Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-239)|
WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001
GARDEN, KCB, AND
220. Briefly, Chairman. Professor Rogers, I
was particularly interested in your comments earlier on about
the fact that this network might be preparing further attacks
and in many ways they have become more dangerous now the convention
of war, if that is the right phrase, seems to be approaching some
sort of conclusion in Afghanistan. Going back to Mr Hancock's
comments about British military, I am fascinated about why the
coalition's centre of gravity has not been attacked more convincingly
in terms of credit being taken perhaps where credit lies, if credit
is the correct term, for instance, for an attack on Toulouse for
instance? Why did Al-Qaeda not throw a complete spanner in the
works by claiming, however credibly or not, the air crash in America
a fortnight or so ago? The instant response would have been that
would have been incredible in the West, but it might have been
highly credible in the East, going back to your point about Mazar-e-Sharif,
which was fascinating and highly empathetic.
(Professor Rogers) As far as one can see, if you try
to get inside the minds of the people who were in an overall way
responsible for 11 September, as I said earlier I think they were
expecting this kind of reaction. They are not playing things on
a month to month or even year to year basis, they are thinking
in terms of five or ten years in terms of their specific aims
and their prime aims are to get the United States out of the Gulf
and to bring about fundamental changes in the governance of Saudi
Arabia and some other West Gulf States, so they are playing it
really long-term. Whether they have the capability to do this
is another matter because we do not yet know how much the network,
the Al-Qaeda network, has experienced disruption in the last ten
weeks. The question about whether they will respond with some
kind of further action I think has to be considered and it is
likely that they may do so. It would have a relevance to what
was called in Northern Ireland parlance the "calling card"
incident, in other words to show they are still a major force
to be reckoned with. I think it is for that reason that there
is probably a somewhat greater probability that we might see some
kind of paramilitary attack in the coming months than there has
been in the last two and a half months.
221. Why did they miss the PR opportunity that
I have alluded to?
(Professor Rogers) I do not think that they are playing
it in that sort of immediate way. To put it very bluntly, those
elements of the network that are still centralised have a lot
of other things on their minds at present and issuing that kind
of short-term statement would have very little impact and it is
far from their thinking. It is more likely that they would actually
do something and not claim credit for it.
222. A few questions on tightening international
treaties in relation to biological and chemical and other weapons,
but before I do that, just so I get the scene set properly in
my mind, if I go to the MoD document, and you do not have it in
front of you but I will quote it, the MoD document Defending
Against the Threat from Biological and Chemical Weapons July
1999, not that long ago, it says this: "So far very few terrorist
groups have shown an interest in biological or chemical materials".
Then it goes on to mention the attack on the Tokyo underground.
It then says "Most groups will continue to prefer conventional
means of attack". Are those propositions with which you two
(Sir Tim Garden) I think it is an assumption that
has been made in the past and maybe the experience of 11 September
reinforces that, that you can actually cause mass destruction
without using weapons of mass destruction.
223. That is a good point.
(Sir Tim Garden) The particular difficulties of biological
agents for terrorists are making sure you do not infect yourself
and you have all the protective measures. The manufacturing is
not that difficult and, as we have seen from the anthrax problem
in the States, the chaos that you can cause with quite a small
amount of material is great. But these terrorists are not after
chaos, they are after death. There are textbooks in the public
domain which tell you how to do 100,000 casualties over an American
city and it is not that difficult. It must be an option for terrorists
who want to cause mass casualties. Chemical, I think, is a bit
easier in terms of handling but is a bit less capable in terms
of mass casualties, so it may not appeal. The big one that worries
me, to be honest, is the spreading of nuclear material, even low
grade nuclear material, because you will still have the conventional
explosion and how many people are killed through that but contaminating
an area is a thing which will be difficult for modern society
to deal with in a short timescale. I think there is a nuclear,
biological, chemical threat but we should not get so focused on
it that we forget nearly all terrorist activities are done by
very old-fashioned methods.
(Professor Rogers) I would agree with that. There
are quite real problems in developing and dispersing enough of
even a very potent chemical weapon, such as VX, to cause mass
civilian casualties. There are actually considerable difficulties
in developing sufficient quantities and dispersing. Anthrax is
the most notable potential bioweapon. The fact is that it is possible
to cause very high casualties by conventional means and many of
the major paramilitary groups active in the last 20 years could
have done so but have not done so for very defined reasons. I
would also very much agree with Tim that on the nuclear side the
greater danger is the development of crude radiological weapons
which cause contamination which might not even cause casualties
but could contaminate, for example, part of a central business
224. That leads me neatly on to Professor Graham
Pearson. He was a witness before the Committee and he described
what he called a "web of reassurance" that was required.
