British Generals Admit Afghan Failure

This important news story was number 10 on the BBC UK’s website earlier today; 7 stories below the death of Alvin Stardust.

Years after these “Generals” (of course there is no such thing as ex-Generals) made some extremely bad calls for the sake of British foreign policy in Afghanistan, they have come forward and admitted their failings on a BBC programme. Brigadier Ed Butler back in 2006 was put in a no win situation along with his officers and men who fought courageously down in Helmand Province, not gaining meaningful ground but just surviving. Like always, the Parachute Regiment and associated units showed the world what British troops can do under very extreme pressure. However, it is well documented in the press that a UK SF report suggested that British troops should not be deployed to Helmand Province for various very sensible reasons.

Back in 2004, when I took a road trip from Kabul to Helmand with a small media team, I could see that it would be madness to deploy NATO troops to a majority Pashtun, Taliban supported area, no matter what the scale of deployment. On my return, and on various occasions afterwards, I voiced my opinion to military people back in Kabul. How dare I, as I’m no longer in the Forces, therefore what the hell do I know?

I’ve spoken and blogged many times over the years about how we took one side of a simmering civil war back in 2001; the side of the non Pashtun northern tribes. The politicians and Generals expected British troops to deploy to Helmand, and win the hearts and minds of the people on the other side of the civil war…just plain crazy!

The MOD has since argued that they left Helmand in a better situation than when they found it. I would argue against that, as I could “sensibly” wander around Helmand back in 2004, visit farmers, small towns and markets, but today I wouldn’t dare step into the Province. Almost every year since 2006, I would go there in a military embed and watch the situation get harder and harder for troops to operate–while senior officers and media relations officers spun the situation to the British public. Millions of Pounds of tax payers money has been wasted on military and DIFID projects, as the farmers are all back to growing the poppy, and the men of Helmand are putting the women and girls “back in their place”. Men and women have fought bravely. Many died or suffered wounds (both physical and mental); their friends and family all impacted one way or another, whilst the MOD still spews its filthy spin.

It angers me to see these Generals continue to be awarded medals and titles, write their memoirs and make out to their readership that they were right and courageous to make the decisions that they did.

These people dropped their pants for our politicians and US foreign policy. They did not lead from the front.

I’ve been banging on for a while now about accountability from our top brass and political leaders. A wee while ago, a British officer was rightly stripped of his gallantry award for lying about his leadership under contact. How about stripping these Generals of their medals and titles–for playing political spin for years over the Helmand deployment, and letting down both the British public and the brave soldiers who were under their command

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Afghan War, Afghanistan, British Defence, NATO, UK PoliticsTags, , , , 8 Comments

8 thoughts on “British Generals Admit Afghan Failure”

  1. Bob

    Another spot on blog.

    The problem is, we have to many officers now for the men they supposedly lead. Most of the senior commanders of the British Armed forces have no or very little hands on experience of the day to day lives of the British squaddie fighting a insurgency/occupation/nation building operation under the ECHR and the boys with PPE from Oxford or Cambridge.

    Where were the threats to resign over poor equipment or the sacking of personnel (with guys getting there P45 in-country). Where were the strong words in the papers criticising the Government and the MoD civvies over there total mismanagement of the Defence Budge over the last 40 years?

    Why do we have more Admirals than ships, Air Marshals than Fighter Squadrons and enough Generals to staff the US Army? Like all aspects of life in the UK today there is just to much political and PC interference in the way the military is run. But unlike a meeting to discuses “Gay and Lesbian transgender rights in football” held to comply with some Uber-Liberal Wet. War and the fighting of war is brutal and dirty. And if you decide to fight a war then you have to prosecute it to win at all costs. As if its not worth winning then it is not worth wasting the life’s of a country’s youth.

    The Athenians had it right in that to be a Civic leader you had to have been first a soldier and it is more relevant to day as are political leaders spend too much time worrying about how they look on TV than the lives the are supposed to defend.


  2. This kind of truth needs to be in the British press – uncensored and open for all of this countries taxpayers to see. We have the most corrupt government in the world and it’s time it was exposed. There are a lot of people who will back you up on this Bob, keep at it mate!

  3. Its all too easy for squaddies to criticise the generals. And in many respects they are right too. A they say if the troops ‘ant moaning, then we have a problem..They, the generals, have a tough balancing act between political masters and what is the right thing to do in the field of battle. But the truth be known, they know full well what happens to General’s who fall on their own sword. I disagree that our Generals don’t have experience. Ok, they haven’t operated in a FOB in Afghanistan as a Tom, but read up on Dannett (MC), Jackson and the American Mac Chrystal. They criticised in public about the political interference and lack of resources, because they weren’t being listened to by their government’s.They were side-lined. It has been the same throughout history. It takes a brave man to disagree with a tactical order to deploy, just like the officer in the SAS who refused to deploy his troop in Gulf 1 which in turn led to the other call sign Bravo 20 well documented outcome. Or indeed the attack on the airfields in Argentina. When we are all revved up to go on operations, its head up arse time, lets go and sort it out once we are in the field. We are all guilty of that attitude, those of us who have served. For me, Afghanistan, just like the British empire at the end of WW2, Has finally made our allies, particularly the American’s realise that we don’t have the resources anymore to fight an intense military campaign. And the knock-on effect may well come to pass that we could lose our seat on the security council. To be replaced by the likes of India or any one of the South American countries (Brazil) actively seeking representation for a voice in world affairs. But that’s for another Blogg..

  4. Is it not the case that it is the politicians who put our armed forces into scenarios which these mistakes are being made, i.e rushing into events expecting the UK forces to perform without the correct funding, resources and man power. We do not have any any good leaders and especially no politicians who are ex services.
    Have a look at the rows of politicians standing at the Cenotaph this year, how many will be wearing any medals?
    I believe that we need ex-service personnel in senior politician roles who have a lot more experience in leadership and controlling resources that the public school boys we have at the minute do not have. How can they lead without any proper live experience.

    But to put it into perspective, I would not change being British for one minute

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