Saturday, 10 July 2010

Tally ho!

The incident that ended at Rothbury in the early hours of today was really only the expected result. Mentally, Moat was a thin shell waiting to crack. The police had a serious array of expertise and the necessary assets so that they were able to watch and wait for the public appearance of a man who was seeking publicity. Lest this all sound dismissive, I think they did a very good job handling the incident. The public and media were kept well advised of what was happening and were given opportunities to question those directly in charge of the case with no police PR interference.

There were mistakes made but these were of detail only; the media will try and set hares running. However, it would make sense for some detailed internal scrutiny to be undertaken. We have had armed stand-offs with hostages involved. I think mainly of Spaghetti House and Balcombe Street. The first related to criminal action whilst Balcombe Street was an IRA-related event. In both, watch and wait was the ingredient that got the hostages out alive and those responsible arrested alive and well. The surrender at Balcombe Street followed release of plans to pas the matter over to SAS. The siege at the Iranian Embassy was a different matter; the building was attacked by SAS. Hostages were killed as part of the negotiations and all of the intruders bar one ended up dead. There was much at the time to indicate his survival was a mistake; he hid amongst female hostages and left the premises with them. SAS and other special forces figured in most of the hostage situations after the Embassy affair and an almost common factor was the absence of negotiation and the deaths of the hostage takers. When this certain death aspect was queried the explanation most often given was that any survivor would have been able to reveal the tactics of the military. This seemed to be an Israeli philosophy as in Mossad actions at Entebbe.

This difference in style between Police and Army will become relevant once we pull out of Afghanistan. Our government - coalition and opposition - claim that we will not leave until there is no risk of Islamic terrorists returning to our streets here in UK. Political expedience could lead to our using it as a reason to withdraw before that situation were true. There is also the possibility that the forces we put in place will not be up to the job and allow some terror organisation to base themselves there and fight here. It is, of course, open to the Taliban or al Qaeda to attack from some other Muslim country in the Middle East. Dealing with any siege or making arrests of the sort of member of those organisations would be a very different kettle of fish to the Spaghetti House/Balcombe Street situation.

CO19 would be prime movers in anything like a police-led solution. They supplied officers and equipment to the Rothbury investigators who were also reinforced by some heavyweight specialists in dealing with counter-terrorism. Indeed, a cynic could say that the Home Office used Rothbury as a real live exercise to test tactics and assets. It might be significant that there was no mention of SAS being added to the equation. SAS do not 'do' police and rely upon first class military skills in any confrontation. The Government were maybe not keen to have their shock troops committed in the light of public reaction to the killing of the Brazilian and so soon after release of a critical Saville Report. The Brazilian on the Tube demonstrated that the Met police were quite capable of killing but had problems in the back office and the work of Gold and Silver Commanders. It is an area where the rank and file would not like to go as evidenced by their rejection of a proposal to arm all officers all of the time. The general public seem not to like strong arm policing but tolerate the same from the special forces.The reaction to the ambushes in Gibraltar could have been much more critical and such as leaks out from what they do in Afghanistan is seen being part of an all is fair in love and war philosophy.

So, if there was any element of rehearsal or training in Rothbury that is all to the good. It is unlikely that police would want to pass their role to SAS and there is no great indication that SAS would welcome any joint operation.

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