He was really suggesting that a number of international treaties,
protocols and all these things had to be tightened up. He mentioned
in particular the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. Do
you agree with that? On the proposition that you do are there
any others you feel should be tightened up too?
(Professor Rogers) Professor Pearson is a colleague
of mine, he is a visiting professor in the department. I would
agree very much with his views on this. There have been six and
half years of determined efforts in Geneva to negotiate a really
sound protocol for the 1972 Treaty. That Treaty was good in theory
but had no practical enforcement or verification. The protocol
has involved a great deal of work, with very good work from British
participants, to try to really strengthen the Treaty. I think,
like almost all people associated with those negotiations, there
is nothing but dismay that the United States has not felt able
to support the implementation of that protocol. The signs are
that their attitude in the Current Review Conference is frankly
not very positive. As Graham says, it is part of a web of reassurance
that we are looking for. Nobody is pretending that an effective
Biological Weapons Convention suitably strengthened is going to
end the problem of biological weapon use or, indeed, the possibility
that paramilitary groups get hold of such materials, but it will
help a lot. We have the Chemicals Weapon Convention being implemented
but it is running into problems of organisation and finance. I
think there should be a renewed effort to push the workings of
that Convention through and to speed up the rate at which materials
are destroyed. Perhaps most important of all is still the presence
of large quantities of nuclear material, particularly in Russia,
for which the security conditions are so weak. I think of the
three classes of weapons of mass destruction that currently is
the greatest worry.
(Sir Tim Garden) I support everything that Paul says
there but there is a philosophical divide across the Atlantic
at the moment. The current United States administration does not
seem to like Treaty based arms control and it does not matter
which field you look at. Their argument is the biological weapons
protocol that allows some verification will not stop the spread
of biological weapons, and there is some truth in that. The arms
control process seen from Europe is one of slowly building up
a whole set of reassuring activities which make it much more likely
that you will know who the ones are who are not observing and
you can bring international pressure to bear on them. I had hoped
that 11 September in changing various bits of United States' thinking
might make them a bit keener but all the evidence is that we are
not going to get any change out of this administration on that
for various reasons which are not just the Treaty but also how
it would affect the United States' industry.
225. Chairman, just one last question because
I know you want to move on and it is simply this, and you referred
to it, Professor Rogers, because you used the words tightening
these treaties "will help a lot". The problem that I
think some of us might have is what difference will it make with
sub-state groups? Why will the helping a lot help that aspect
of it? I can see it will have an effect on states but we are not
really talking about states.
(Professor Rogers) No, and I think its aid is only
to a limited extent. It is worth remembering, if I am correct,
that the Chemical Weapons Convention does require states that
sign up to it to initiate domestic legislation for the appropriate
control of their own domestic industries. In other words, the
international process has direct domestic relevance. The downside,
of course, is the states that may cause us most concern may not
actually sign up to these treaties.
226. Or will put a blind eye to the telescope.
(Professor Rogers) Or will put a blind eye to the
telescope, yes, but this is where I return to my point that it
is so essential to have a very well organised and properly financed
Office for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW I think
it is called, in The Hague. There are concerns about the effectiveness
of that international body. Yes, countries can turn a blind eye
to it but once they have signed up to it, if they are subject
to inspection and verification it is less easy to do so.
Mr Cran: Thank you, Chairman.
227. I want to ask a couple of questions about
the nature of our partners in military terms, starting with NATO.
Clearly one of the first things that happened after September
11 was the invoking of Article 5 of the Treaty and that seems,
and seemed, appropriate, and yet we have not got beyond some NATO
forces being deployed in order to release resources for the United
States in Afghanistan. We have not seen a NATO operation, we have
seen a US operation with some support from ourselves and others.
Why do you think that is? What more might NATO do in the present
(Sir Tim Garden) I think it is unsurprising. NATO
has done rather well in terms of what was practical. The Article
5 declaration was significant, it was the first time they had
invoked it, and for those who know how difficult NATO meetings
are they actually did it quickly as well, which was a sense of
everybody standing shoulder to shoulder in the vernacular. The
AWACS contribution is real and is significant, so NATO is engaging
some forces. From an American perspective this has been a very
specialised operation with great sensitivities in terms of basing
and the neighbours and all of that. The difficulties of putting
together a multinational activity, which would be a NATO one or
any form of multinational one, would have been very great in terms
of capabilities as one of the things: American bombers now able
to operate from the United States or from Diego Garcia over very
long ranges, nobody else having that sort of range capability,
the carriers, again the basing problems that are there. I think
we would be foolish to think the Americans have not learned some
lessons from the difficulties of NATO military operations after
Kosovo where they provided 80 per cent of the capability, the
rest provided 20 per cent, but we all had one vote nationally.
