About Brian Cloughley
My wife, Margaret, and I live in France, in the small village of Voutenay sur Cure in Burgundy, two hours south east of Paris.
I have studied South Asian affairs for over thirty years and am South Asia defence analyst for IHS/Jane’s Sentinel, Country Risk, covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, updating material monthly. Other tasks are analysis and updating of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological developments in the region for IHS/Jane’s Information Group.
Articles in Jane’s publications have included a piece on Pakistan’s military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a discussion about contenders to be the next Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan and a lengthy examination of US-Pakistan relations. Other analyses have been Fission Fears, examining Pakistan’s nuclear security, and Frontier Fracture, in which "As India builds up its military forces along its border with China, there seems no end in sight to the long-running territorial dispute. Brian Cloughley describes the military and political drivers on both sides and the low potential for dialogue between the two countries."
Friends Disunited has the blurb that “Recent efforts to improve the ties between the US and Pakistan have fallen on stony ground since the US raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in May. Brian Cloughley examines the intricacies of this relationship in the light of their commitment to the future of Afghanistan.” A paper on US-Pakistan relations is at the site of Bradford University’s Pakistan Security and Research Unit.
I contributed comment on draft sections on the subcontinent for the 2012 edition of The Strategic Balance, produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and was asked for observations on the book Warriors after War: Indian and Pakistani retired military leaders reflect on relations between the two countries, past, present and future by Professor Richard Bonney and two distinguished colleagues, published by Peter Lang. It is a fascinating collection of interviews concerning which "The Editors wish to express their gratitude to Brian Cloughley for his invaluable advice and assistance to this project."
Then there is
War, Coups and Terror, which describes the Pakistan Army from 1972 to 2009 and was published by Skyhorse Publishing (New York). The blurb has it that "Brian Cloughley explores the underbelly of Pakistan's military and its controversial role within the Pakistani government since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in 1971. An insider with links to Pakistan's past and present senior officers, Cloughley provides a unique insight into the Army's influence and position as a force in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as an account of operations against the 2003-2004 tribal uprising. His coverage of military-political relations will fascinate those who seek a closer understanding of this enigmatic and complex country, its ambitions, affiliations, and loyalties."
And I much enjoyed researching and writing Trumpeters.
I was encouraged to write the book by Lieutenant Colonel Tony Taylor, MBE, who enlisted as a Boy Trumpeter in 1938 and rose in rank and distinction and with whom I had the pleasure to serve. Alas he is now an Alzheimer’s sufferer, but is being looked after with devoted care in St Vincent’s Hospice in London.
This history of the Royal Artillery's boy trumpeters covers not only the 1920s and 30s — when some of 3,000 of them were trained at the Grand Depot at Woolwich in London and various Depots in India until the 1940s — but is also the tale of the trumpeters who were so much a part of the British Army over the centuries.
One of these teenage Trumpeters, Boy Richard Samson, was a born writer. He loved his horse, Tess, and in 1938, aged 16, when mechanisation was about to dispense with horses he asked to see his commanding officer to see if anything could be done so that he could keep his beloved steed:
And Colonel Fairclough was a real gentleman who took a special interest in the unit’s trumpeters. He explained that it was absolutely necessary that the unit be mechanised and that the horses must go. He would hate it as much as I would . . . The day came when Tess and all the other beautiful horses were sold. I last saw her being led out of the gate, and to this day I often think of her. I went back to barracks, a barracks that seemed so still and silent, a barracks that had lost its heart. I walked through the stable door and stood by her stall. Her nose-bag still hung on the hook. I touched it, then, ‘goodbye Tess.’ And walked briskly away. Soldiers don’t cry, do they?
Trumpeters is produced by Woodfield Publishing.
Also published by Woodfield is Letters of a Kashmir Memsahib, by Margaret, a collection of letters she wrote to her mother while in Kashmir when I was deputy head of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan in 1980-82.
I was sitting in the drawing room in our house in the Mission compound in Srinagar when I heard a crash in the kitchen, followed by a series of thumps. Grabbing a poker, I went through, and gingerly opened the kitchen door, expecting an intruder. There was a very large rat caught in the trap, but very much alive, and protesting violently. There was no way I could bring myself to despatch it, so I called the guard, three of whom rushed in with bayonets fixed on their rifles. None of them was any more anxious to deal with the situation than I was, but I gave instructions and fled. The three armed soldiers thrashing around in that confined space, must have been quite a sight, but eventually all was calm so obviously the enemy was subdued.
Politically, things are a little tense here at the moment. The spark this time was the incident where 'someone' put a pig in a mosque in a town somewhere south of Delhi. The subsequent riots resulted in the deaths of 108 people, and the unrest spread like wildfire throughout the subcontinent. For a country with 75% illiteracy, it is amazing just how fast news spreads around a vast area. Here in Srinagar, trouble breaks out with amazing speed in pockets around the city and there are an average of 3 dead per night, in spite of a curfew and the prohibition of people gathering in groups of more than four.
