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Thread: The UK in Afghanistan

  1. #1001
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default UK combat operations effectively cease: well not exactly

    It appears the UK just cannot draw down yet:
    Thousands of British troops will start serving longer tours in Afghanistan from October, the defence secretary has announced....And it means that only another two brigades will serve ....rather than three.. The UK has 7,900 troops in the country, set to fall to 5,200 by the end of the year.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22520249 and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/ma...rs-afghanistan

    Given the SWC debate on length of operational tours it does strange longer tours come at the end.

    The value of having an entire brigade in Helmand, largely within Camp Bastion, when the ANSF are becoming independently capable is lost on me in my armchair.
    davidbfpo

  2. #1002
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default UK forces in Helmand 'made matters worse'

    Chatham House has published a report 'The Taliban at war: inside the Helmand insurgency, 2004–2012' by two Kings College War Studies academics, both with "time served" in Afghanistan, mainly in Helmand. Unusually it is freely available as a twenty-eight page PDF:http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/de...lGiustozzi.pdf

    There's also a podcast with Theo Farrell:http://www.chathamhouse.org/audio-resource/193055

    Meantime two passages to whet the appetite:
    Far from helping to secure Helmand, the arrival of the British triggered a violent intensification of the insurgency.....

    .....What we find is an insurgency that is driven both by a strong unifying strategic narrative and purpose – jihad against foreign invaders – and by local conflict dynamics: rivalry between kinship groups and competition over land, water and drugs.
    Citations from:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013...tan?CMP=twt_gu

    Yes, there is a long running thread 'The UK in Afghanistan' from March 2006, with a thousand posts and 103k views - which is one of the highest on SWC. One day this thread will be merged into that thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7644
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-14-2013 at 01:40 PM. Reason: Merged into main thread, had 800 plus views.
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  3. #1003
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Who directed our war?

    In 2010 Matt Cavanagh, an external 'special adviser' to the previous Labour government, wrote a review of Bob Woodward's book 'Obama's Wars' which I missed and today he Tweeted a reminder:http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/ma.../#.Ugfht21h9ec

    It is an interesting commentary on the management and political direction of the UK's war in Afghanistan, or more accurately non-management rather than a book review and contrasts what the USA did too.
    davidbfpo

  4. #1004
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default We don't do combat ops, err we do?

    Elsewhere on SWC and SWJ IIRC references have been made to the continuing American assistance given to the ANSF, in particular its SOF components, so it comes as no great personal surprise the UK does too. In their mixed up way British officialdom maintains:
    We have reduced our profile to such an extent that we don't do ground combat-type operations any more.
    Now we learn, via a regimental journal, that a company of the SFSG in partnership with Afghan commandos has mounted combat operations:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...mb-makers.html
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  5. #1005
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    All is clear in the fog of command chains.

    Task Force Helmand (essentially the British Brigade in Helmand)
    as I understand it is not longer involved in routine combat operations.
    The Special Forces Support Group are not part of Task Force Helmand but probably come under a CJSOTF lead.

    I have only seen the newspaper article, but even from that it would seem that the focus on operations mentioned is on mentoring the Afghans.

    this to me sounds more like a good illustration of how the military likes to build a narrative. The UK may no longer be involved in routine combat operatuions, but that does not necessarily mean that UK personnel are not routinely engaged in combat!
    RR

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  6. #1006
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default UK PM 'mission accomplished': really?

    The UK (447 dead), with allies, then the USMC (374 dead) in 'surge' mode from 2010, have fought in Helmand Province since 2006 and now it appears the gains are slipping away before the final withdrawal later this year.

    Oddly media coverage in the UK is very limited, maybe the festive season has better news to cover. More likely is that the media presence is reducing, especially as Western reporters can only rarely go around unaccompanied. I have seen more regularly clues appearing on Twitter, even if linked to reports in 'The Times' behind a pay-wall.

