The British Army (Light Dragoons Blog News) is resistant to the idea of deploying thousands of troops on to UK streets in the event of a terrorist attack on home soil, despite the perceived increase in threat from groups such as Islamic State.
Although the army has drawn up detailed contingency plans, it is understood to be reluctant to follow the example of the French military, which sent 10,000 troops on to the streets of Paris and elsewhere around the country after the Charlie Hebdo attack1.
Plans for up to 5,100 troops to augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties were revealed in documents accidentally uploaded to the National Police Chief Council s (NPCC) website, according to a Mail on Sunday report2.
The plan was contained in the minutes of a closed session of the NPCC held on 22 April in a hotel in Leicester. The minutes were then inadvertently uploaded to the council s website.
While the Ministry of Defence has plans for backing up the police following major terrorist attacks, there is resistance to committing large numbers of troops for indefinite policing duties.
Part of the argument against is that the army, having been cut down from 102,000 to 82,000, is already overstretched and that if 5,000 troops were to be deployed to the streets, it would leave a significant hole in the number available for military duties.
There could also be a morale problem after the initial novelty of being posted to the streets begins to wear off, with the attendant boredom of guard duty day after day.
But the biggest single objection is that once troops are committed to the streets, it is hard to pull them back. It would require the security services to declare that the threat level had dropped sufficiently to allow them to return to barracks.
France initially deployed 10,000 troops, 7,000 of whom are to become a presence on the streets for the foreseeable future, the president, Fran ois Hollande, has announced. Italy, too, has deployed 5,000 troops on its streets.
David Cameron put the British Army (Light Dragoons Blog News) on standby after the Charlie Hebdo attack but in the end accepted the arguments against deployment. The issue has been discussed at meetings of Cobra, the government crisis group which brings ministers together with senior military and security staff.
The plan reportedly revealed in the leaked minutes is codenamed Operation Temperer and would see troops backing up the police in guarding potential targets while counter-terrorist officers and MI5 hunted for attackers.
The week after the Charlie Hebdo attack Cameron asked Britain s counter-terrorism police3 to continue working with the military on contingency plans for attacks by roving armed bands, citing not just the example of Paris but the multiple attacks in 2008 in Mumbai.
When Tony Blair was prime minister, he authorised the deployment of 450 troops in 2003 to help with security at Heathrow airport and elsewhere around London.
During the Northern Ireland Troubles the army deployed 21,000 troops.
A leaked report published on Wednesday by The Guardian 1 implicates Egypt s armed forces of participating in the disappearance, torture and killing of civilians across the country during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, an uprising in which the military initially professed neutrality before President Hosni Mubarak 2 was removed from power . The document 3 is a 16-page chapter from a presidential fact-finding commission that submitted its findings in January to President Mohamed Morsi, according to The Guardian . Mr .
Morsi is Egypt s first freely elected president and a former high-ranking leader in the Muslim Brotherhood . The freelance reporters who obtained the document, Evan Hill and Muhammad Mansour, did not reveal who leaked it to them . The revelation is sure to put pressure on both Mr .
Morsi and the military, a dominant force in Egyptian economics and politics that receives more than $1 billion in military assistance from the United States each year . The fact-finding commission was hand-picked by Mr . Morsi, according to The Guardian s report .
4 The document, which is in Arabic, cites specific cases of civilian disappearances, torture and death at the hands of the Egyptian military . Portions of the report, including testimony provided by witnesses and family members to the fact-finding commission, have been highlighted and translated 5 as part of an interactive feature on the Guardian Web site . Translated portions of the report include the testimony of a man named Abdel Moneim Abdel Hamid Fayyed Allam, who told the commission that his son, a lawyer named Osama Abdel Moneim Abdel Hamid, disappeared after leaving their home in the country on Feb .
1, 2011, to join protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo . Mr . Allam told the commission: I headed to Cairo to search for him in hospitals and police stations and had a number of lawyers with me, after that, I received a call from a young person called Hani Heikal, and he told me that he was with my son Osama in military prison, and he was tortured with many people, and that Osama died after severe torture, and he does not know where he was buried .
Immediately after his quoted testimony, the document describes how Mr . Allam found his son dead 19 days later: Allam started searching for his son in the morgue until 19 February 2011, when he was informed by a lawyer that his son Osama was in Zeinhom Morgue, and he went there and recognised him, and he saw his son was misshapen from severe torture, and his skull fractured, and had signs of beating on his body; and Allam accused the military intelligence who kidnapped him with general intelligence and the officers who tortured him at the military prison and the Egyptian museum and all who participated in this crime . The military officially refused to take a side during the 2011 uprising that ousted Mr .
