Colonel Richard Kemp, the former Chairman of COBRA and Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, talks about what needs to be done following the London terror attacks
Ross Greenwood: Of course it does certainly take us to the events of the weekend around the Borough Market, an area I know very well. I really did work and live in that area for a long, long time. But the whole point right now is, what stops this? What creates it to be stopped? How do you even begin to try and get to the end of this?
Let’s go to the British prime minister right now facing an election, Theresa May, over the weekend talking about really enough is enough.
Theresa May: “Since the emergence of the threat from Islamist inspired terrorism, our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public, but it is time to say enough is enough. Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values, but when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.”
Ross Greenwood: One of the most important people who understands exactly what it’s like to be at that coalface is Colonel Richard Kemp. He served in the armed forces from 1977 to 2006, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and also then the former chairman of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room. This is where the Prime minister and other British officials gather to make a plan as to how they will address attacks such as the Westminster attack, the Manchester attack or indeed this one around the Borough Market, London Bridge area. As a result of that, he’s also been responsible including Iraq for the cabinet office, he also made visits to Baghdad, Falluja, and Mosul.
On top of that, today has written an important piece which says “Eight Islamic terrorist plots have targeted this country since the end of March, more than one a week. Five were disrupted by security services, but three that got through have left dozens dead or with life changing wounds. We must confront this violent challenge to our way of life with the same defiance as their fathers meet Nazi aggression. He says, this is the most serious threat to Britain since the Germans bombarded their cities with V1, V2 missiles in 1944. He’s online right now, and Richard, I appreciate your time on the program this evening.
Interview with Colonel Richard Kemp, Former Chairman of COBRA
Richard Kemp: It’s my pleasure to be here, thank you.
Ross Greenwood: I know you are no stranger to Australia, but right now, as I said you have written that Britain faces its most serious threat since the Germans bombarded your cities. The question is, what can be done to change the ideology of those who are perpetrating these attacks?
Richard Kemp: Well, I think the British government has put a lot of effort into trying to prevent people from becoming radicalized into this ideology. I think that has a limited amount of success and will have limited success. But obviously, it’s an area that does need to be worked on. The most important thing is to keep tabs on those people who get involved through intelligence and I have to tell you that-
Ross Greenwood: We’ve got problems with his line, with Richard Kemp. We’ll still keep on trying and see how we go with that. I should also make the observation that today, a report in the Times from London says that, one of the London Bridge terrorists had tried to recruit children to join Islamic state and was twice reported to police over his extremist views, is what’s being placed today. It suggested that the Pakistani born radical grew up in Britain, was known by relatives as one of three men who carried out a car and knife rampage in the heart of London on Saturday night, the third Islamic attack on British soil in two and a half months.
We’re just trying to get Richard Kemp back on the line as we speak. Obviously as you can hear, we’ve got some issues with their phone lines as we speak. The other point I should also say is, Theresa May the Prime Minister of the UK, has also talked about trying to defeat ideology.
Here is what the Prime Minister said, “Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time, but it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone. It will not be defeated through the maintenance of a permanent defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skillful it’s leaders and practitioners. It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values, pluralistic British values are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”
Ross Greenwood: Do bear in mind in the UK right now that there is a general election about to be held. The election campaigning was suspended while the Police were going through their investigations of the London Bridge attack.
Also do bear in mind that Jeremy Corbyn, the labor leader who has certainly had a resurgence in the polls, many people suggesting that it could be that Theresa May is defeated in this general election, that remains to be seen. Remember that he also has a rather checkered past when dealing with terrorists. He’s called Hamas and Hezbollah friends. He’s taken tea with IRA bombers. He’s also said in the last day that Britain needs to have difficult conversations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states about the funding of Islamist extremism. He said that foreign wars overseas involving Britain are to blame for terror attacks on British soil.
Be interesting to see what those people surrounding this—what we may do is, we’re having difficulties with phone lines into the UK right now or actually, we may have been back up. Let’s just see how we go and see if we can get this call straight across. In fact I think we have Richard Kemp back with us now. Many thanks, I apologize for the phone lines, Richard. Of course it’s difficult between the UK and Australia sometimes. You were just saying about the methods in which we try and prevent these attacks. You say that, ”Really in many ways, try to identify those people being radicalized only takes you so far but more needs to happen.”
Richard Kemp: Yes, I was really saying that the intelligence operation is vital and also I was attempting to comment on the extremely valuable intelligence input from Australian intelligence into the UK and vice versa in trying to combat what is an international threat, as we’re hearing from what’s unfolding now in Melbourne. The intelligence can only take you so far, we also have to have the ability to react.
Here in Britain, in London, a couple of nights ago, we saw an incredible reaction from the police. They managed to deploy armed units and kill three terrorists within eight minutes of the attack beginning, which is actually a considerable achievement. We also saw some very courageous action from Londoners who didn’t simply run away when they were in danger but they tried to attack the terrorists in order to save their fellow Londoners which again is very impressive.