    Pre-Xmas there were reports of a local agreement in Sangin between the GIRoA and the Taliban, with alleged 'joint patrols':http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/w...cle3951966.ece

    An interesting non-media explanation that such a relationship is good news for Afghans:http://sunnyinkabul.com/2013/12/21/a...ampaign=Buffer
    Then a detailed WSJ article:http://online.wsj.com/news/article_e...MDAwMzEwNDMyWj

    Just what is actually happening - from faraway - is not clear and UK political-military leaders have made some reassuring remarks. So we have PM David Cameron on a pre-Xmas visit, with 'mission accomplished' as the headline:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ghanistan.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25398608

    The UK's most senior generals comment, which refers to possible Taliban gains:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...Army-head.html

    RUSI Director Professor Michael Clarke responded with:
    Whether Afghanistan will succeed after 12 years of involvement is something that we really can't do very much about, and that's not really a strategic success.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25407073

    For sometime now the British public has had enough of our military role in Afghanistan and one Whitehall observer commented directly two years ago:
    We are stuck in Afghanistan until the politicians find a suitable narrative to explain why it was possible to exit, when in fact the original narrative's objectives have not been achieved.
    There is a long running thread 'The UK in Afghanistan', which has much of the background alongside comments by those who have been "boots on the ground" and just some critical thinking IMHO. So this thread is likely to be merged there one day:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7644

    Enough, time to go quickly and some expect a "backlash" here against such interventions - personally I'm unconvinced as few politicians want to assess what we did. No 'lessons learnt' here!
    davidbfpo

  7. #1007
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default Lessons

    Lessons have been identified and applied. This can most readily be seen in the military's transformation of Mission Specific Training, equipment, adoption of new targeting methodologies (F3EA) and in the military's lessons exploitation process.

    From an institutional perspective what will be interesting is to see how many of these lessons get taken into 'core' so to speak. In particular those lessons that apply to institutional behaviour and the manning & promotion systems (institutional behaviour & HR are the two areas that in my opinion adapted least and last).

    Where lessons if they have been identified almost certainly will not be learnt (applied) is at the higher echelons of defence and government, the operational and strategic levels. At these levels the requirement to protect reputations & maintain face mean that any lessons that threaten the powerful (whether individual or corporate) will be suppressed.

    Without a culture of transparency & accountability (rarely present in any bureaucracy) lessons will not be learnt effectively.
    RR

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  8. #1008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Where lessons if they have been identified almost certainly will not be learnt (applied) is at the higher echelons of defence and government, the operational and strategic levels. At these levels the requirement to protect reputations & maintain face mean that any lessons that threaten the powerful (whether individual or corporate) will be suppressed.

    Without a culture of transparency & accountability (rarely present in any bureaucracy) lessons will not be learnt effectively.
    It will be the same thing for us. Our variation will be that the Afghans were such nebbishes that it is all their fault, no blame ascribed to us at all.

    Ironically though, the critical failure on our part, failure to recognize and deal with Pak Army/ISI as the enemy, has been pointed out to us by the Afghans for years.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Carl, no matter how they try to spin this, Afghanistan is another war lost at a terrible cost.

    Newsweek of 9 Jan sums it up well: http://goo.gl/9Q73Cc


    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    It will be the same thing for us. Our variation will be that the Afghans were such nebbishes that it is all their fault, no blame ascribed to us at all.

    Ironically though, the critical failure on our part, failure to recognize and deal with Pak Army/ISI as the enemy, has been pointed out to us by the Afghans for years.

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    And if that was not bad enough:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/internati...nistan/283114/



    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Carl, no matter how they try to spin this, Afghanistan is another war lost at a terrible cost.

    Newsweek of 9 Jan sums it up well: http://goo.gl/9Q73Cc

  11. #1011
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The MoD and sticking plaster solutions

    To many this headline will not be a surprise:
    British ex-commander hits out over 'inadequate kit' in Afghanistan. Exclusive: Major Streatfeild speaks of shame at defending equipment and calls for MoD apology over friendly-fire death
    Just an indication of what he says now, with a book coming out:
    Streatfeild said he now felt ashamed at how he toed the MoD line in reports for the BBC, defending kit he knew to be inadequate.
    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...it-afghanistan

    Sad.
    davidbfpo

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    David,

    I raised these issues - and more - years ago in this thread and all and sundry attempted to shout me down.

    (go back and read a bit for a good laugh - or a cry - depending on where you stood back then)



    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    To many this headline will not be a surprise:

    Just an indication of what he says now, with a book coming out:

    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...it-afghanistan

    Sad.
    Last edited by JMA; 03-17-2014 at 10:09 AM.