If you want to do a precise operation in a sensitive area where
you have very clear requirements and most of the requirements
are for US technical capabilities, then I can see why it has gone
the way it has, but the UK has provided (as another NATO member)
some useful capabilities, the French are starting to arrive. I
think we are looking forward to a period in the future where a
NATO as NATO operation will be the exception, but what you will
have are coalitions, partnerships of nations, most of whom are
NATO members, who certainly operate to NATO standards and doctrine
because the only way they can operate together is because they
are in NATO and have started using their equipment in ways that
can work together. NATO still continues to have an important role
if more than one nation wants to do a military operation but expecting
for everything NATO to gear itself up through its ponderous processes
is probably expecting too much.
228. Is it realistic to suggest that you might
get a NATO campaign at all given all the complicated problems
of capability, which perhaps are being addressed (and I will come
onto that in a minute) and that notion of leadership and making
decisions quickly which is always going to be there?
(Sir Tim Garden) It worked in Kosovo but it was hard
work. A serious air campaign was mounted but it was nearby to
the NATO nations' traditional heartland, so you had got all the
equipment there, but trying to put together a thing like the Gulf
coalition which again took months to build upthe invasion
of Kuwait was in August and the air campaign started in Januarytakes
a long time. What was needed in this case was a very rapid response
and really the US had both the reason to be the lead nation in
it and also the capability to do it. These are special circumstances,
but I would still say that for most future operations, short of
a traditional Article V, you will find that it will be coalitions
of varying sorts under various auspices but normally doing it
the NATO way, which is the US way.
(Professor Rogers) In a sense there is only one state
worldwide that has comprehensive global reach and that is the
United States. It is hugely far ahead. In one measure a single
US carrier battle group has more fire power than all the aircraft
carriers of the rest of the countries of the world put together.
It is at that level. The only other states with limited long-range
reach are Britain, followed some little way behind even by France,
and most other states do not have any kind of long-range reach.
Chairman: Not much short range reach either.
229. And do not want to.
(Professor Rogers) They may not want to, that is part
of their policy, but the United States has been very consistent
in the past ten years in transforming its forces. It is quite
astonishing if you look at the nature of the change in the forces.
For example, the one branch of the entire US forces that has suffered
virtually no cuts in people power is the Marine Corps which has
been maintained for this kind of purpose. The capability question
is really at the root of this but I would also add that in a real
sense that for this operation I think the United States is quite
determined to maintain freedom of action and to some extent it
is quite single-minded in what it wants to do. One sees that once
it has aided the Northern Alliance in taking control of probably
60 per cent of Afghanistan, it is essentially leaving it to others
to sort out the development of some form of governance in that
country while it gets on with its particular tasks.
230. Moving from NATO to the EU, I know Kings
College has done some work recently on the Helsinki headline goals
and I am sure you have read this marvellous document from the
MoD, the European Defence Policy Paper.
(Sir Tim Garden) I have not.
231. I am sure that can be arranged?
(Sir Tim Garden) I can probably get it off the MoD.
232. It is a very nice convincing argument and
then within weeks of it being published we have a Capabilities
Conference that does not seem to get us very far. What do you
think the implications of 11 September are for European Security
and Defence Policy and the Rapid Reaction Corps?
(Sir Tim Garden) I had a major part in the Kings College
project on this which was to lead up to the Capabilities Conference.
As the Chairman will know, I am a great enthusiast for European
defence measures. I am afraid that what we have got is a situation
where everybody has taken their eye off the ball. I would argue
that Europe being able to field some serious military capability
is more important after 11 September than it was before because
the US has now decided that it has a priority activity which is
not related to the peace-keeping Petersberg tasks that were envisaged
for the EU force. I think they will expect us, not unreasonably,
to look after the Balkans for the future, they will expect us
to do the sorts of things on our European borders where we have
always felt we could call on the United States to come and help
us. That means that having some serious European capability is
more important rather than less important after 11 September.
There is a separate question as to whether Europe should be considering
whether it needs to change the tasks in any way and whether to
increase beyond Petersberg into this field. My own view on that
is we are all nationally working at the counter-terrorist activity
and sharing, I hope, intelligence in a serious way. What we have
still not achieved is the ways that we are going to fill the capability
gaps for the Helsinki goal forces, and there are big holes there
which are reflected in the NATO Defence Capabilities Initiative
of 1999, so we have signed up twice now to providing enabling
capabilities and nobody seems to be saying, "Where are the
funds coming from this and how are we going to do them?"
