Is Arming the Kurds the Best Idea?

The above link is a report that has been oft repeated over the past few days.  The UK Foreign Secretary joins the chorus of diplomats stating that the Kurds should be armed to provide a bulwark (and an in-place army) against the Islamic State (IS).

Sounds like a good idea?  The Kurds have long been our allies.  They are the only credible fighting force in the region that share our values and can stand against IS.

The entire train and equip programme, for the Iraqi Army, on which billions was apparently wasted/squandered has proven to be a lame duck.  Iraqi command and control is a joke.  Tactical operations on the ground are weak.  The Iraqi’s refused the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which led to the complete withdrawal of US forces from the country at the end of 2011.  Have they not now reaped what they have sown?

The Kurds are surely our best and safest bet for the region?  The Kurds would like to secure their land and influence in Iraq and could feasibly provide both a block to advancement and a maneouvre force to push IS from the borders of Iraq.

The question which does not seem to have been asked is … What are Turkey’s thoughts to a strengthened Kurdish state?  The risk of future Kurdish insurgency into Turkey as they form a greater Kurdistan is definitely present and the Turks will not stand idly by as that risk becomes more and more likely of manifestation.

Such was Turkish concern during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, that they had two operations (Op RAIN and Op CARTRIDGE) designed to prevent Kurdish expansion and to deny Kurdish long term possession of the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.  Such operations were to manifest themselves as a large Turkish deployment AGAINST Kurdish forces in Iraq and within the borders of Turkey.

The Turks, the USA and many other countries have long claimed that The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) – presently engaged against IS forces in Iraq, is a terrorist group for waging its separatist campaign in Turkey.  Yet it is these who will be armed!

Turkey is NATO’s ONLY islamic member.

Iran has also faced many issues with Kurdish separatists in the past.

Is it therefore the wise and prudent thing to do, to arm the Kurds and create another major player in the region that could feasibly add to future destabilisation?  Previous experience of the West’s tinkering in such things has not proven to have been of long term help.  The West does not fully understand the mechanics of the region and perhaps (as unpleasant as it may appear) their direct involvement should therefore be limited to Humanitarian operations?

Yes – the IS behaves in a manner that is abhorrent to our values.  Yes – the IS needs to be stopped and rolled back before it gains more traction.  Yes – Iraq should retain control of its own borders and cities.  Does the answer really lie in arming the Kurds and creating future instability within NATO and the entire region?

Perhaps – controversially – we should have foreseen the present turmoil in Syria and assisted Assad?  The short term effects would have been deplorable, but the longer term benefits might have proven far more beneficial to the region as a whole.

Ebola – A Growing Threat to (and by) International Travel

The risk of spread of Ebola (as with any virus or bacteria) has exponentially increased by the use of international air travel.  The viral incubation period is anything up to 3 weeks which means that an infected person may not be symptomatic for some time after their travel period.  Once the person becomes symptomatic, they are then infectious.  With a survival rate of anywhere between 40 and 10%, Ebola (and any other related virus) can rapidly destroy entire communities – or indeed countries – without effective and early preventative measures.

Thankfully – Ebola has not yet mutated to an airborne virus.  If it does, then we are truly in trouble.

Ebola is not new.  It has been documented as a virus for centuries.  The main difference is that infected communities used to police themselves, used to isolate those contaminated and used to dispose of bodies in a manner that contained the virus.  Land travel was slow and air travel was for a select few if it even existed.  Incursions into previously uninhabited areas were few and far between.  Ebola cannot live outside of its host for any sustained period of time.  It is so voracious and multiplies so fast that it kills its host quickly after infection – thus reducing the opportunity for further infection.

However, in the 21st century – International air travel and the well intentioned, but poorly executed attempts by agencies to contain the modern virus now mean more and more people worldwide are potential victims.  Once such a virus is out of control, its effects will be devastating.

The response to the recent outbreak by both African nations and the International Community has been nothing short of pathetic.  Indeed, it has been criminally negligent.

Sending an aid worker into an infected area with poor protection and insufficient decontamination protocols is, at best, naive.  The inability of the security forces of contaminated countries to effectively – and this DOES INCLUDE if necessary militarily – contain infected areas for the short period for the virus to eradicate itself has been laughable.   Indeed, a real window of opportunity to stop the spread has been missed.  Whilst politicians and for-profit agencies wring their hands and talk about it, people are dying and will continue to die in greater numbers.  ACTION is what is needed – NOT words.