  13. #1013
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Learning the lessons of Afghanistan

    That delightful phrase 'learning the lessons' I know features on SWC threads, but I am encouraged to post this official UK Army account of how it is going to work now.

    Their title:
    Operational lessons learnt in Afghanistan have made the British Army a more effective fighting force.
    Link:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/a...tan-experience

    A successful ‘lessons learnt’ process should enhance our tactics and procedures, reduce casualties, mould our training so troops are better prepared, and lead to the development of better kit.

    The system ensures the Army remembers and acts on what it learnt during the last fighting system, from every training event and every incident. It is vital that personnel at all levels contribute and we’ve worked hard to make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to do so.
    I would be mildly intrigued how this process has gone elsewhere, especially amongst those armies who have left or ceased combat operations. Yes, calling the Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis. Anyone else is welcome to join in!
    davidbfpo

  14. #1014
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    The paper opens with this:

    Operational lessons learnt in Afghanistan have made the British Army a more effective fighting force.
    This is obviously correct.

    I suggest the test comes when the next generation of soldiers - those who have no afghan experience - come along. Do they have the lessons learnt effectively passed onto them? Wait and see.


    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    That delightful phrase 'learning the lessons' I know features on SWC threads, but I am encouraged to post this official UK Army account of how it is going to work now.

    Their title:

    Link:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/a...tan-experience



    I would be mildly intrigued how this process has gone elsewhere, especially amongst those armies who have left or ceased combat operations. Yes, calling the Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis. Anyone else is welcome to join in!

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    Default Operational honours list...

    If proof was needed of the quality of the British fighting man herewith the latest operational honours list of 117 members:

    Operational Honours and Awards List: 21 March 2014

    The British politicians and senior officers have screwed up once again at a cost in blood and treasure of their nation. The soldiers pay the price for this incompetence.

    The US story is much the same.

  16. #1016
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    To many this headline will not be a surprise:

    Just an indication of what he says now, with a book coming out:

    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...it-afghanistan

    Sad.
    David, the trooper's death which that major highlighted is indeed sad, as is any serviceman's death. It doesn't sound as though we should mourn him for the major alleges.

    When you look at it in the context of things, the major sounds, frankly, like the type of risk-averse fellow who prefers to wrap the troops in pillows and stuff an excessive amount of tech in their hands. Perhaps if the major were allowed to go down to sandals, an outfit, a bandoleer of three magazines, and rifle, he would have felt more comfortable being on even footing.

    As for the locator beacon, if the article reported it correctly, and the major was in fact referring to the emergency personnel locator beacon issued to US Army troops, he has a terrible misunderstanding of how it works and is used to locate missing personnel. It would likely not have prevented the lance corporal's death.

    As for his assertion that more radios would have made a difference, it's hard to dissect that without knowing what the issues were. Were there too few or too many in maintenance? Were they allocated to the wrong echelon? Did the lance corporal's section leader not have a personal radio? At some point a radio becomes another pillow, and without a sound grounding in basic navigation, radio procedures, C2 protocol, or identification of friend or foe techniques, radios are only going to exacerbate a bad situation.

    Something doesn't smell right with the reported complaints, and it seems Streatfeild has an axe to grind to bolster book sales. OEF has its issues, but it's not these.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    To many this headline will not be a surprise:

    Just an indication of what he says now, with a book coming out:

    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...it-afghanistan

    Sad.
    This story is unfolding...

    Bought the book on Amazon... pity it will take 10 days to get here.

    First, The Sangin Diaries.

    LEt's pick up the piece from the NYT:

    When the End of War Is the Beginning of War

    Maj. Richard Streatfeild, 41, was a commander in the hotly contested Sangin region in 2009 and 2010 who became what newspapers called a “poster boy” for the British Army through his blogs about the valor and sacrifice of soldiers on one of the BBC’s most prestigious radio news programs.

    In those broadcasts, known as The Sangin Diaries, he acknowledged this week, he played down concerns about poor equipment and training, a lack of radios and a shortage of armored vehicles to protect soldiers from hostile fire and explosives in what he called “the most dangerous place in the world.”

