Advisers to shadow wartime generals

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The Independent Online
CIVIL SERVICE 'advisers' will shadow British military commanders in future conflicts, following experience in the Gulf war, a senior civil servant said yesterday.

But the Ministry of Defence dismissed light-hearted speculation about 'military commissars' on the former model in the Soviet Union, and explained that the 'advisers' would be based in the UK, not in the field.

As military operations became more delicate, with greater media coverage and political consequences, domestic and foreign, such experts were needed to act 'in an advisory capacity and as a conduit', sources said.

Margaret Aldred, who won the CBE for her role at the MoD during the Gulf war, addressing the Royal United Services' Institute in London yesterday on the lessons of the conflict, said two advisers, one from the MoD and a second from the Foreign Office, would be attached to the Joint Commander in future to 'avoid pitfalls'.

Ms Aldred, who was 'Alternate Head of Secretariat (Overseas) (Commitments)', said both advisers would be relatively senior to ensure their views were listened to and that the commander's views were properly aired in Whitehall.

The system has been tested on exercise and operated informally with the British Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, for example, advising Sir Peter de la Billiere, the British Middle East Commander.

The greater interaction of political and military decision-making during a conflict is already recognised. The RAF's air power doctrine, for example, recognises that no democracy can sustain a war effort in the face of 'public hostility or indifference'.

However, a senior officer said: 'Some military commanders still look on the Joint Commander in the field as God, regardless of the political requirements - Whitehall and all that.'

The system is designed to clarify policy between headquarters and the MoD. 'It's been tried and it's been found to be logical, having the right person at the right level to act as a conduit,' he said.