UK & World News

  • 2 September 2014, 2:46

Ex-Army Chief Says West Has No Strategy For IS

The ex-head of Britain's armed forces has called for Western leaders to be "less politician and more statesman" to confront the threat of Islamist extremism.

Lord Richards of Herstmonceaux, who retired as chief of defence staff last year, said current policies are neither comprehensive nor full enough to deal with the problem.

In a Sky News Tonight interview, he said Barack Obama and David Cameron had the capacity to be statesmen and deal with the growing threat of violent Muslim extremism.

"But I don't think they've really grasped the immensity of the problem and the scale of the solution," General Richards said, in his first interview since leaving office.

"Bringing together all these nations to agree a strategy and accept that it's going to take a lot of willpower and probably quite a lot of time."

The author of Britain's intervention in Sierra Leone, East Timor and Libya, he was the Nato commander in Afghanistan.

He was the only Briton to have commanded US troops in combat since World War II.

Asked if the UK should join a military effort to destroy the Islamic State he said: "Everything has got to be on the table.

"But my word to the wise is that if you're going to do it you've got to do it properly.

"My worry would be that the sort of response that is being looked at at the moment isn't comprehensive enough, isn't full enough to achieve the sort of success that people need to achieve and if you don't do it properly you'll just make it worse.

"I am absolutely with the Prime Minister that this is the biggest threat facing us at the moment - it ought to be dealt with.

"A military dimension is certainly part of it, that doesn't mean British boots on the ground.

"But you've got to do it properly, and all the nations of this world, I think, should come together in a new version of Nato to get their act together - accept that it's going to take a long time."

He said that the IS poses an immediate threat to Jordan, a "plucky ally" that had not had enough support.

A strategy to deal with the wider threat of militant Islam should be developed to "contain" it before moving on to efforts to destroy it.

This would be a political, economic and military campaign that would involve naval and air forces from outside nations combined with indigenous armies on the ground.

Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, the Lebanon, and Jordan should be seen as priorities for containing the spread of a violent ideology that threatens global security, he said.

"There's a policy but there's a big difference between a policy and a strategy. That's where the ends and the ways and means are synchronised," he said.

"Are we up for it? That is the issue. A policy is not a plan, not a strategy. This is a threat that?needs great statesmanship and vision.

"I have no doubt that we've got them there but they're not used to doing it?this is outside of their experience," Lord Richards said.

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