    The truth, it is often said, is war’s first casualty.
    He gets taken on in a radio interview on BBC RADIO 4 TODAY

    From the Drum: How the BBC was deceived by Major Richard Streatfeild's propaganda

    This sorry saga of the BBC being conned emphasises more than ever that on the battlefield as in general life, independent journalism is the lifeblood of truth.

    Streatfeild now admits that hundreds of soldiers were sent to the most dangerous area of Helmand Province without a single armoured or mine-resistant vehicle; troops who would have to search for deadly Taliban mines using metal detectors had to train using broomsticks and a quota system for gallantry medals meant top brass won awards, while junior soldiers involved in fierce fighting against the Taliban lost out.
    The Daily Mail has more interesting stuff:

    British snipers killed Afghans in pointless 'turkey shoot' and boosted support for the Taliban, says major who revealed how troops died due to lack of equipment

    In his book, Streatfeild also launches a sensational attack on former service chief General Sir Mike Jackson, who he accuses of waiting until his ‘splendidly rewarded retirement’ before calling on the MoD to improve soldiers’ welfare.

    Sir Mike, 69, Head of the Army from 2003 to 2006, was popular among troops and a formidable leader. But Streatfeild said last night: ‘Let’s look at the record of Sir Mike.
    'He waited for his pension then burst into print. He had the rank and position to do more before then.’
    Following his retirement in 2006, Sir Mike wrote a memoir in which he accused the MoD of failing to value the contributions of soldiers and their families.
    Strange that Streatfeild can't see that he lays himself open to the same criticism that he levels at Jackson.

    All that said it is good that finally the truth comes out even if there is a profit motive behind it all.

    Oh yes from the book blurb:

    In 2009 Major Richard Streatfeild and his men fought for six months against the Taliban in Sangin, northern Helmand. They were engaged in over 800 fire-fights. They were the target of more than 200 improvised explosive devices. Ten men in his company were killed, 50 were wounded.
    Those losses are reminiscent of WW1 as they occurred over a six month period.
    Last edited by JMA; 03-23-2014 at 01:01 PM.

  18. #1018
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Moreover David, his interview leaves me with the nagging impression that he should have spent his time focusing on the enemy or minor tactics of the fight, instead of crafting the 29 diary pieces.
    Last edited by jcustis; 03-23-2014 at 02:37 PM.

  19. #1019
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    Default Media reporting of the (UK) campaign

    In 2009-2010 the UK campaign in Helmand Province was beginning to have problems on the home front. I have little doubt that it was the MoD PR machine which lobbied the BBC to accept the Sangin diaries by Maj. Richard Streatfeild.

    With rare exceptions UK media reporting from Helmand, was invariably from within Camp Bastion and the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, and rarely gave us at home an overview. I know of army officers saying freely that the BBC's Defence Correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, was "on side" and reliable.

    The comment 'How the BBC was deceived...' simply lacks credibility. The BBC knew it was broadcasting a sanitized explanation of events in Sangin. Yes they failed to add a "health warning" and this weeks 'Today' programme interview reflects that failure. Claiming the BBC was lied to is IMHO bizarre.

    Incidentally the "turning point" for me was C4 News, with an Alistair Thomson report on a company-sized visit to a village, flown in by Chinooks, which was short-lived as sniping intensified and his punch line was that the Chinooks took them back a kilometre to their FOB.

    Whether the Major should have done the BBC diaries whilst fighting in such a contested location I cannot judge.

    Sangin IRRC was a 'hot spot' with a hostile population that consistently rejected GIRoA and its allies. Only when the USMC arrived was it subdued for a time. My recollection is that Sangin was where the most UK troops died; the figures are probably in a post in this thread.

    A number of very interested parties to the UK role have long preferred to have the public "support our boys" and not ask, let alone contest, why are they there? As SWC posts show this divergence was reflected in public opinion polling and the displays at Wotton Bassett as corteges passed by.
    davidbfpo

  20. #1020
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    David, Sangin's significance as a rat-infested warren is made all the more pronounced by recent news reports.

    Although the CENTCOM homepage recently highlighted an all Afghan-planned and Afghan-executed clearing operation in Sangin, in advance of elections, one should wonder why those are considered achievements if we are still "clearing" the place.

    I certainly respect the Brit forces for the fight they faced, which was hampered by so many factors out of brigade and battalion control.
    Last edited by jcustis; 03-23-2014 at 06:56 PM.

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