UAE becoming serious geopolitical player, says former UK army chief

Having served in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, Sir Nick Carter is renowned for his extensive knowledge of the Middle East

Reuters file
Reuters file

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 14 Jan 2022, 4:17 PM

The UAE’s emergence as an influential geopolitical player ensuring stability and security in the region is “good news”, the former head of the British armed forces said.

“It’s tremendous that the UAE is beginning to become a serious player on the geopolitical scene," Sir Nick Carter, Britain's former chief of defence staff, told Khaleej Times in an interview ahead of the three-day Intersec to be held in Dubai from Sunday.

"The world is in an ever-evolving competition, and those countries that share the sort of values that we espouse like the UAE, it is good news that they are stepping up to the plate to try and assure regional and indeed further afield stability and security. We all need allies and partners in this effort. And it is good news that the UAE wishes to make that sort of contribution to the world. So, I am delighted about it.”

Having served in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, Sir Carter is renowned for his extensive knowledge of the Middle East. After serving in the Balkans, he went on tours to Iraq as a brigade commander in 2003-04 and repeated tours to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013.

On his first tour, he was responsible for the initial design of Provincial Reconstruction Teams and the Afghan National Army. He commanded 55,000 Nato troops in Regional Command South during the Afghan ‘surge’ and in his last tour led the transition process with the now former President Ashraf Ghani as the Nato mission’s Deputy Commander.

Sir Carter said the West’s dramatic pull-out from Afghanistan and collapse of the Afghan government was a “shock”.

“It was a huge surprise. I don’t think anybody could possibly have predicted how that happened. At least of all the Taliban. I think most of us expected the Afghan government to be able to remain in power until certainly the spring when the next fighting season would have started. No, I can’t think of anybody who would have predicted that it would have fallen as quickly as it did in August," he said.

Sir Carter, who was the most senior uniformed military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister of the UK, noted that the Taliban need to govern in an “inclusive way”.

“The challenge the Taliban have is that they are not a homogeneous entity. And there are different factions within the Taliban. Therefore, they are going to find modus operandi between those different factions in order to be able to govern Afghanistan effectively," he said. "The challenge, of course, is that they are not governing as inclusively as the Afghans would like them to be governing nor indeed how the international community would like them to be governing.”

Sir Carter urged the world to engage with the Taliban as Afghans face risk of starvation in this winter.

“The international community needs to engage with the Taliban. It mustn’t recognise the Taliban because of course they are not governing in the way that we would like them to govern," he said. "But we need to engage because 90 per cent of the Afghans are at a serious risk of a major humanitarian crisis during the course of this winter given the number of droughts that country has had over the last five years, given the harshness of winter, the lack of food and of course the fact that the economy is collapsing.”

Sir Carter pointed out that Afghans need the foreign aid to survive this crisis situation.

“Equally we need to engage with the Taliban to make sure that they understand there are bottom lines and they need to govern in a much more inclusive way.”

Asked about the frosty relations that the West shares with Russia and China, and if a World War 3 is looming, Sir Carter said he has no such expectations.


“No, we are not going to see World War 3. Nobody wants to bring that on. And indeed, most of the competitors in this new era of inter-state global competition that we see, frankly are not in the business of trying to encourage a hot war to occur, they seek to achieve their objectives short of a hot war.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since retiring from the military, Sir Carter will be sharing insights from his extraordinary 44-year military career at Intersec 2022, which will be held at Dubai World Trade Centre from January 16 to 18.

“I shall be talking about the global strategic context and the evolving character of politics, warfare and the security scene. I will be drawing some deductions, which I hope that those who attend the event will find useful.”

More news from UAE