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

Why are British Generals good at talking sense only after they leave the military?

General David Julian Richards, Baron of Herstmonceux GCB,CBE,DSO,DL,ADC Gen….I think that’s about it, spoke to the BBC the other day about the fact that the British Army should be much larger than it is, in order to meet today’s requirements!

Really? I left the military after 23yrs with the great title of Bob Shepherd, and I and all my ex military buddies knew that was the case years ago. Yet I’ve heard him and other “Generals” over the years in press conferences explaining why, due to the current climate, the military should be cut down and/or replaced by part timers.

Today’s Army is the smallest in it’s history. It’s due to people like him signing off and agreeing with politicians instead of standing up for his men and women in uniform and resigning, thereby keeping his integrity and his military in one piece.

But here we are today, British soldiers yet again proving time after time that they are the best in the world, simply by showing how well they can operate in survival mode in places like Basra, Iraq and in Helmand, Afghanistan. No other military could have operated so well. I know that as I’ve spent years in military embeds whilst working with the media studying other NATO units versus the Brits.

I am so proud of our soldiers in uniform, regulars and TA, but I am not proud of the serving and ex Generals who have failed them.

If you’re a General and you’re wearing the hat…make sure it’s the military hat and not the political one, even though the latter will guarantee you a place in the House of Lords. The former will guarantee you a place at the bar with my ex military mates and myself!

I took this photo the day before Basra fell to the British Army.
Basra Bridge, Iraq. 2003

The Farce of Training Afghan Troops (and a cautionary example for Syria)

Afghan National Army training.

 

Recruits being trained by US military mentors/trainers. 200 men to 1 instructor! On the US M16 assault rifle and not the AK47.

Mindblowing, watching the instructor in front of 200 men explain stripping and assembling to mainly illiterate soldiers, some of whom don’t even speak the language of the interpreter.
KMTC (Kabul Military Training Centre), Afghanistan. 2009

AFGHANISTAN: TRUTH AND LIES

It is at least six years late, but finally a senior political figure has found the courage to call for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.  Lord Ashdown pulled few punches in his impassioned plea in The Times, criticising Britain’s early military strategy and accusing the government of becoming distracted by adventures in Iraq when it should have been focused on Afghanistan.

All true, but while Ashdown called out the government for its political failings, he neglected to mention the string of lies senior ministers have perpetuated about Afghanistan, or point the finger at senior military figures who’ve been more than willing to support that deceit. How any politician can say with a straight face that we are in Afghanistan to keep the streets of Britain safe is beyond me, when everyone knows our involvement has fuelled the flames of home grown terrorism.  Then there’s the lie of the moment—that Afghan troops can somehow be vetted to stop ‘rogue’ recruits from turning their weapons on their NATO mentors.  As I argued on BBC Radio 5 Live earlier this week, nothing can be done to stop green on blue attacks because an element of the men we’re trying to train up have viewed us as the enemy since we entered Afghanistan back in 2001.

I’ve been screaming it from the rafters since I started this blog and I’ll scream it again.  AFGHANISTAN IS NOT AN INSURGENCY. IT’S A CIVIL WAR AND WE’VE TAKEN ONE SIDE IN IT.  Since 2006 when British troops entered Helmand Province, they’ve been trying to win over the people on the other side of that conflict—a futile, senseless task presided over by sloping shouldered generals and senior military brass who care more about pleasing politicians than they do the lives of their troops.  These senior officers know who they are, and they should hang their heads in shame.  I really don’t know how they or their chums in government can sleep at night knowing how many brave British troops they have and continue to put in harm’s way for no other reason than to justify past mistakes.

Why is it taking our government so long to act in the best interest of our troops when our Canadian, Dutch and French NATO allies have found the political will to bring their forces home? There is no justification for Britain’s continued presence in Afghanistan. None. Continue reading

Private Security: A Bad Deal for British Tax Payers

A no holds barred BBC Scotland Investigates documentary revealing how former British servicemen are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan while on UK government contracts paid for by British tax payers is currently playing on BBC iPlayer

I urge anyone who reads this post to please help get the word out about this very important, long overdue documentary. When a security contractor enters the public consciousness, it’s usually due to a tragic scandal that reinforces the image of a gun totting mercenary with no love for his nation and no moral foundation.

The reality is very different.

It may not sell newspapers, but the truth is the overwhelming majority of British private security contractors working in hostile environments are competent professionals who strive to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.  They are decent men and women, many of them ex-military, trying to earn an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work.  Their attitudes and motives are no different from professional soldiers. In fact many of them are doing military jobs outsourced by Britain and its allies.  When it comes to recognition and support however, private contractors couldn’t be further from their armed forces counterparts.  Continue reading

AFGHANISTAN: AN HONORABLE MP CALLS BRITAIN’S DEFENCE SECRETARY TO ACCOUNT

The government was scrambling to save face this morning after getting blindsided by ISAF’s decision to severely restrict joint operations between NATO forces and Afghan Army and Police.  By the time Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeared before Parliament to explain himself, he had donned his denial armour, claiming that Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan would be “substantially unchanged” by ISAF’s new policy.  He even went so far as to say he has “every confidence” in Britain’s strategy to train Afghan security forces to take over when Britain ends major combat operations in 2014.

How is that possible when this year alone more than 50 NATO soldiers including 9 Brits have been killed by Afghans they were tasked with training and mentoring? And those are the deaths we’ve heard about.  So called “rogue Afghan” security forces (AKA Taliban infiltrators) are also turning their weapons on well-intentioned Afghan Army and Police recruits as well as private security contractors working for the coalition—deaths that are all swept under the rug.

So why is Hammond refusing to acknowledge reality?  I can only conclude that the Government is placing its ego above the lives of our brave troops serving in Afghanistan.  It’s despicable. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Thankfully, there was an MP in the Commons today who had the guts to call Hammond out.  Labour MP Paul Flynn accused the Defence Secretary of being a liar and blasted the Government for using our soldiers as “human shields” to protect ministers’ reputations.  I couldn’t agree more.

Paul Flynn was expelled for his trouble, but that won’t silence the truth. The Government’s Afghan policy has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. Few people buy the excuse anymore that we’re there to protect Britain against terrorism or that the mission will produce a more stable country.   Afghanistan was in civil war long before we committed troops to the conflict and it will continue long after we’ve withdrawn them.   There is no justification for forcing our soldiers to pick up the tab for a policy that is doomed to failure.  Bring our troops home now. Ministers’ reputations be damned.

AFGHANISTAN 2014: THE BIGGEST MYTH OF ALL

Only the most diehard ostrich believes official pronouncements on Afghanistan anymore.  The latest fiction in this endless, senseless, victor-less war involves the vetting of Afghan local police recruits. Following a spate of “green on blue” incidents (NATO’s sanitized shorthand for Afghan security forces gunning down or blowing up their ISAF mentors), General Adrian Bradshaw, the British deputy commander of ISAF, announced that the training of around a thousand Afghan Local police recruits had been suspended to allow for re-vetting.

The idea that Afghan recruits can be effectively vetted is ludicrous.  Putting aside the logistical challenges of deploying NATO staff to remote, often hostile villages to perform background checks, the lack of official records, the nation’s sky-high illiteracy rate, and the basic distrust of Afghans toward westerners in general, the fact is, the central government will never top the Afghan hierarchy of loyalties.  After thirty plus years of civil war, Afghans have learned how to prioritize their allegiances in order to survive.  Family comes first, then tribe.  Beyond that, nothing matters.   Continue reading