Mubarak . After 18 days of street protests the military assumed control of the country, elevating a council of 21 senior officers as the country s supreme leaders . But the military s position as a guardian of the revolution was soon badly tarnished by a series 6 of violent 7 crackdowns 8 on protesters 9 and high-profile accusations of torture and sexual assault in custody 10 , as well as the widespread use of military trials for civilians 11 .
In 2011, Egypt s military government tried more than 12,000 civilians 12 in front of military courts, a number that far outstripped the number of civilians given such trials during three decades of Mr . Mubarak s autocratic reign . While the military may no longer be viewed as a defender of the popular will, the document published by The Guardian is notable because it suggests that the Morsi government may have established evidence of military wrongdoing during the transitional period .
This will put pressure on both the country s newly elected leaders and the old barons in the military, who denied the report 13 to an Egyptian newspaper, El Balad, on Wednesday morning . However, Egyptian human rights activists quoted by The Guardian said that this leak might not be enough to spark an investigation of the military s activities during the early days of the revolution, because according to a constitution written by Mr . Morsi s political allies last fall and passed in a popular referendum in December, the military maintains the sole authority to investigate allegations of crimes committed by its members .
The constitution is a bar forever, said Heba Morayef, the Egypt director for Human Rights Watch . We ve been arguing from the start that there will never be military accountability within the military judiciary . It s just never going to happen in Egypt, she said .
References ^ published on Wednesday by The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) ^ Egypt Erupts in Jubilation as Mubarak Steps Down (www.nytimes.com) ^ document (www.guardian.co.uk) ^ Evan Hill (twitter.com) ^ highlighted and translated (www.guardian.co.uk) ^ series (www.nytimes.com) ^ violent (www.nytimes.com) ^ crackdowns (www.nytimes.com) ^ protesters (www.nytimes.com) ^ high-profile accusations of torture and sexual assault in custody (www.nytimes.com) ^ military trials for civilians (www.nytimes.com) ^ more than 12,000 civilians (www.hrw.org) ^ denied the report (www.el-balad.com)
Leaked Report to Egypt's President Implicates Army in Torture and …
On a tour of duty to Afghanistan, two Irish members of the British army talk to Ciara Kenny about life as soldiers and their reasons for joining up I wouldn t talk about it in the pub in Dublin The Royal Dragoon Guards on tour in Helmand province in Afghanistan I have a long family history in the military, says Conor, a 25-year-old from Dublin . My great grandfather was a member of the Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army during the first World War, and fought in the Battle of the Somme in France and Passchendaele in Belgium . My granduncle joined the Royal Tank Corps in the 1930s before the second World War, lying about his age to get enlisted .
His stories about becoming a troop sergeant, fighting Rommel in north Africa and escaping as a prisoner of war in Yugoslavia had a huge influence on me . I started thinking seriously about a career in the army while studying business, economics and social studies at Trinity College . I never had any real desire to pursue economics or finance as a career, and craved a challenge .
During my final year I applied for the British Army Officer Academy at Sandhurst in Surrey, and was offered a place for the following year . With the 12 months I had free, I decided to do something mad and went to live in Japan, playing rugby for Yokohama, working in Irish bars and travelling the Far East . The main draw to the British Army is that they get involved, which Ireland s neutral status doesn t facilitate .
In a world where conflicts are no longer national but cultural and ideological, the concept of neutrality is rather outdated, I believe . For the whole of 2011 I trained for 18 hours a day, Monday to Sunday, learning my trade as an officer and how to deal with every conceivable scenario . The course is divided into three terms: the first covers basic soldiering skills; the second works on planning and command skills; and the final term puts it all into practice .
Tactical situations are simulated, ranging from attacking mountains to counter-insurgency and riot control . I was accepted into the Royal Dragoon Guards, one of four regiments with Irish connections . I chose them because of that, and because their tour to Afghanistan was coming up .
Half the regiment is from Yorkshire and the rest from Ireland, mostly from the North, although there are about 50 guys from the South who have joined up for reasons similar to mine . I chose an armoured regiment, and did my troop leader course with 82 tonne Challenger-2 tanks for six months . Last October, my squadron was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 17 .
We are part of the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group, mentoring and training the Afghan National Security Forces so they are ready to police the country after we withdraw in 2014 . The Royal Dragoon Guards has about 500 guys here, but there are many other regiments of the British Army with us, not to mention the Danish, Americans, and Estonians, to name a few . Myself and my troop of 15 lads go on patrol with about 60 Afghan police every day .
I keep the Afghan commander by my side and mentor him during operations, which could involve clearing an area of insurgents or searching compounds for weapons and drug caches . More recently the focus has been on intensive training with the Afghan police . We give them lessons in weapon handling, first aid, literacy and the rule of law .
