• Robin Horsfall

The Response to Terrorists.

The Response to Terrorists.

Another murderous incident takes place in one of our cities, more families have to pay the price and we as a nation feel helpless.

We have been hurt again and our first reaction is anger and a desire to strike back - but against who and where? Our next emotion is one of helplessness because there are no conventional forces, no bases or nations towards whom we can direct our frustrations.

Caught between anger and frustration many will attempt to hurt anything remotely associated with our perceived enemy and attack a mosque or a Muslim or someone whose skin is dark.

The press (unfortunately) will continue to exaggerate and speculate, they will not just report the news they will create the news. In so doing they assist and promote the agenda of the killers, ‘kill ten and frighten ten million’ is the plan of the extremist. A free and co-operative press make their job easy. The media will claim that it is their ‘responsibility to report the news’ I would reply that ‘it is their responsibility to report the news responsibly’. Minimise the hyperbole and just stick to the facts.

The press would be more useful if they spent their time encouraging decent people who are aware of extremist activity to speak out or to inform the authorities about their fears. They would be more useful if they were less inclined to be ‘even handed’ and more inclined to help in the fight against random murder. In the 1980s, the Thatcher Government placed an embargo on terrorist speakers. The BBC and other Television companies bypassed the ruling by using voiceovers and effectively supporting the IRA.

The war against terrorists is not a conventional war with bombs and troops it is fundamentally an intelligence war. The Secret Service, Military Intelligence, The Police and Special Branch are constantly searching for ways to infiltrate terrorist groups and to prevent terrorist actions. If we truly want to defeat extremists then intelligence resources must be increased to the maximum level. This requires funding, training and recruitment in all the aforementioned departments, a ten-year plan to use every possible means to undermine and disrupt extremist groups.

We as a nation have experienced this before. The attacks of the Provisional IRA against the population of the UK were undermined by top class intelligence operatives. Sources were developed with coercion and bribery and thousands of terrorist operations were prevented because of moles inside the terrorist cells. Our attack was taken to the enemy and the enemy suffered. Occasionally we had the opportunity to catch them in the act of attempting to commit murder and they lost a few men but the real war was undercover.

If we are going to hit back then we must invest, train and develop our intelligence groups, we must place trained operators inside extremist communities, we must return to the high standards of the past and hit these groups where it really counts. When they cannot trust one another, their paranoia will produce mistrust and infighting and they might just destroy themselves.

I accept that we must make symbolic acts of unity, laying flowers and keeping silent for a minute at international events and I accept that these gestures make people feel that they have done something to show their feelings. However, and forgive me if I put sympathy aside for a moment such actions do not adversely affect the terrorists. The battle will continue, more people will die and each death will be a tragedy to a family somewhere.

Actions taken must be a clever, effective and targeted. Sixty-million people in the United Kingdom value our liberal freedoms. If the extremists murder five thousand of us - hurt as we may be - there will still be sixty million of us who will not and must not change our way of life.

Robin Horsfall served undercover in Northern Ireland with the SAS between 1978 and 1984.

Robin Horsfall 4/6/2017

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