What screening is, or can be done, for air travellers leaving infected countries?  Must air travel to and from these countries be suspended?  In otherwise porous border areas, what measures are being put in place to reduce an exodus of (potentially) infected personnel?  What containment has been put in place around communities affected by the virus?  What decontamination protocols and equipment is in place for those that work to reduce suffering in the ‘Hot Zone’?  How are these protocols enforced?

If these questions are not asked – AND ADDRESSED OPERATIONALLY – the Ebola virus may easily become the 21st century equivalent to the Black Plague.

Almost twenty years ago, I read a book about the Ebola virus, named ‘The Hot Zone’, by Richard Preston.  It is a horrifying read.  It breathes life into the virus and describes its pathology and effects on the human body in great detail.  I defy anyone to read this and not feel strongly that co-ordinated and multinational efforts to stop this virus must now be made a priority.


The MH-17 Incident. A Strategic Perspective.

The shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 is a tragedy of the greatest proportion.  Coupled with this, the engagement of any target without correct identification and authority to release weapons is, at best, amateur and, at worst, criminal.

If the perpetrators of this crime were indeed pro-Russian separatists, it might be argued that this was an attempt to either rally support by blaming the Kiev forces or even an attempt to force a ‘disproportionate’ response from Kiev, thus giving Russia a further reason to enter the conflict more directly.

Initial reports do indeed blame pro-Russian separatists for this atrocity.  Let us hope that the response from Kiev and the rest of the world is measured yet effective and does not give the Russians the excuse they desperately hope for.  Such a measured response will continue to demonise the pro-Russian forces and their separatist agenda to the point where the only option they face to regain respectability in the eyes of the world will be to investigate and to hand over the perpetrators of this atrocity to the ICC.  Such a strategic response might indeed even add a layer of credibility to their claims and push forward a UN intervention – and, who knows (?), eventually a negotiated ceasefire and reallocation of territory.


06-10 Nov 2014 – LONDON – HUMINT Cultivation/Recruitment and Debriefing Course

Accurate and timely extraction of information from Human Sources is a vital skill set for the security and investigation professional. Conducted in a systematic manner – taking into account the need for team, personal and Source security – exploitable intelligence obtained can:

Enhance organisational protection.
Identify and help mitigate against internal and external risks/threats.
Provide a measurement of the organisation’s influence or information campaign success.
Enable surgical and cost-effective application of organisational resources to obtain the best effect.
Following this intensive 5 day, residential package, Graduates will be able to:

  • Identify, cultivate and recruit persons with access to exploitable intelligence.
  • Appropriately manage a ‘Walk In’ – a person who, with no prompting, willingly volunteers information.
  • Design and implement Surveillance Detection routes.
  • Conduct a structured, intelligence debrief.
  • Write accurate, concise intelligence reports.

Course Fees.

£2500 + VAT. Fully residential.

Places are limited and will fill rapidly – please register early by contacting us via email or by telephoning our office on +44 (0) 141 354 8880.

03 Oct 2014 – LONDON – Hostage Awareness and Kidnap Prevention Seminar

This event gives essential practical training for the executive traveller, security professional and contingency planner.

There are over 20,000 reported kidnapping incidents worldwide every year. The sad fact is that many Kidnap for Ransom cases could have been avoided. If a kidnapping occurs there are many things that can and should be done to ensure the speedy, safe return of the Captives to their loved ones.

This Seminar details vital strategies to reduce the risk of kidnap and to maximise the chances of a desirable outcome.

With correct training…

YOU CAN reduce the chance of being kidnapped in the first place.
YOU CAN positively affect the outcome of any Hostage situation.
YOU CAN minimise the risk of unnecessary harm befalling you or other captives.
YOU CAN maximise the chances of returning home to your loved ones in the shortest possible timeframe.

If you are a Security Professional or you or your employees are intending to operate in a hostile environment – you will find this training of relevance and benefit.

The Key Speaker, and CEO of ASIC Ltd, is a former HM Forces Officer who was instrumental in the design and dissemination of the UK Hostage Awareness and Survival policy. Having been intimately involved in the safe recovery of Hostages, he has appeared on national news stressing the importance and benefits of suitable training for individuals or companies who may fall victim to this pernicious industry.

