They'll Take the Aid
The announcement that British forces will hand over control of Sangin to American troops has stirred some very powerful emotions. Despite military and Government insistence that the move is a logical redeployment; the decision has nevertheless provoked charges that the British military failed in Sangin and is running away.
First, let’s separate the military brass from the brave soldiers doing the hard graft on the ground. The British produce the finest soldiers in the world. I have no doubt our forces could hang on in Sangin indefinitely, as the Paras proved in 2006 during the opening phase of Britain’s woefully undermanned and infamously underequipped deployment to Helmand. Sadly, the number of boots on the ground was never increased sufficiently to allow British forces to dominate their area of operations; hence why they have managed to ‘hang on’ rather than turn the situation around. Continue reading ‘Leaving Sangin’
Can he be won over?
It’s a grim milestone that with good leadership could have been avoided. This week a Royal Marine wounded in Helmund Province became the 300th British service member to die as a result of operations in Afghanistan. The tragic death has caused many Brits to pause and reflect, not only on the sacrifices made by our brave men and woman in uniform but on the broader issue of what our country can realistically achieve in Afghanistan. Continue reading ‘A Civil War – Not an Insurgency’
Talib in Helmand 2004
After four years, the British media have finally got it. This week, The Times published a two month investigation into who was responsible for the disastrous decision to deploy British forces to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in insufficient numbers back in 2006. The answer was in the headline: The Officer’s Mess.
Of course, today it is obvious to a blind man that the Helmand mission was poorly planned and woefully undermanned. Nearly three hundred brave British soldiers have lost their lives in Southern Afghanistan and many have sustained horrific, life-altering wounds. But as far back as 2004 and certainly by 2005, it was clear to anyone who visited the province that it would never be pacified by a token occupying force. Continue reading ‘Not Fit to Lead’
All for China?
It looks like China is poised to cash in again on Afghanistan, despite having never fired a single shot in anger there. This week, Beijing got a step closer to developing natural gas fields in northwest Afghanistan after signing three agreements with Kabul covering economic cooperation, training and trade. If you’ll recall, China won a major deal in 2007 to develop the Aynak copper mine outside Kabul – one of the world’s largest. Work on the $3 billion project has reportedly gone slower than expected due to deteriorating security, leading some observers to conclude that Beijing may be reluctant to significantly increase investment in Afghanistan. But if this week’s agreements are anything to go by, China will continue to do very well for itself in Afghanistan without having sacrificed a thing. Continue reading ‘China: Making a Killing in Afghanistan’
Hearings in Britain’s latest Iraq war inquiry were suspended this week and won’t resume until after the general election expected this May. Despite efforts to remain separate from party politics, the Chilcot Inquiry has generated much for the political gristmill. Among the most notable are claims by defence chiefs and ministers that Prime Minister Gordon Brown starved the armed forces of funds while he was Chancellor and blocked vital equipment orders– charges the Prime Minister has refuted.
British Paras in Basra 2003
With all the headlines, you’d think that the Chilcot inquiry was actually living up to its mandate and identifying lessons to be learned from the Iraq conflict. But the controversy surrounding equipment shortages is, sadly, nothing new. Continue reading ‘Britain’s Iraq Inquiry: What’s the Point?’
It was a coordinated assault; a PR blitz meant to shame the British public into backing the continued commitment of British forces to a tragically unwinnable military campaign. Thursday, the Head of UK Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup and British Army Head General, Sir David Richards, both claimed that the public’s increasingly sour view of the war in Afghanistan is undermining the morale of troops on the ground.
The suggestion that support for our men and women in uniform is inextricably tied to support for the Afghan campaign is disgraceful in my view. As an ex-soldier, I have the utmost respect for the British Army. They are the best fighting force in the world. The fact they have sustained themselves in Helmund for so long with insufficient numbers and equipment and without competent backing from their leaders at the top is testament to their incredible professionalism. Continue reading ‘Afghanistan: The Great Shame’
NATO's Road to Nowhere
When President Obama announced this week that he intends to ‘finish the job’ in Afghanistan, I wondered exactly what job he was referring to; finding Osama bin Laden? Denying al-Qaeda a safe haven? Democratization? Promoting women’s rights? Curtailing the opium trade? All have been cited over the past eight years as reasons for staying in Afghanistan.
With public support eroding by the day, fighting al-Qaeda now tops the list of excuses. In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is telling us we must stay the course in Afghanistan to keep our streets safe. Tenuous connections between Afghanistan and home grown terrorists aside, it is clear that from Washington to Whitehall there is a concerted effort afoot to buy time for the coalition to achieve an honorable exit.
Continue reading ‘Afghanistan: Looking For An Honourable Way Out’
Published November 19, 2009
Tags: Afghan Security Forces, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, ANA, ANP, British military, coalition forces, Exit Strategy, ISAF, NATO, Taliban
When NATO military officials meet in Brussels later this month, they will be asked to contribute more resources to step up the training and expansion of Afghanistan’s security forces. In the second instalment of this two part series, I’ll examine how politically motivated recruitment and training schedules compromise the safety of coalition soldiers and threaten to undermine the justification for the war in Afghanistan; containing the threat from al-Qaeda.
Rapidly accelerating the expansion of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is understandably attractive to western military and political leaders sick fed up with explaining mounting war causalities to an increasingly sceptical public. But what looks good on paper has already proved tragically short-sighted in practice. Continue reading ‘Part II: Afghan Security Forces: The Weak Link in NATO’s Exit Strategy’