A History of the Pakistan Army (OUP), was described as having ‘well-sourced commentary’ concerning the most ill-advised (and illegal) attack in Indian-administered Kashmir in the Kargil Sector by Pakistan in 1999, and about the widely-welcomed coup by General Musharraf (‘a first-rate officer’ as I described him in an official despatch in 1994, when he was Director General Military Operations). It would have been better for Pakistan, however, had the brilliant and charismatic Lieutenant General Ali Kuli Khan Khattak been selected as Chief of the Army Staff, rather than Musharraf. The History was revised, updated and published in a third edition in 2006, and a fourth edition is to appear in April 2013, and I hope this will be the cover:
I wrote the new edition because much information has come to light about the 1965 and 1971 wars from many sources, and there was a great deal to add about more recent events: ten new chapters, indeed, including one about the Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, which includes a story about a Honey Trap when I was serving in Pakistan as Australian Defence Attaché:
After the parade and subsequent socialising we [the Attaché Corps] returned in the Navy launch across Karachi harbour, and when we arrived at the quay the [Pakistan army] female major was obviously having some difficulty in climbing the ladder, so again she was offered assistance by every male within reach (as it were), and smilingly accepted the arm of the Indian naval attaché and chatted with him all the way back to the hotel. That evening, when all the attachés had drinks in our hotel room, the Indian naval captain had his leg pulled by many of us. He had made a conquest, we laughed — until he began to look a little embarrassed and self-conscious, whereupon we curtailed our well-meant but rather juvenile attempts at humour.
But it was the lady major who had made the conquest.
In Islamabad some months later I received a late-night telephone call from the Indian Air Attaché to say that his High Commission was worried that his naval colleague had vanished and could I please make inquiries . . .
And the denouement is described.
I visit the sub-continent most years, and during both 2011 visits I went to Swat, a beautiful region that I’ve known since 1980. It had been in social chaos, and the army described its task in 2008 as
After the complete breakdown of law and order and the non-adherence of the militants to the peace deal in Swat Valley, the Army was called out in aid of the civil power to eliminate the militants and restore the writ of the Government. The operation will continue until such time as we have liberated the people of Swat from the clutches of the militants. The military will not leave unless it is taken over by the civil administration and the writ of the Government is restored.
My accounts of the achievements of the Pakistan army in defeating the Taliban in Swat, then restoring order and rebuilding the District were declined by western publications. The military operations, and the follow-up, with the army rebuilding and administering the District, were major achievements but not newsworthy. Good news about Pakistan is seldom popular.
The News newspaper in Pakistan published an Opinion piece, however, part of which said:
Two centres were established to cater to those identified as being suitable for rehabilitation, and have been staffed by teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, prominent local figures and technical instructors who are responsible for vocational training. It is early days to quantify results, but evidence so far indicates that the scheme is successful. The atmosphere in the Centre I visited last week was impressive, and its administration – carried out entirely by an infantry battalion – was undoubtedly first class. Of course, it should not be the responsibility of the military to be involved in this type of programme, but there was no alternative, and if it works in the long term, as seems likely, it could be a model for other areas. Swat was a disaster area, and suffered grievously from vicious barbarity on the part of insurgents whose reign of terror could be stopped only by military action. This was carried out efficiently, and now vitality has been restored to a region whose inhabitants had thought they would have to suffer indefinitely the dictatorship of vicious ignorant fanatics.
It seems that the only news about the Pakistan army that is welcomed for publication in the West is bad news. The attempted murder of the schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai by Taliban fanatics in October 2012 was quite rightly covered extensively, but the army’s efficiency and sacrifices were at best grudgingly acknowledged.
In the course of my visit in October-November 2011 I met with eleven senior officers and visited Peshawar, Swat, Mangla, Lahore, Mohmand Tribal Agency, Heavy Industries Taxila, Pakistan Ordnance Factories Wah, and the National Defence University, where I spoke to the international affairs faculty. In Mohmand I had detailed briefings from the commander 77 Brigade and his officers responsible for securing the border with Afghanistan. I also spoke with many soldiers in the field and visited their wounded comrades in military hospitals. Following the US cross-border attack on his command on 26 November that killed 24 Pakistan army soldiers and wounded 13 others, some grievously, I wrote in an article for the Pakistan Army’s magazine, Hilal, in January 2012
I was in Mohmand at the beginning of November, visiting 77 Brigade, whose officers and soldiers of 7 AK [7th Battalion the Azad Kashmir Regiment] were slaughtered by US aircraft, and I know exactly where Pakistan’s border posts are located. And so do American forces, because they were informed of the precise coordinates of all them. There can be no refutation by the US of the statement to me by a senior officer that "No plans of any patrols or operations being conducted [at the time of the Mohmand airstrikes] were shared [with Pakistan, by US forces]." And nobody can deny that the posts are well inside Pakistan’s territory, although US and UK newspapers have been fed the line that "the border is ill-defined." Given all the satellite imagery and hi-tech location devices available to US forces, this simply does not wash.