Delegate Daily Rate.

£350 + VAT. Refreshments included. A discount of 10% will be applied for additional delegates attending from the same organisation. Accommodation is not provided.



A Hostage is defined as somebody held prisoner by a person or group such as a criminal or a terrorist organization until specific demands are met or money is handed over.


Hostage taking is a frequently reported occurrence, both as part of terrorist tactics and criminal enterprise with hostages coming from all walks of life – business people as well as soldiers, contractors and even students on GAP Year travels. Figures vary but it is estimated that there are over 20 000 reported hostage incidents worldwide annually. This is, in all likelihood, only a fraction of the actual number as many incidents are resolved without official police involvement.


Many hostage incidents begin by criminal elements seeing a financial opportunity and selling the hostage to a political grouping. In many parts of the world, particularly in Latin America and Eastern Europe, it is simply a business. Many terrorist and criminal acts are acute in nature with most of the subsequent response involved in Post-Incident activity. Hostage incidents however, tend to be protracted in nature with the Hostage Takers as well as Primary (the Hostage) and Secondary victims (members of the family, business or Close Protection team) being engaged in an extended situation during the incident.


The duration of a Hostage incident means that there is much opportunity to influence its outcome by the behaviour of all people concerned. The success or otherwise of this depends on the levels of awareness of all parties – these levels can be significantly enhanced by simple training.


Simon Atkinson, MD of Athena Security & Intelligence Consultants (ASIC) Ltd, was a former Special Intelligence officer in HM Forces and was instrumental in the design and implementation of the UK MoD Hostage Survival policy. He says, “where a company identifies a normal risk to the Health and Safety of their employees, they implement measures to reduce risk. It never ceases to amaze me how companies simply ignore the risk of hostage taking when they have personnel deployed in High Risk areas overseas.”


ASIC offers a number of programmes to develop Hostage Awareness and Survival skills in individuals working overseas. These skills are primarily aimed at avoiding the risk, but also include point of capture, incarceration and post-release survival, as well as training the untrained negotiator. “Imagine you have personnel working on a contract overseas and the telephone rings late at night. A voice informs you that X has been taken hostage. You have 12 hours to pay the ransom or they die. How do you deal with that scenario? ASIC is here to help develop your contingency plans for such an event and also to assist you in the event of one of your employees being seized.”


Such contingency planning must include, ‘Proof of Life’ plans, corporate response, next of kin and media planning, handover procedures, operations centre establishment as well as many other requirements. ASIC Ltd are able to advise based on their many years of police and military special operations experience.


In the light of the Corporate Homicide and Manslaughter Act, companies may be found to be remiss in the responsibilities if they did not make all reasonable effort to protect their employees against such a risk. A recent seminar in Glasgow on this subject was extremely well received, with a senior member of a European SWAT team commenting … “this was the best training of its type I have seen during my service.”

Please contact us for further details via

Hostile Environment Training for INGOs

Imagine you are a Field Operator for an International Non-Governmental Organisation. You are shortly to deploy to your first project in a hostile environment.


How prepared are you? Honestly?


How might you deal with the following scenarios…?


  • Hostile surveillance on your camp;
  • A mortar or rocket attack on your camp;
  • A need to Hibernate, Relocate or Evacuate;
  • A need to give life saving first aid to a gunshot wound casualty;
  • The requirement to drive your 4×4 in all conditions across unfamiliar terrain;
  • Being kidnapped;
  • Escaping from kidnap and surviving – undetected – in rural or urban terrain until you can reach friends;
  • Navigating in the jungle, mountains or city without the aid of a GPS or accurate mapping;
  • Negotiating safe passage through a potentially hostile checkpoint;
  • Making safe any surrendered weaponry;
  • An attempted assault on you or a colleague … as well as many other scenarios that may crop up.


Hostile environments are exactly that – hostile and unforgiving of errors and poor judgment.


You would not consider taking employment in a business where you were not adequately trained yet were exposed – on a daily basis – to extreme physical risk. So why do people still deploy operationally with no understanding of how to look after themselves and others in extremely hazardous surroundings?


Please consider our Hostile Environment Training courses before you deploy. Run in the Czech Republic, we expose our Students to realistic scenarios in a safe training environment where they can practice new skills and prepare appropriately for their Project.


Visit and contact us for further information.