But what we have to have, as Theresa May intimated, is far less tolerance of radical Islam in this country. We need to take the gloves off. We need to take much firmer action to deal with the problem we have. Because currently our intelligence services are to an extent overwhelmed by the threat. In this country, we had three successful attacks in the last seven weeks but we’ve had five additional attacks that had been stopped in that same time frame. We’ve been subject to eight attacks or planned attacks against this country in just seven weeks.
Ross Greenwood: The truth is you have got to identify where the threat is going to come from. That is, people who are of an Islamic faith, who have been radicalized, who most likely have done some form of training or even have returned home from fighting in Iraq or Syria with Islamic state. It is surely not that difficult to identify by those people.
Richard Kemp: Well, in virtually every attack that’s taken place in Europe in recent years including here in the UK and including the attack that took place in London just a day or so ago, it’s always turned out that the attackers have been known to the authority, those being involved somehow in extremism. We know who they are, our intelligence is working pretty well. But it’s what we do about it. A lot of these people don’t get to the stage of doing anything that you can convict them for. The question then arises as to what you do with them.
Well, the first thing I’d say is, those people you mentioned who have been out fighting with the Islamic state and returned to this country, they should not have been allowed to return. They should not be coming home, they should be staying wherever they are. We shouldn’t allow people back here who’ve been– Got blood in their hands, they have been taking part in mass murder, rape and torture. We allow them to come back here and threaten our people, what should stop.
Ross Greenwood: [crosstalk] You in fact said today, 400 have already returned. There among those who must be deported or interned, around 150 have been killed, at least 400 remained who will try to come home. The situation in the UK is exactly that in Australia, for we have not necessarily the same volume of people who have gone, fought with the Islamic state but certainly a significant number. 100 has been named here in Australia but as those people attempt to come home, they’re the most likely of their associates, the most likely potential people who perform these outrageous actions.
Richard Kemp: The reality we need to face is that once somebody has been involved in attacks with the Islamic state and they’ve got used to killing, they’ve got used to torture, they got used to rape, they find it much easier to do it. They come here and they’re far more dangerous than somebody who’s maybe learnt something on the internet. These are really dangerous people, not only are they likely to involve themselves in terrorists attacks, they’ll also recruit, motivate, inspire additional terrorists over here. The problem is enormous and my advice to the British government is not to let them come home. To get rid of those people that have come back, that can be deported. In other words, non British citizens. My advice to Australia will be exactly the same thing, unless you do that, you will be facing a problem that’s very similar to our own.
Ross Greenwood: Speaking with Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan and former chairman of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, which is where all the emergency talks are held, from all of the officials in the UK with the Prime Minister inside Whitehall whenever there is an event such has occurred in London over the weekend.
Just one thing I want to talk to you about Richard, you did mention the incredibly rapid response rate of the police forces in the UK to bring down these terrorists inside eight minutes from when the first calls were made. Quite clearly, those forces have been preparing for this. They’re on high alert and we knew that they were anyway. Just explain the sort of training, the sort of drilling that they have gone through to be aware and able to make that sort of response in such a rapid time.
Richard Kemp: Really since the attack in Mumbai in India a few years ago, in which there were terrorists rampaging and killing and blowing people up in a fairly wide area, since that occurred, our police have been training for this type of attack. In other words, an attack which doesn’t involve just a siege or a bomb attack in one place but a number terrorists moving around with weapons. And now the police have been doing some very extensive training which has involved equipping them with a new type of firearm. It involves using a form of tactic they’ve never contemplated before, a military tactic against these terrorists.
We saw something like 50 bullets fired to kill these three terrorists by a circle of eight fully armed police officers. That tactic of firing until the target has been killed, is the proper response to a suicide bomb attacker and these people had fake suicide bombs attached to them. In my view, the reason they have those suicide bombs attached to themselves was to make sure that they got killed because they wanted the police to kill them. They do not want to be taken prisoners. This was a suicide mission for them. I think they knew that if they had what appeared to be suicide vests on, they would not be arrested. They would be killed.
Ross Greenwood: And just a final one in regards to Jeremy Corbyn, UK is in the middle of a general election campaign right now, he has had, well, at best as I described earlier to my audience, a checkered past in dealing with terrorists. He’s opposed at least 13 of the prevention of terrorism bills and now he is coming very much closer to Theresa May, in terms of the polls, what would happen if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister of the UK?
Richard Kemp: I think it would be a disaster. Frankly, he has allied himself with Irish terrorists against the British States over a number of years. He’s allied himself with Islamic terrorists. He has actually given– He gave the attacker at the Manchester cover for what they did. He gave them an excuse for what they did. He’s constantly as you say, opposed to anti-terrorism legislation in this country. He’s not going to win the election but if he did win the election, it will be catastrophe as far as security is concerned for this country.
And when you look at the people around him, many of them including his Shadow Chancellor and basically his deputy, also have a very suspicious record of opposing law and order measures and opposing counter-terrorism measures and it will be actually unthinkable, they could be managing this country either now or any time in the future.
Ross Greenwood: Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan. The former chairman of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room who was there at the very sharp end of making decisions about emergency situations such as that occurred on Saturday night in the UK. Richard, I appreciate your time very much here on the program, going right around Australia this evening.
Richard Kemp: Thank you very much.