I left the British Army in July 2013 after a career in which I served on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and, most recently, as the military assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff. As a Territorial Army officer I worked on everything from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to establishing the Armed Forces Muslim Association. I also worked for the Foreign Office and helped set up the National Security Council of Afghanistan and the government in Helmand Province.
I grew up in London and Sellinge, near Ashford, before going to read Theology at Bristol University where I also worked in the local homeless shelter in the St Paul’s area. I then studied for a Masters’ degree in Islamics at Cambridge University, which including learning Arabic in Yemen.
After graduating, I went to Beirut as a journalist where I wrote about the conflict as well as regional politics and economics. Soon after I established one of Lebanon’s first public relations companies and won some major international clients. When I returned to the UK I worked as a management consultant before going into energy analysis in the City. At about the same time I joined the Territorial Army.
When the Iraq War broke out in 2003, I was mobilised as an Arabic-speaking intelligence officer to serve with the Royal Marines. I went in as part of Op TELIC, the invasion of Iraq. After the war I returned to my job in the City, but was soon asked to help with the distribution of the New Iraqi Dinar as part of the economic reconstruction effort. Over the next six months I ran the central region – Baghdad and surrounding cities – and distributed much of the $4.5 billion-worth of cash that went into Iraq.
The next year I saw a series of projects conducted on behalf of the British government and companies including helping to improve Morocco's ports to ensure they were compliant with modern protocols. In 2005, I was asked by the Foreign Office to go to Afghanistan and help grow the National Security Council. Working in the Dari language, the project involved setting the strategic goals for a new office that coordinated Afghanistan’s strategic advice to President Karzai.
When one of the members of the National Security Council was named governor of Helmand Province, he asked for me to go with him as his adviser. Together, and this time working in Pashto, the language of southern Afghanistan, we set up the first non-warlord administration in Helmand since the Soviet invasion.
After two years in Afghanistan I returned to the UK, but my former Royal Marines unit was deploying to Helmand and asked me to go too. I agreed to be mobilised and served operationally for a further two years, for which I received the MBE, coming off my last patrol in July 2009.
On returning to the UK, I was asked by the new Chief of the General Staff (the head of the British Army) to work on the Army Strategy Team helping prepare for the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
When the Chief of the General Staff was made Chief of the Defence Staff (the professional head of the British Armed Forces) he asked me to serve as his military assistant and principal adviser. I remain a reserve officer.
In 2015 I was elected as Member of Parliament for Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling and am honoured to have been re-elected in 2017 and 2019 too.
In Parliament, I sat on the Speakers' Advisory Committee on Works of Art of the House of Commons and in July 2017 was elected Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which I also Chair in this current Parliament. I am a Dementia Friend and an active supporter of the Alzheimer's Society while being a Honourary Fellow at St Augustine’s College of Theology in West Malling, and Patron of Hospice the Weald, The Bridge Trust in Tonbridge and Spadework in Offham.