Translation of “A full-scale land campaign would be necessary against the Islamic State” (Átfogó szárazföldi műveletre penne szükség az Iszlám Állam ellen) published in pro-government Magyar Idők on November 18, 2015.
Following the Paris terror attack, the Hungarian Defense Force introduced serious measures to protect its bases and foreign missions as well. Meanwhile, military policemen have started patrolling Budapest’s main transportation hubs. Joint chiefs of staff head Tibor Benkő believes there is an indirect connection between the current European terror threat and the mass migration, and for this reason it is important the Hungarian Defense Force erected the fence along the border, in which even the Baltic states have expressed an interest. The Colonel General believes it is only possible to thoroughly defeat the Islamic State in Syria with a full-scale land campaign. Tibor Benkő also said that the Defense Force would replace the crashed Gripen aircraft in the future.
– On Friday night serious terror attacks took place in Paris. In response to this Hungary ordered serious security measures be implemented that also involved soldiers. What does this mean in practice?
– After the terrorist attack, the national security work group met on Saturday morning where the Prime Minister listened to the various reports, such as reports from the heads of law enforcement bodies as well. Following that he decided to introduce beefed up security measures. The press has written a lot about this. From the point of view of soldiers it means a great preparedness and the protection of targets with their presence, our soldiers are policing the streets and we introduced security measures in the (foreign) missions as well.
– How did you strengthen the security of military targets?
– Every military organization introduced stricter measures regarding the protection of its own objects, more soldiers were assigned to protect military facilities who are also patrolling the area. In addition to reserve forces, we sent active duty soldiers to protect objects
– Where can military police be f0und in the streets?
– Soldiers are patrolling places where larger crowds are expected to appear, for example transportation hubs, or the premises of cultural events of great interest, railway or bus stations. Because weapons are the basic equipment of soldiers, the military policemen are carrying weapons.
– There have been press reports that the military police are only carrying Kalasnyikovs as a form of intimidation but that they did not receive ammunition.
– Whoever says such a thing does not understand the bases of military order either. It’s very sad that they try to degrade the defense role of the defense forces in this way. Just as weapons belong to soldiers, ammunition belongs to weapons. The military police are patrolling with live ammunition, and they must operate according to the rules pertaining to the use of weapons.
– What tasks can the military police fulfill on the basis of this?
– They can inspect military vehicles and their legal scope of activities includes other soldiers or individuals dressed in military uniform. However, when it come to civilians, this only applies to the police.
– Legally does a terrorist firing a machine gun count as a soldier or a civilian?
– That is a very important question. We cannot know for example whether a terrorist could be dressed in a manner similar to our defense forces, or whether he might use similar vehicles as our soldiers. For this reason our presence and our patrolling the streets is important. In the event someone launches a violent attack on those people the soldiers are charged with protecting, it is irrelevant what they wear, they must intervene. A military policeman is not a policeman, but in the case of a violent actions it can intercede if the security of Hungarians is at risk.
– According to the news military defense of the Paks atomic energy plant and the region has been stepped up.
– The protection of Paks is a daily task, regardless of the level of terror threat. The Hungarian Defense Force can also plays a role in this, but this is not part of the stepped-up, B level measures. For now the soldiers do not have any additional direct responsibilities in the area of Paks. Of course monitoring air traffic and inspecting air defense and other miscellaneous daily responsibilities continue on.
– Is it also necessary to step up protection of the soldiers attached to the foreign missions?
– We also introduced stricter measures at the missions. This does not pertain to the performance of military tasks, but rather necessitates greater attention and enhanced intelligence. However, we limited the movement of soldiers during their free time. But that pertains to foreign soldiers participating in exercises in Hungary as well.
– How long has military intelligence known that Europe must prepare for a migration crisis of this size?
– This is been the main theme military committee of the Euoprean Uni0n for more than two years. However, the military leaders primarily concentrated on Italy, Greee, Spain as well as the seaports. But the solution—even the military one—depends on communal political will and intent.
– At a press conference you stated nearly a year ago that Europe needs to solve the problem from a distance.
– I said that in connection with the fact that we are always debating whether our soldiers need to be part of those missions. At that time I said that the point of the missions is that we are trying to create a more livable world in areas affected by crisis or war. For example, this is one of the origins of the large scale migration that is threatening our security and our culture as well.
