Strategy to defeat extremists is ‘woefully insufficient’, says Lord

Lord Richards appearing on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show
Lord Richards appearing on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show
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BRITAIN AND its allies will eventually have to deploy ground troops if they are to defeat self-styled extremist group Islamic State, a former head of the Armed Forces said.

Lord Richards criticised political leaders for failing to grasp the scale of response that is required to take on the extremists in their Iraq and Syria strongholds, saying that they only have a limited time to improve the existing approach which was only “firing up” the current situation.

His comments came as the North East Counter Terrorism Unit revealed that officers arrested two people from West Yorkshire on suspicion of terrorism offences on Friday, July 10.

A man, aged 35, and a woman, 31, were arrested in Folkestone, Kent on suspicion of Section 5 of the Terrorism Act - preparation for terrorism.

The man was also arrested for offences under Section 2 and Section 58 of the Terrorism Act.

Police and security services believe at least 700 extremists have travelled to fight alongside Islamic State and other fundamentalist groups, with around half thought to have returned to the UK.

A growing number of women and girls - 43 in the last year alone - are thought to have gone to the war-torn nation, suggesting families are fleeing there at the rate of one a week.

Lord Richards insists that Britain needs to get onto “a war footing”, insisting that the country is “dribbling” in its current strategy.

When he was asked if he believed that “sooner or later tanks are going to have to roll, there is going to have to be troops on the ground”, he said: “I suspect my bones are telling me that.”

Lord Richards, who retired as chief of the defence staff in July 2013, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that the scale and effort of the push to train up local forces to lead the fight - alongside air strikes - is “woefully insufficient”.

He said: “The current strategy won’t work in the time I think we’ve got available.

“If you really want to get rid of them we need to effectively get on a war footing.”

Lord Richards continued: “The existing one could be made to work - that is without British and other allied troops right up in the front line - but if it doesn’t, and I would give us about a year to get it right, then I think we need to look at it again.

“Properly brought together with proper leadership and proper command and control it is a very doable proposition.

“But I worry that - what we call in the Army ‘dribbling’ instead of ‘clouting’ - if we dribble, which is really rather what we are doing at the moment, it is simply firing up the problem rather than dealing with it.

“It’s that scale of vision and effort that, as much as their hearts are in the right place, political leaders right around the world have not yet understood is required.”