It was reported at the weekend that General Sir David Richards will be stepping down as Chief of Defence Staff in July, despite the fact that the Prime Minister wanted him to stay on as head of the armed forces and his principal military adviser.
But apparently General Richards doesn’t relish another year working with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, the two of them having been at war over defence cuts and withdrawal plans from Afghanistan.
Interestingly, before his deployment to the Afghanistan, I remember that General Richards had a clear view of repeating Britain’s ‘inkspot’ strategy that had worked so well previously in the Oman and Malaysia campaigns. In the former, it was achieved by just 60 SAS troops over a period of some four to six years.
It works thus: geographically starting from a Government-held safe base, you move to a few outlying villages, arm and train the locals to defend themselves against the bad boys, rebels, etc. You give the villagers all the wells, clinics and schools the government promised them. Then move out farther again and repeat the process in more villages.
The villagers start to love the government because, for once, all the their lofty promises have actually been kept. And the people defend themselves, because they have been trained how and now want to keep out the bad guys. In this case, the Taliban.
It is sort of the best example of good public relations in extremis. Is that Latin?
Unfortunately, General Richards’s plan didn’t seem to work out quite like that. I’ve heard that interference from the Afghan President and others with local political interests made it impossible to work.
What a shame. For a long time I held out high hopes that it would.