head of Armed Forces has insisted it is too soon to say that Afghanistan is going to “hell in a handcart” after Boris Johnson voiced concerns about the country.
Gen Sir Nick Carter cautioned against “writing off” Afghanistan because “the truth may become a prophecy”.
He said: “We’re very quick to suggest this is gonna go to hell in a handcart. It’s too early to suggest that.”
It comes after the Prime Minister told MPs last week he was not “happy” about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as he admitted he was “apprehensive” and that “the situation is fraught with risks”.
Mr Johnson later paid tribute to all those who had served in Afghanistan, telling the Commons: “The threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valour and by the sacrifice of the Armed Forces of Britain, and many other countries.
“We are safer because of everything they did.”
However Sir Nick insisted on Sunday that “Afghanistan is a very different country to the one that we entered in 2001”.
He cited a “burgeoning civil society” and the fact that the country had its own media and “an education system”.
He told The Andrew Marr Show: “The plain fact is that not a day goes by without me thinking of the 457 British military who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
“And I think that all of us can hold our heads up high who fought there because we weren’t defeated tactically on the battlefield, and our military showed phenomenal courage and remarkable adaptability against what was a very, very challenging opponent.”
Sir Nick added that he was hopeful for a “political compromise” between the Taliban and Afghan government, but warned of the “risk that the state could fracture, and you could end up with the different ethnicities, breaking the country up as they did in the 1990s”.
He said that the most likely way a “compromise” could be achieved would be if the Afghan government was able to retain the provincial capitals.
Sir Nick, pictured above, said the Afghan government is “pursuing a very sensible strategy of consolidation at the moment”, where they are “not going to fight for every rural area because they don’t need to”.
His comments come as the country has seen a cascade of Taliban gains in recent weeks.
In Kandahar, India was forced to evacuate dozens of diplomats and security personnel from its consulate, as heavy fighting continued around the southern city.
“The Consulate General of India has not been closed,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. “However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India based personnel have been brought back for the time being.
“This is purely a temporary measure until the situation stabilises. The consulate continues to operate through our local staff members.”
A security source said about 50 Indian personnel, including some six diplomats, were evacuated.
Several nations have begun to scale back diplomatic operations as rural districts have been swept from government control.
Last week, Russia and Iran both said they had closed consulates in the north of the country.
Earlier this month China also evacuated 210 nationals from the country.
The Taliban claimed last week that they now control 85 per cent of Afghanistan, much of it grabbed since early May when America began the final stages of its withdrawal.
In Helmand province, for example, Taliban fighters were reported to have captured Garmsir district centre, south of the capital Lashkar Gah.
However, the Afghan government strongly denies the Taliban have made such significant gains and say the militants have yet to take a major town or city. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
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