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All quiet on the ISIS front? British secret warfare in an information age

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Emily Knowles and Abigail Watson
31 March 2017


Remote Control’s latest report tracks the UK’s secretive but growing military commitments abroad by analysing the rise in the use of drones for targeted killing, the use of Special Forces, and the provision of capabilities such as intelligence and embedded troops to allied forces. The deniability of these operations may bring flexibility, which can create opportunities when it comes to dealing with fluid and complex security threats. But the report questions the notion that greater secrecy is always better strategy, particularly in an age when leaks of information are seemingly inevitable, demand for political accountability is high, and trust in politicians and the wider expert community is low.


About the authors:

Emily Knowles is the Project Manager of the Remote Control project. Emily has a background in conflict analysis and security policy, with a focus on the root causes of state fragility. Prior to joining the Remote Control project, Emily worked for Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme, analysing the links between corruption, conflict and state fragility, and working with the military and policy makers to address corruption’s impact on stability. Previously, Emily ran a project on conflict resolution in the Caucasus, focussing on the disputed territory of Abkhazia, and worked with the Dutch think tank The Hague Centre of Strategic Studies to design a data monitor of the drivers of vulnerability to civil war. Emily holds an Msc in International and European Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a first class BA in French and Spanish from the University of Surrey. In addition to English, French, and Spanish, Emily is proficient in Dutch and Russian.

Abigail Watson is a research officer at the Remote Control project. Abigail is also a freelance writer at Future Foreign Policy, writing on issues such as the new challenges to international humanitarian law and Britain’s foreign, security and defence policy. Abigail holds an MA (with Distinction) in Contemporary European Studies, with a trans-Atlantic track, from the University of Bath and a BA in Politics from the University of York.


The Remote Control project is a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by Oxford Research Group. The project examines changes in military engagement, in particular the use of drones, special forces, private military companies and cyber warfare.

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