An analysis of national nuclear security in Pakistan appeared in the May 2012 issue of Hilal, and a piece on drone attacks in Pakistan in September.
I served in the British and Australian armies, and, early in my service, following the agreement that ended the fighting during what was called ‘The Emergency’ in Cyprus, I commanded the troop of guns that fired a salute for President Makarios, who had been transformed in a few easy motions from reviled rebel to revered Head of State. (The fading British Empire was good at this : from Nehru onwards the former freedom-fighter’s most envied national honour was to have served a couple of years in a British colonial jail.)
In the 1960s I saw active service in what Indonesia called ‘Confrontation’ with Malaysia. As a Forward Observer in 6 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, in Borneo, I was fortunate enough to be attached to 42 Commando, Royal Marines; 1st Battalion Sarawak Rangers, of the Royal Malaysian Army; and 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR), following which connection I was asked to join the Australian Army, which I did in January 1970.
A very scruffy soldier, you will agree — but we had been over the border for 19 days without resupply.
During my years in Cyprus I was able to travel extensively in northern Libya, and an attachment with the Jordan Desert Police Force (then patrolling by camel, intercepting salt smugglers from Syria to Saudi Arabia), was especially interesting, as were tours as Reconnaissance and Survey Officer in 39 [nuclear] Missile Regiment in Germany, and fascinating but futile involvement in psychological operations in Vietnam.
Later postings included being Senior Staff Officer (Force Structure), in Australian Army HQ, during which time I was appointed to the Order of Australia; Director of Protocol for the Australian Defence Force; and, lastly, Australian Defence Attaché in Pakistan from 1988 to 1994. In that agreeable appointment I visited almost every part of the country, including some of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in which intruders – including citizens of Pakistan – are rarely welcome but where I was greeted with warmth, possibly as a result of travels in 1985 when I visited at the invitation of President (General) Zia ul Haq and travelled widely in North West Frontier Province and Balochistan.
In the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP – reporting on the ‘quantum of forces’ in Kashmir and trying to stop exchanges of fire) in 1981 there happened to be a particularly delightful and civilised bunch of people – and we became a family (see Margaret’s book). We hold annual reunions, and are now joined by the children and grandchildren of Mission members.
Living conditions in these days were somewhat basic in Srinagar and Rawalpindi (and even more so in the Field Stations along the Line of Control), and here are two of the children of dear friends, then in Srinagar and later in Denmark, and no longer children . . .
The August 2010 gathering was in Falsterbo, at the southern tip of Sweden, to which we drove via Germany and Denmark, staying with charming friends en route. Here is the closing of that reunion, with the organiser, Colonel Peter Wetterberg, on the right.
You will of course be aware that Maanpuolustuskorkeakoulo in Finnish means National Defence University. It’s one of these Finnish words that rolls off the tongue, like ‘Kippis’, which means Good Health! – I will now drink you under the table, which was until recently the only word I remembered in that astonishingly unfriendly language. (I wonder why?) But the Finns themselves are marvellous and hospitable, and it was the Finnish contingent of the Blue Berets of Kashmir 1981 who organised this year’s reunion, attended by fifty of us at the Maanpu . . . . .the National Defence University campus near Helsinki.
A fine body of men, even if most of us are twice the girth we were, thirty years ago . . . . .
My paper Doing Business in Pakistan was first produced in 2007 but unfortunately, given unrest in the country, my consultancy directed to creation of leisure centres has collapsed. (An entrepreneur in the Gulf had intended to develop, among other places, the Swat Valley as a tourist attraction, and, through me, was seeking Pakistani partners, advisers and consultants.) The dreadful floods in the country and the grim internal security situation have altered almost every facet of life in Pakistan, but the people are resilient and look to the future. In spite of Pakistan’s current terrible problems there are good long-term investment opportunities that could benefit the country as a whole.
A chapter titled The Terrorist Challenge and the Army's Capabilities is in Pakistan's Quagmire; Security, Strategy and future of the Islamic-nuclear Nation, published by Continuum publishers (NY), and the analysis Militancy and the Pakistan Army was published as Manekshaw Paper 17 by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi. It "examines the Pakistan Army’s military operations in the FATA and NWFP since 2001 and discusses the internal and external constraints within which they operate. It argues that the Pakistan Army is serious about tackling militancy . . . but that there are limits to what military force alone can achieve. The key to long-term stability and security must come from the economic, political and social follow-up to military action, the responsibility for which lies with the civilian government of Pakistan."
