Irish bomb expert takes on the Taliban
An article in the Irish Examiner on 2 March 2007, entitled Irish bomb expert takes on the Taliban, reported:
army has sent its top explosives expert to battle the Taliban in war-torn
A decision to commit military personnel to a mission abroad is supposed to be subject to a Triple Lock requirement, that is, the mission has to be authorised by the UN Security Council, and the commitment of troops has to be approved both by the Government and by the Dáil.
As we will see, the creation of ISAF was authorised by the Security Council. According to a written answer by the Minister of Defence, Willie O’Dea, in the Dáil on 26 October 2006, the Government took a decision on 2 July 2002 “authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force”. Presumably, this decision was also approved by the Dáil (though I haven’t been able to find a record of it in the proceedings of the Dáil).
No doubt the
proper approval procedure was gone through in 2002. But, since then, ISAF’s
mission has changed utterly. In 2002,
ISAF was a peacekeeping force in and around
ISAF was established,
initially for 6 months, by Security Council Resolution 1386, passed on 20
December 2001 , shortly
after the US/UK military intervention in
“to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas, so that the Afghan Interim Authority as well as the personnel of the United Nations can operate in a secure environment”.
Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, had just been put together by the
Resolution 1386 was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and authorised ISAF to use armed force, if necessary, to fulfil its mission. Paragraph 3 gives it the authority to “to take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate”, which is UN-speak for authority to use armed force, if necessary.
was established, it could reasonably be said to have a peacekeeping role. At the same time, forces under separate
the intervening 5 years, ISAF’s role, and area of
operation, has been gradually changed by the Security Council. It has now taken over the “warfighting” role in southern
In October 2003, resolution 1510  authorised ISAF to operate
“in areas of
In addition, resolution 1510 required ISAF to “work in close consultation” with “the Operation Enduring Freedom Coalition”, which was certainly not engaged in peacekeeping.
new mandate, ISAF set up bases first in northern
2006, over 10,000
Under NATO command
under NATO command in 2003. As of
February 2007 , it
had 35,460 troops from 37 states, the largest contributors being the
also substantial contributions from
Throughout ISAF’s evolution from peacekeeping to “warfighting”,
Bush and Blair have been trying to browbeat other NATO states into providing
more troops for ISAF operations in the South and into lifting “caveats” on
troops already serving in other parts of
O’Dea takes on the Army
he has had to dampen down expectations of massive investments in the EU battle
groups and has also clashed with offers over his refusal to offer unqualified
support for the
More specifically, on 24 February 2007, the Irish Times reported that Willie O’Dea had sent Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Jim Sreenan, a strongly-worded letter in early January reminding him that “any public comment on national, international or political issues represented a breach of Defence Forces rules” . The occasion for this rebuke was an interview given by Sreenan without the Minister’s permission to the Irish Times, extracts of which were published in two articles on 27 December 2006 .
Irish Times interview
In the interview, the General spoke about
(It is worth noting that, in his speech on 9 February 2006, O’Dea stated unambiguously that any deployment of Irish troops as part of an EU Battlegroup would be subject to the same Triple Lock requirement as other troop deployments overseas. He said:
“Any decision to participate in any mission, irrespective of our commitment or participation in a Battlegroup, will be a national sovereign decision. … The Triple Lock requirement of UN, Government and Dáil approval will continue.”)
Perhaps, the Minister was annoyed that the General had
stolen his thunder by announcing
“Gen Sreenan said the nature of all overseas missions in which Irish troops would be involved in the future was becoming more difficult.”
“Gen Sreenan described as ‘misleading’ the use of the terms ‘peace keeping’ or ‘peace enforcement’ to describe the nature of the Defence Forces’ work overseas. Irish troops were now playing a vital ‘crisis management’ role. They were helping to bring security in the developing world. In doing so they were paving the way for NGOs, security sector reform and other development work.”
“Gen Sreenan said he believed reservists would help to alleviate pressure on the 10,500 full-time soldiers, as the Defence Forces became more involved in increasingly ‘complex and robust’ missions overseas.”
(The Defence Act allows the deployment of members of the Permanent Defence Forces under specified circumstances. It’s not clear that it would be legal to deploy members of the Reserve Defence Forces overseas without amending it.)
Small wonder then that the Minister felt the need to write a letter of rebuke to the General. The Irish Times report of 24 February 2007 on the letter said:
“‘On matters of policy’, [O’Dea] wrote, ‘there can and must be only one position defined either by Government, by me as Minister for Defence (or through my officials). No official spokesman can have any legitimate role beyond the articulation of this position.’ … ‘Where there is any doubt, it is essential to establish the official position in advance of commenting publicly’.
“Mr O’Dea reminded Lieut Gen Sreenan about sections of the Defence Forces regulations that prohibit any public comment on policies by a senior officer. ‘No discretionary power is mentioned’, he said. … ‘The airing of individual or controversial views is simply prohibited and any departure from the prohibition is a breach of regulation.’”
The Minister’s rebuke was fully justified. You can’t have military men sounding off about policy in a democracy.
Irish Political Review
23 March 2007
 See www.ireland.com
 See www.ireland.com
 See www.defence.ie