Bombs, Bullets and Political Pissing Matches

Private security contractors working for Western PSCs in Kabul added another occupational hazard to their already considerable portfolio this week after Bill Shaw, a manager for Britain’s largest security firm was convicted of bribery by an Afghan court and sentenced to two years in prison.  I have no doubt that Mr. Shaw was acting in good faith when he paid a $20,000 fine for the release of two improperly licensed vehicles owned by his employer, G4S; parent company of ArmorGroup.  By all accounts, he is an upstanding manager who got caught in a political pissing match between Karzai’s government and the West over who is fuelling corruption in Afghanistan. Continue reading

The Defence of the Realm

Last night’s leaders’ debate made it official; the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent is the stand out issue of the election.   Prime Minister Gordon Brown berated Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg’s proposal to scrap the next generation Trident II nuclear missile system, telling him to ‘get real about the danger that we face,’ from Iran and North Korea. Conservative Leader David Cameron wasn’t as forceful but his message was on par with Brown’s.  ‘We are safer having an independent nuclear deterrent in an unsafe and uncertain world,’ he argued.

I agree with the Lib Dems on this issue. Continue reading

Running Away from Death Valley

I applaud General Stanley McChrystal’s decision this week to withdraw US Forces from the Korengal Valley in the notorious Kunar-Nuristan corridor of Afghanistan.  Even with roughly 150,000 troops soon at his disposal, it’s a brave call to abandon what was touted as an operationally important area—especially when the Taliban will undoubtedly claim the move as a victory.  The pullback is being billed as part of a larger ‘repositioning’ of US and NATO forces to more populated areas of Afghanistan.  Still, repositioning or not, some places cannot be dominated.

I speak from experience when I say that the Kunar-Nuristan corridor falls into that category. Continue reading

The Collateral Damage of WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder

Millions of people have viewed the now infamous classified video leaked earlier this week by whistleblower website WikiLeaks.org.  Collateral Murder shows an incident in Baghdad in 2007 in which two US Apache helicopters fired on a group of civilians, including two Reuters employees.  The video is highly disturbing and has sparked a valid debate about the Rules of Engagement. It also serves as a cautionary tale for any journalist operating in a hostile environment.  These are important topics that deserve serious discussion. Still, I fear that the way in which they were raised has handed jihadists a major propaganda victory. Continue reading

A Warzone – Not an Amusement Park

General Stanley McChrystal deserves a huge round of applause this week for shutting down fast food outlets on US bases in Afghanistan.  According to a blog by McChrystal’s Command Sergeant Major, closing such non-essential amenities will free up storage and transport capacity for the 30,000 additional US troops and 7,000 ISAF soldiers deploying over the coming months.  Some British newspapers have suggested that obesity among the rear echelon may also have factored into the decision.

Closing down the likes of Burger King, Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen may help with the battle of the bulge and most certainly will help accommodate the troop surge.  Still, I suspect there is a deeper agenda at play here.  Continue reading