The Army is to ask football event managers for advice on crowd control in the wake of the frantic evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul this summer.
Speaking at a RUSI event on Tuesday, Lieutenant Colonel David Middleton, 2 Para’s Commanding Officer, spoke of how his soldiers dealt with the unrelenting situation whenever the “crowd swelled” in Kabul and the subsequent need for "minute by minute crowd control with public order skills", such as shields.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, thousands of people travelled to Hamid Karzai International airport in August with the intention of fleeing the country, with large crowds forming at all major entrances.
Management of the city airport became essential to ensuring a successful evacuation operation.
Other crowd control measures included constructing obstacles, initially disused cars and ultimately installing blockades, to try and “manage the overwhelming numbers of people massing outside the hotel”, Lt. Col Middleton said.
However Major Jim Viney, Deputy Chief of Staff, 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “This process taught us that there is little military doctrine at the moment on crowd control, and I think going forward we will reach out to industry to better understand how this can be done by military forces going forward.”
Defence sources confirmed that the army would look to work with people who manage football events, stadiums and the police with regard to better understanding crowd control for future operations.
A source said 16 Air Assault Brigade remained “at readiness” and without prior knowledge of what the next operation entailed, it was imperative to “reach out to as many people as possible, and see which the best bits are for us”.
Major Viney added that for the ultimate success of the non-combatant operation, what had mattered most was his brigade’s “readiness”, due to the fact that they deployed within “such taut timelines”.
Reflecting on the operation as a whole, Lt Col Middleton said it was “the speed” of Kabul’s collapse, which saw people trying to leave the country in “earnest”, that created the overwhelming uncertainty which became “one of the defining factors that we were operating against”.
He also acknowledged that the predicted 5,000 people they were initially deployed to rescue was “a figure of mixed confidence” for those in charge, as the total people evacuated was threefold that number.
Lt Col Middleton added that while the evacuation that was carried out “under the watchful eye of the Taliban” required an “expeditionary mindset” and was “undeniably tough”, it remained “rewarding”.
"It was genuinely a collective effort that’s not just a truism," he said.