RUSI in the News - May 2009

Citations of RUSI expert analysis and events in the global media, May 2009.

  • RUSI Experts in the News
  • Reports of RUSI Events

RUSI Experts in the News

The Future of Afghanistan

British and American commanders have expressed concerns over the growing number of casualties among troops serving in Afghanistan. Armies are preparing for a ‘surge in violence’ as 17,000 new US troops are set to clash with the Taliban. US General David McKiernan wrote in RUSI Journal that this ‘may result in a regrettable increase in casualties, both for civilians and ISAF forces but these conditions do not indicate a deteriorating security situation’. Despite his concerns of a growing death toll, he also noted that NATO members who impose restrictions on use of their troops grant the enemy a tactical advantage and make their mission appear ‘half-hearted’.

Commentators also stress the importance of the battle for control over the Helmand province. Michael Clarke outlined the risks imposed by a loss of the Helmand, but noted that to win control over the territory did not mean success at large. He said that the British and American forces ‘can lose the whole campaign on the home front through a disaster in Helmand, but it cannot win on the ground in Afghanistan itself without significant victories elsewhere’, and that ‘many more boots on the ground are urgently needed’.

Coverage: The Times, The Socialist Worker, The Scottish Sunday Express

Read RUSI analysis of Afghanistan here.


Tamil struggle ‘isn’t over yet’

With the capture of Mulathive Lagoon, the Sri Lankan government is celebrating its victory over the rebel group, the Tamil Tigers. Michael Clarke has noted the feeling of success, but warns that the era of Tamil resistance is not over yet. The Sri Lankan government must now face down ‘international outrage at the civilian suffering it has caused’ and ‘displace the appeal or fear of the insurgents’. Until it does this, Clarke warns that insurgency will not die out by itself.

Coverage: The Times, The Spectator

Read Michael Clarke’s analysis here.


North Korea escalates global nuclear tensions

After North Korea’s renouncement of the 1953 armistice, the international community has been alerted to the threat of the country’s possible possession of nuclear arms. Firing two missile tests on 25 May, North Korea poses a significant threat to international security. John Hemmings compares its army to that of Saddam Hussein at its peak, and he adds that on top of this, North Korea have approximately 60,000 troops trained as special forces, skilled in infiltration and asymmetric warfare. Hemmings ‘played down’ the possibility of serious confrontation, claiming instead that the missile tests were more about political rhetoric and internal struggle with the succession of Kim Jong Il. He stated that North Korea is ‘obsessed with succession, trying to scare everyone into backing away while they sort it out’.

As the Conservative Party reveal ideas for an air-launched missile system for Britain’s deterrent, Lee Willet expresses doubt. He concludes that an air-based system would be ‘vulnerable to attack’ and that ‘only a submarine-based ballistic missile capability, hidden at sea, provides the survivability necessary to give deterrence credibility’.

Coverage: The Guardian

Read RUSI analysis of North Korea here.


Counter-terrorism in the UK

After the Intelligence and Security Committee issued a report on 19 May regarding the 7/7 bombings and the involvement of the MI5 with the terrorists before the events, Margaret Gilmore highlighted the difficulties facing the MI5 in terms of resources. Recruiting the ‘right type of person’, Gilmore noted, is a rigorous process which takes time and effort as opposed to just financial aid. The MI5 is unlikely to be granted many more resources, she says, since it has already doubled in size since 9/11 and the UK faces problems other than terrorism – like climate change, threat of floods and pandemics – which also require funding. Gilmore calls for leaders of the Muslim community to ‘be aware of the signs’ and for more information to be made public by the agencies.

The West Yorkshire Police have been accused of racism after claims from the West Yorkshire Black Police Association that the force has a ‘real lack of community and cultural understanding’, tending to ‘stereotype officers and staff and their families from ethnic backgrounds’. Garry Hindle, head of security and counter-terrorism at the Royal United Services Institute, said: ‘If there is a climate of racism in West Yorkshire Police that is going to be a problem because it will hold back their ability from a counter-terrorism perspective.’

Coverage: The Daily Telegraph,

Read Margaret Gilmore’s analysis of the Intelligence and Security Committee report here.


A woman’s place in close combat

The MoD held a review this month of women in close combat roles. Servicewomen are currently excluded from roles where there is a requirement to kill the enemy face-to-face, but a review of this position is required every eight years under the European Community Equal Treatment Directive. Amyas Godfrey, an associate fellow at RUSI, stated that the recruitment of women into cavalry and infantry regiments would not be welcome, ‘not because they are not capable’, but because the ‘dynamics of 18-year-old soldiers’ would mean that ‘they would be fighting for attention’, which would hinder cohesion within units. Godfrey stated that he would support all-female infantry units, but that this would be very unlikely, due to the low numbers of female recruits.

Coverage: BBC, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

RUSI Events in the News

Tenth Missile Defence Conference

Tensions about missile capabilities also continue to mount between the US and Iran. At the RUSI Tenth Missile Defence Conference on 28 May, a senior Russian official accused the US of over exaggerating the threat from Iran, predicting that there would be no significant menace from the Middle East for ‘at least a decade to come’. Alexander Sternik, of the Russian Embassy in London, criticised America’s plan to site missile interceptors in Poland and a large radar in the Czech Republic. The criticism comes at a time when the Obama Administration is conducting a review of American policy on missile defence, which another of the conference’s speakers, Nancy Morgan, says is designed to make missile defence ‘more affordable and effective’.

Coverage: The Guardian

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