I was asked to write a 6,000 analysis titled The Siachen Imbroglio for India’s South Asia Defence and Strategic Yearbook, to be published in January 2013. In it I emphasise that the only way out of the debacle is for the countries to engage independent mediation, and in this regard the points made are that
Editing the Diaries of Lieutenant General (retd) Ali Aurakzai, an outstanding officer who was Corps Commander in Pakistan’s North West Province from 2001-2004 and then Governor of the Province from 2006 to 2008, was a great pleasure. The diaries were originally a hand-written 445,000 words (typed by Margaret) and were edited down to 180,000. There are many hundreds of superb photographs, but unfortunately publication was first forbidden on grounds of national security. There has been official recognition, however, that the memoirs in their edited form do not contain anything that would compromise the security of Pakistan, although there are descriptions of some military deficiencies and of many social and political problems. Of considerable significance there are accounts of incidents and meetings that have not before been recorded. General Aurakzai’s briefing of President George W Bush is notable. My personal observation is that if President Bush had paid attention to the advice of General Aurakzai, then there might have been avoidance of a few problems.
So General Aurakzai and I are working on producing his memoirs, which should be ready for publication in mid-2013.
Another project is the editing for publication the 1882-85 and 1902 diaries and letters of Captain Reginald Hunter Blair of the Gordon Highlanders,
at the request of his great-grandson, Alister HB, a former Royal Navy officer who keeps a houseboat on the Canal du Nivernais, near Voutenay.
These cover the British army’s campaign in Egypt and include descriptions of the battle of Tel el Kebir and the amazing journey up the Nile to the Sudan. I have also received from an old friend, retired Australian General Simon Willis, who has a long and distinguished family history, the diaries and letters of his ancestor Lieutenant Colonel Robert Coveny of the Black Watch, who, as a Captain, took part in the same events as Hunter Blair. It should be an interesting book – at least for enthusiasts – when it eventually appears. It might also add something to the History of the Black Watch, which is being written by the brilliant author Victoria Schofield. (Volume 1 has just appeared; it’s fascinating.) Excerpts from both officers’ diaries describing the Battle of Tel el Kebir in Egypt in 1882 are illuminating:
Here is Reginald:
Here our programme rather broke down – the noise of the rifles and guns of the enemy drowned every bugle that could be sounded. However we raised a tremendous cheer and charged up the hill. The noise of bullets was wonderful, just swishing over our heads – luckily as usual the fire was too high so we escaped without much loss up that hill, tho’ poor Brooks was shot in five places and killed on the spot.
And Robert, over on the right flank:
Suddenly we saw some bright flashes about 100 yards in front of us. Puff! Puff! – we could just see, as it was now the break of dawn. ‘Fix bayonets’, quietly went down our line now. The bayonets had no sooner been fixed than the whole of the Egyptian line, about 100 yards in our front, seemed like a city suddenly lighted up with a continuous row of gas-jets; a deafening rattle of musketry – and a shower of Remington bullets hailed around us. Some of our men were hit; but the Highland blood was up; in less than I have time to write from that last full stop we joined in the attacking lines, and, with one yell, we went at those fellows with the bayonet. It was a regular company-officers’ and soldiers’ battle. Just as we got to the first entrenchment, and as we were storming it, I got a bullet in my left shoulder; but I simply despised it, and jumped down with lots of my brave chappies bayoneting right and left around me.
Reginald Hunter Blair’s diary for 1902 has been found and I am now editing it. It describes his life in Kashmir, which is interesting even if almost the entire period is given over to polo, shooting, golf and bridge. The photograph album is fascinating.
His son Alister stands beside his father on the right of the photograph, and one of the saddest things is the record that
1st May. Srinagar. We all went by boat to the Masim [sic] Bagh in Dahl Lake, about 1½ hours paddle. Took lunch and had a jolly picnic under the splendid Chinar trees. The Buists joined us. E [his wife, Emily] and I rode home with them afterwards. It was Alister’s birthday treat and a jolly day . . .
It is sad because in the First World War, a week after his nineteenth birthday, Alister was killed. His body was never found, and his memorial in France reads
In Memory of
Second Lieutenant ALISTER HUNTER BLAIR
1st Bn., Cameron Highlanders
who died age 19
on 09 May 1915
Son of Maj. and Mrs. Reginald Hunter Blair, of Broomhouse, Duns, Berwickshire.
Remembered with honour
LE TOURET MEMORIAL
Which tends to make one think about the grief, tragedy and futility of war.