I would rather that we continued the Helsinki goal process and
tried to address something that we seem to be finding very difficult
at the moment rather than add new tasks in order to fuzz the fact
that we have not done what we said we were going to do anyway.
233. Given those consistent holes and given
events, should we be re-prioritising the headline goals?
(Sir Tim Garden) The headline goal process at the
moment, as you know, is a co-operative volunteer arrangement whereby
you offer a menu of activities. The United Kingdom's contribution
is unbelievably complex. It is not a set of forces available at
60 days' notice, it is "if you have one of these, you can't
have one of these" and "that one will only be available
for three months anyway and somebody else had better button on
the end". Putting those together, which should be possible
on a European basis, is the important bit of it, but I still believe
that nobody is yet focusing on how Europe is going to provide
the expensive capabilities that are missing both in the European
role but also when Europe is acting in the NATO role. The report
we did at Kings College offers ways of taking that forward.
234. Do you think that the current events will
have focused minds sufficiently among the political leadership
of the EU for them to want to make those difficult decisions?
(Sir Tim Garden) No, quite the reverse. I am deeply
pessimistic. What happens now is a re-balancing. What we will
all say is, "That is all very interesting but the Petersberg
tasks are not our key concern at the moment. If we are going to
spend more money on defence"it comes back to the point
about internal zero sum games for defence spending"if
we are going to spend more money on defence then we are going
to spend it on our national problem at home, securing our citizens."
And part of the real problem going on at the moment is that there
is a renationalisation of defence as the budgets go down when
if you want to get more out of less money you need to move away
from nationalising it because your overheads are so much a component
of the cost.
235. For things such as intelligence sharing?
(Professor Rogers) In terms of defence roles what
it means if you want to save money on a European basis is that
individual countries do have to specialise much more than they
do at present, whereas the tendency is for each country to want
to do virtually everything.
(Sir Tim Garden) You can pool, you do not have to
236. Is there not a potential contradiction
here in the light of events of the last few weeks where a Petersberg
role is essentially a peace-keeping, non-combatant role
(Sir Tim Garden) Can I just contest that
237. It is a question, can I just finish.
There is a difference of view between the United Kingdom and our
European partners in respect of the extent to which we are prepared
to become involved. We know Germany has made a decision about
that which is a very significant decision in the last few days,
but when push came to shove it was the United Kingdom which went
straight to the assistance of the United States in committing
forces and we know we have got our forces currently on stand-by
to go in theatre. How do you see this role of the United Kingdom,
a role that the Government is very keen to adopt, squaring with
the very different role, as I see it, and you will correct me
if I am wrong, that is implied by the SDR?
(Sir Tim Garden) There is, to a degree, a tension
between the two and if we always assume when we do our equipment
programme that we are going to be operating with the United States,
if we assume that will always be the case in any form of conflict,
let me put it that way (and Petersberg tasks do include operations
which involve conflict) then we can buy odds and ends that plug
into the United States. I would use the Cruise missiles on our
submarines as an example. They are very useful to join in with
the United States.
238. But I thought our NATO equipment was supposed
to be compatible with one another. That is another problem.
(Sir Tim Garden) That is another question. Let me
answer your first question and then cover that one. What I am
talking about is what capabilities does the United Kingdom feel
it should field? If it says we are going to be doing these difficult
high-intensity conflict things with the United States on every
occasion, then it can buy into little packages of things that
are not self-sufficient.
(Sir Tim Garden) And they fit nicely with the United
States so it is nice to have a Cruise missile go up with a shower
of Cruise missiles which happen to be United States' in a joint
US/UK operation. But if you wanted to have the ability to operate
without the United States, then you might have a different number
and a different type of equipment, and you would either provide
that nationally or provide it in a different alliance, which happens
to be the European Union in this case. Some of the more expensive
ones, like AWACS, were procured as a supra-national force for
NATO, not owned by a single nation, flagged with the Luxembourg
flag, and you would have to say for some of these things, maybe
suppression of enemy air defences or intelligence those sorts
of things, that a single nation can never buy enough of them so
we always depend on the United States and if the United States
is not there then we need to club together, put some money in
the pot and provide these at the European level. This is the argument
I am making. The inter-operability point is a very important question
but what we should be doing in Europe is ensuring that all our
forces are inter-operable with each other and with the United
States so if we do a NATO operation we are able to do it but if
we do it without the United States we can also do it. That seems
common sense really.