Emily Knowles 

24 September 2018

Oxford Research Group’s Remote Warfare Programme recently submitted evidence to the Defence Select Committee’s inquiry into Global Islamist Terrorism. The submission covers evidence from three recent research reports on the military, political and legal implications of a shift towards remote warfare, as well as field research the team has conducted in Basra, Baghdad and Kabul.

We provided the committee with a series of recommendations to mitigate the risks and improve the transparency and accountability framework around such cooperation. Specifically, we propose:

  • A strategic review of remote warfare by the British government so that the limits and opportunities of such an approach can be better appreciated and efforts better aligned with the realities on the ground.
  • The publication of details about the purpose, budgets, and locations of military training teams, with the information made available by the Ministry of Defence on request to parliamentarians.
  • The reform of current practice to bring special forces under the oversight of a parliamentary committee, and a relaxation of the no comment policy to allow the government to provide unclassified briefings that would achieve strategic openness without sacrificing tactical secrecy.
  • The publication of a policy, perhaps in the form of consolidated guidance, on managing the risks of intelligence sharing, training, advisors, and other forms of assistance given to partners.
  • The clarification of government interpretations of its legal responsibilities when it comes to providing support to partners.

In conclusion we highlight that working out how to deliver appropriate support to partner forces will take an examination of skills and training within the British Armed Forces. It will also entail a serious look at how the UK joins up short-term objectives with long-term strategic interests to ensure that partner operations contribute to ‘a better peace’ rather than locking British troops into perpetual conflicts.

Image credit: UK Parliament/Flickr. 

About the Author: 

Emily Knowles is Director of the Remote Warfare Programme.