At the beginning we were working up to 18 hours a day, which was tough . As a commander I had to start planning for the next day s patrol as soon as we got back to base . But there s great camaraderie between us and we have fun .
When you are living in a tent and sleeping beside the same people day after day, you get to know each other very well . During the first half of the tour we regularly came under fire from insurgents . It was challenging at times .
We unfortunately had one very serious casualty caused by an improvised explosive device, which resulted in life-changing injuries for a colleague . I won t easily forget that day, as I was in the same blast, just three feet away . My close friends are supportive of my career choice, but I wouldn t talk loudly about it in the pub when I m home in Dublin .
Every now and again people question me, and I can understand where they are coming from, but most people are just curious about what I do . Since joining the army I haven t slept in the same bed for more than three months . It is great to have the opportunity to see so much of the world .
All the moving around isn t ideal for maintaining a relationship, as I have discovered over the past year, but that s just another challenge I will work around . I try to get home often, and have brought a few friends over to the formal army dinners so they can experience my life . I talk about what it is like to be in the military, but it is hard for them to understand without seeing for themselves .
We expect to be back in the UK in the next few weeks . I ll have some time off on post-tour relief to go home to normality in Dublin for a while . Perhaps one day I will return there to live, but right now it s not even an option .
In Afghanistan, you can be away for months The living area of one Irish soldier currently serving in Afghanistan I had a good upbringing but was a little wild as a kid, says Chris, a 32-year-old from the midlands . When I finished school my mother suggested I join the army, but the Irish Defence Forces turned me down because I was too short . I saw an ad for the British Army on UTV, and 12 years later here I am out in Afghanistan .
I joined the Irish tank regiment of the Royal Dragoon Guards with two guys from the North . We were based in a town called M nster in Germany for the first five years and travelled regularly to Poland for training, living off the back of a tank for weeks at a time . It was a lot of fun, as I got to do what many men dream about when they are boys .
I saw a lot of Germany too, and the nightlife was amazing . It was a great place to spend my 20s . In 2003, we got called to northwest England to cover for the fire brigade who were on strike, so I became a fireman on a 1950s fire engine for a few months .
After that, in 2004, we were sent to Iraq for the first time . The story of Ken Bigley a civil engineer from Liverpool who was captured and killed by Islamic extremists in Baghdad] was big in the news, so it was a daunting time . I ll never forget going to call my mum the night before we flew out and seeing some of the biggest army lads you can imagine crying on the phone to their mothers .
When you are on training in another country, you are only a flight away from home . But out in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan, you can be away for months without regular contact with family and friends . Relationships often break up under the strain of it .
We call it getting a Dear John letter when your girlfriend breaks up with you . I got mine for the first time in Iraq . In these situations we talk a lot to the lads beside us .
We help each other through . Each regiment has a priest or padre who we can go to, and there are doctors and psychologists too if needed . There is a very strong support network .
I ll be heading back to the UK in 10 weeks . We ll spend a week in Yorkshire winding down, making sure there are no underlying problems personally or professionally after the tour . After that, I ll have a few weeks off to go back home to Ireland and get Afghanistan out of my head .
You live two different lives doing this job your army life and your civilian life . It is rewarding work . I am a radio instructor, and I enjoy teaching .
I don t think I would have had that opportunity if I hadn t joined up . I would probably still be a barman . I ve been to Canada several times to train other soldiers, and had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling .
I ve ridden horses through the Rockies and gone swimming in a glacier lake . I ve been to Mexico on holiday during RR time, and prayed with 13,000 military pilgrims in Lourdes . But I have also lived in a hole in the ground in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan .
The bad does come with the good. . Growing numbers of Irish in the British army The number of Irish recruits joining the British Army has more than tripled over the last decade, as a result of improved relations between the two countries, the economic downturn in Ireland, and limited recruitment by the Irish Defence Forces . In the 12 months to February, 77 people from the Republic signed up to the British Army, a slight drop from 89 the previous year but a huge increase on the 2002 to 2006 period when an average of just 24 Irish recruits joined per year .
Dozens more are joining the Navy and Royal Air Force every year . There are now more than 400 men and women from the Republic serving with the British Army . The Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment attract the most Irish to their ranks, but the Royal Dragoon Guards, which also has strong Irish connections and traditions, has about 50 soldiers and officers from the Republic .
This article appears in the Life pages of The Irish Times today, and on the main website here 1 .
Categories: Features 2 Tags: Afghanistan 3 References ^ here (www.irishtimes.com) ^ View all posts in Features (www.irishtimes.com) ^ Afghanistan (www.irishtimes.com)
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The military emigrants: 'I've lived in Canada and in a hole in the …