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Commons Defence Committee Critical of VSOs Clarity of Thought

#1
It's all over the press today, but I don't see it represented on Arrse, so here goes.

This is the opening paragraph of the CDC Report entitled "The situation in Iraq and Syria and the response to al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq al-Sham (DAESH)"

Conclusions and recommendations

1. It is our considered view, that the UK are right to wish to respond actively to the threat and horrors represented by DAESH and the current instability in Iraq. Failing to do so, would mark a substantial departure from the UK's long-term security partnership with both the United States and its partners in the Middle East. It would heighten perceptions that the UK has stepped back from its international role and could risk undermining wider commitment to the US-led coalition, possibly weakening the effort against DAESH. It would also make it harder for the UK to influence political developments thereafter. Furthermore, it would undermine the UK's national security interests through destabilisation of the region, and through DAESH's sponsorship of terrorist attacks and training of British foreign fighters in military tactics which could be used upon the UK public following their return home. We, therefore, believe that the UK should actively look for more ways to contribute constructively to the stability of Iraq. (Paragraph 83)

2. The first priority is for the UK to develop a clear assessment of the situation on the ground, and to be able to provide a clearly formulated strategy and campaign plan. We were shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the Service Chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK's objectives or plan in Iraq. We were troubled by the lack of clarity over who owned the policy—and indeed whether such a policy existed. (Paragraph 86)
After a decade and more (as a yardstick, that's approx one-third the duration of a General's full career) of fighting the lunatic fringe of Islam, and the military Brit has heads of shed have learned . . . . what, exactly?

FULL REPORT AVAILABLE HERE:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmdfence/690/69004.htm



 
#2
It gets worse: dig into the body of the main report, and what do we find?

We find that Unca Sam is in charge, and our VSOs appear to have simply stuck their thumbs up their jacksies and followed orders from The Pentagon:

88. At present, it appears from witnesses that mission analysis and planning has been left almost entirely to the United States, and that the UK is currently simply supporting the US plan, without attempting to arrive at any independent analysis of its detail, assumptions or viability. This means that the British military and public is being asked to support a plan, which the UK is in no position to evaluate independently. It also means that the UK does not have the detailed knowledge to debate credibly the analysis with the United States, and Iraqi partners, and shape and influence the strategy.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmdfence/690/69010.htm#a19
For Pete's sake - isn't that how we dug our Army into a hole in the sandpits of Eye-Rack and South Asia??
 
#3
Don't be silly - the plan is surely that we put boots on the ground from capabilities or capbadges that would otherwise be threatened by the SDSR. We must preserve the Loamshires at all costs, whether we need them or not.
 
#4
Oh, and then there's this bit - which rather gives the lie to any notion that Western efforts to create robust institutions in post-Saddam Eye-Rack have paid off:

96. However, when 3,000 DAESH fighters advanced against the Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul in June 2014, an estimated 30,000 soldiers deserted, leaving behind equipment which was then misappropriated by DAESH. Professor Toby Dodge has highlighted the varying reasons for the collapse at Mosul:

· Corruption: "Junior officers complain that defence officials demand bribes of $3,000 for a place at the Officer Training Academy, and the price of promotion to general is as high as $30,000. Repaying the costs of gaining promotion leads to the existence of 'ghost payrolls'—which supply the names of fictitious soldiers to the Ministry of Defence and have defrauded it of an estimated 25% of its annual wage budget—and the embezzlement of funds earmarked for soldiers' food and fuel. Reports suggest that soldiers in Mosul had to buy their own supplies from local markets and cook the food themselves. This level of corruption would have been obvious to frontline soldiers, undermining their ability to fight effectively while sapping their morale and willingness to defend the state."

· The then Prime Minister's subversion of the chain of command and the promotion of his close allies in to positions of power: "On 7 June 2014, Lieutenant General Ali Ghaidan and Lieutenant General Abboud Qanbar flew into the city to personally oversee the fight against ISIS.22 As the commander of Iraqi ground forces and the commander of joint operations respectively, they had benefited from their close relationship with Maliki. However, as ISIS advanced on the main army base in Mosul, Ghaidan and Qanbar quickly left the city, fleeing to Erbil and then flying back to Baghdad. Reports that they had made their escape disguised as civilians began to circulate soon after, further undermining the rank and file's commitment to defending the city."[117]

· It was reported that inadequate training and limited air support also contributed to the desertion of the soldiers from their posts.[118] It appears, at least anecdotally, that the senior commanders who are now portrayed as corrupt and incompetent place-men, were almost all trained by international forces. Dr Douglas Porch, in particular, emphasised the futility of such training programmes, in the absence of credible leadership and government.[119] At the very least any training of the Iraqi Security Forces should be related to institutional reform. The Iraqi Security Forces have already been trained and equipped extravagantly and repeatedly in the past decade. To do so again, without first addressing the structural issues, would be a total waste of time and money.
 
#5
It's refreshing to see it laid out so damningly. Pull no punches. When the leadership of your armed forces is shit at their job, just say so.
 
#6
"We were shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the Service Chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK's objectives or plan in Iraq."

Is that their fault, given the vacuum of leadership or policy from their political masters?
 
#7
It's refreshing to see it laid out so damningly. Pull no punches. When the leadership of your armed forces is shit at their job, just say so.
In fairness, it is equally critical of failures on the part of Gobmint, where clarity of political goals is concerned - but it reads to me like Der Grosse Generalstab are playing the same game now as they did when B'liar marched everyone off to Eye-Rack (to the tune of Yankee-Doodle-Dandy).