– So you believe there is a connection between migration and the strengthening of terrorism.
– By itself migration does not pose a threat of terror if the migrants try to enter Europe in a lawful manner. But we are experiencing a migration over the course of which crowds of people can cross borders without any kind of inspection. For this reason numerous individuals with bad intentions can enter Europe, including agents of the so-called Islamic State terrorist organization. Since at the head of every crowd stand leaders, I am convinced that the immigration is taking place in an organized manner. Furthermore, these leaders are able to move crowds in a directed manner with information and technical equipment. And if necessary, they can create an atmosphere around them that encourages them to attack officials.
– In response to the terror attacks the French once again started bombing Syria. Is this the solution?
– Where there are so many types of peoples, political organizations affected by a crisis, a single army cannot solve the problem. We need to think in terms of a coalition army. Nor is it enough for the air force to bomb ISIS positions. A full-scale land offensive of adequate strenth is necessary in order to wind up the terrorist cells, centers, and nexus points. Many NATO member states participate in the coalition against ISIS. A Hungarian mission, for example, is contributing to this by providing training in Iraq and Kurdistan.
– How can Europe defend itself? It seems that closing the border proved effective in the recent past.
– Hungary was in a difficult situation from this point of view, since it is a EU member state with a Schengen border, but at the same time needs to act humanely. In any case results can only be achieved through international solidarity. I am mostly talking about the role the army is fulfilling in this primarily. The Hungary Defense Force also proved that it is not only capable of acting in the case of a red sludge disaster, flood or other natural disaster, but that it also capable of taking urgent steps when it comes to defending our borders. We were able in a relatively short period of time to close the entire southern border over a distance of several hundred kilometers while we also participated together with the police in protecting it with the help from the Visegrad Four countries
– Is it true that we are building a fence in other countries as well, and that we might send soldiers to Greece?
– Hungarian soldiers stationed abroad are not building fences. Under the title Balaton 2014 the V4 countries collectively underwent training in the area of border protection tasks. However, it’s a fact that a number of other countries have expressed interest in connection with the Hungarian security border closure. From the southern slav region they asked our advice, as well as from the Baltics, where they probably will close the border in response to the crisis in the Ukraine.
– Were the EU to decide that soldiers should man the borders in the interest of protecting Europe and the European people, then the Hungarian Defense Force would be willing and able to participate in that.
– In response to the Ukrainian crisis, Hungary held joint military exercises with US troops for a greater or shorter period of time. Are American weapons to be permanently stationed here?
– We do not know anything about that for now. The exercises enable us to cooperate better with NATO’s international powers in the case of a conflict. That is why there are military exercises during which international powers come here and we also go to other countries for training and exercise.
– Will the Hungarian Defense Force receive new fighter aircraft to replace the ones damaged in accidents, and will there be new military helicopters?
– One of our fighters is being repaired. We have to replace the other one with one obtained from the factory. However, we are not there yet, as we have to examine what can be salvaged from the damaged fighter. We would like to replace both aircraft in the future. We also have a great need for military helicopters, and I am confident that the decision will be made in the near future.
A FENCE PROTECTS THE SOUTHERN GREEN BORDER
The government decided on June 17th of this year to close the green border along the Hungarian-Serbian border. The Hungarian Defense Force erected a 175 m long sample fence between July 13th and 18th using four different technical solutions. The government decided on July 2nd in favor of the second variation except for a 30-40 kilometer section where it is difficult to travel, where there will only be a razor wire fence. The construction of a 175 kilometer long fence along the Hungarian-Serbian border started on August 1st and was finished on September 14th. The final crossing point was closed using a freight train wagon reinforced with a steel frame seven rows of razor wire. Several days later the government decided to build a secure border closure along the Croatian-Hungarian border, which we completed on October 15th. Rivers forming part of the Croatian-Hungarian green border at several sections posed natural obstacles. János Lázar, Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister, recently stated that, if necessary, a fence would be built along the Romania-Hungarian border between the triple border and Mezőhegyes. On internet forums the possibility fo closing the entire Romanian as well as the Ukrainian border has also come up.