Not even a hint of John leMesurier/Sgt Wilson's "Are you sure that's wise, sir?"

I f#ck'n' despair, really I do.
 
#8
"We were shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the Service Chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK's objectives or plan in Iraq."

Is that their fault, given the vacuum of leadership or policy from their political masters?
In a word YES!

See my last.
 
#9
What does VSO mean?

Yes I tried Google and got voluntary, veteran etc but nothing that made sense in terms of top brass.
 
#10
VSO - Very Senior Officer.

An individual whom the nation assumes is possessed of great tactical and strategic acumen, able to provide wise policy guidance to Ministers and ensure that HMG does not commit ground forces to war without a clear statement of why, what we will be doing and most importantly, the conditions of how we will be leaving.

Assumptions don't always hold true mind you...
 
#11
"We were shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the Service Chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK's objectives or plan in Iraq."

Is that their fault, given the vacuum of leadership or policy from their political masters?
It has just occurred to me to suggest you try a thought experiment to test the legitimacy of that as an excuse, by asking yourself if it would have held water at the time the British Government decided it was necessary to deploy troops on the streets of Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.

I'm pretty sure the govt of the time was a bit short of specific political goals and strategy - and equally sure that this did not absolve the military leadership of responsibility for acting on the first principle of war within their own field of professional competence and accountability.
 
#13
VSO - Very Senior Officer.

An individual whom the nation assumes is possessed of great tactical and strategic acumen, able to provide wise policy guidance to Ministers and ensure that HMG does not commit ground forces to war without a clear statement of why, what we will be doing and most importantly, the conditions of how we will be leaving.

Assumptions don't always hold true mind you...
Thank you Jim. (Looks sheepish as he ought to have worked it out).

Maybe the overall approach might be different if we had a SoS for Defence who had some miltary experience. As far as I can see the last one was Tom King (89-92) who did National Service.

Instead we have one who is a director of Duncan Bannatynes gyms. Inspiring.
 
#14
'pologies - VSO is a widely used ARRSEbreviation and I am guilty of the sin of assumption . . .
Thank you as well Stonker.

I did try the Miasmic Herald that is the source of all knowledge (ARRSEpedia) but it delivered naught.
 
#15
Thank you as well Stonker.

I did try the Miasmic Herald that is the source of all knowledge (ARRSEpedia) but it delivered naught.
. . . . well, now you have something you could usefully contribute to ARRSEpedia, and I feel fulfilled by that knowledge :-D
 
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#16
"
Maybe the overall approach might be different if we had a SoS for Defence who had some miltary experience. As far as I can see the last one was Tom King (89-92) who did National Service."

Wouldnt make a blind bit of difference. The role of SofS is to essentially lead a department and oversee its business, supported by his advisors. I'd argue that coming in with a little bit of knowledge is a remarkably dangerous thing as it leads to assumptions, biases and other problems. Far better to come in cold and learn, ably supported by good advisors.
 
#17
Good point. I am happy to accept that good management skills is of value in itself.

But "ably supported by good advisors". Isn't the theme of this thread that this does not appear to be the case?
 
#18
"
Maybe the overall approach might be different if we had a SoS for Defence who had some miltary experience. As far as I can see the last one was Tom King (89-92) who did National Service."

Wouldnt make a blind bit of difference. The role of SofS is to essentially lead a department and oversee its business, supported by his advisors. I'd argue that coming in with a little bit of knowledge is a remarkably dangerous thing as it leads to assumptions, biases and other problems. Far better to come in cold and learn, ably supported by good advisors.
I agree - IIRC Tom King did offer thoughts based on his previous military experience during GW1, leading to mutterings among senior military along the lines of 'WTF does a national service subaltern know about modern operations'.
 
#19
It has just occurred to me to suggest you try a thought experiment to test the legitimacy of that as an excuse, by asking yourself if it would have held water at the time the British Government decided it was necessary to deploy troops on the streets of Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.

I'm pretty sure the govt of the time was a bit short of specific political goals and strategy - and equally sure that this did not absolve the military leadership of responsibility for acting on the first principle of war within their own field of professional competence and accountability.

In NI there was a rather obvious political imperative to somehow try to maintain the rule of law in a part of UK, and the military at least initially had existing legal and tactical frameworks to start work with.

What exactly is the political objective in Iraq that the politicians have given to the military to work towards? If the politicians have just told MoD to pitch in and support whatever the US are doing (but don't spend any money on it or use more than half a dozen bodies...), then presumably thats what they are doing "without attempting to arrive at any independent analysis of its detail, assumptions or viability".
 
#20
The problem VSOs have is that in one breath they bang on and on and on about how military matters are only properly understood by professionals such as themselves, are beyond the ken of civilians and can only be understood and directed by Regular soldiers; but when asked what the best course of action is they refuse to answer as they have not been given a full and detailed plan by politicians. How they don't give themselves whiplash is beyond me.

There's a reason Arrse is awash with threads on the future of the British Army, there's a reason the tide of critical stories in the press is growing; there's a reason the Army is smaller and looking to become smaller still. No doubt the usual suspects will be around to point out it's all the fault of politicians / civilians / the AR / political correctness and so on; but it isn't any of those, is it ? A fish rots from the head.

Indeed, one might conclude that the best plan to save the Army is to have a lot more civilian input and a lot less "proper soldiering".
 

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