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Old 03-19-2006   #1
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Default The UK in Afghanistan

19 March London Times - British Face 20-year War to Tame Taliban.

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The objectives of the British mission to Afghanistan could take as long as 20 years to achieve, according to a confidential Ministry of Defence briefing seen by The Sunday Times.

The assessment by senior military officers highlights the risks to the 3,300 British troops to be deployed to the lawless Helmand province and warns that even in five years the best that can be hoped for in terms of security and stabilisation would be “interim status”...
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A stand alone 2009-2010 thread 'Britain at home and the war in Afghanistan?' has today been merged into this thread. Over a few years smaller threads have been merged to here; today 23rd October 2014 three 2014 threads were merged in (ends).

Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-23-2014 at 10:12 PM. Reason: Add note
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Old 10-08-2006   #2
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I was just watching an author interview on CSPAN-2 with Sarah Chayes. She is a former foreign correspondent for NPR who reported from afghanistan during and after the fight for Kandehar and then stayed in Afghanistan to run an NGO. She seems to really have a finger on pulse of Afghan society. She has a book out called "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban." During the interview she had some fairly sharp criticism for Karzai for his failure to remove the various warlords from power. She does not seem to be some shrinking violet bleeding heart. When I get some time I will have to check out her book.

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Old 10-08-2006   #3
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Default If you buy - please buy here...

The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban and help support the SWC and SWJ. Yes, a shameless ad - but we are on the verge of adding many new features and could use a boost. Thanks...

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Afghanistan only uncovers itself with intimacy, and intimacy takes time," writes Chayes, a skilled but increasingly frustrated journalist, whose determination "to grasp the underlying pattern" during and after the toppling of the Taliban in late 2001 chafes against her editors' post-9/11 comfort zone. With keen sympathy for Afghanistan's indomitable people, Chayes eventually swaps NPR and its four-and-a-half-minute slots for an NGO, becoming "field director" of Afghans for Civil Society, spearheaded by Qayum Karzai, the president's brother. ACS's humanitarian work, which includes rebuilding a bombed-out village, brings Chayes into direct conflict with the warlords with whom U.S. policy remains disastrously entangled. This is the point of her engrossing narrative, which begins in Pakistan, inside the U.S.-backed Afghan resistance pushing northward to Kandahar, and is framed by the 2005 murder of police chief Zabit Akrem, a key ally in the fight against Kandahar's corrupt warlord-governor. Throughout, Chayes relies on exceptional access and a felicitous prose style, though she sacrifices some momentum to cover several centuries of Afghanistan's turbulent past in an account that adds little to those by Ahmed Rashid and others. However, her hands-on experience as a deeply immersed reporter and activist gives her lucid analysis and prescriptions a practical scope and persuasive authority.
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Old 02-02-2007   #4
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Default More Discussion...

... plus, at the British ARmy Rumour SErvice (ARSE).
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Old 06-09-2007   #5
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Default British clash with Taliban - VC nomination

I know similar stories have appeared here, this one is British and the young soldier has been nominated for the Commenwealth's highest military medal, the Victoria Cross. The last winner was L/Cpl. Beharry, in Iraq.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...9/nhero109.xml

There is an option to post comments on the Daily Telegraph's website.

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Old 06-10-2007   #6
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I know similar stories have appeared here, this one is British and the young soldier has been nominated for the Commenwealth's highest military medal, the Victoria Cross. The last winner was L/Cpl. Beharry, in Iraq.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...9/nhero109.xml

There is an option to post comments on the Daily Telegraph's website.

davidbfpo

I know this isn't intentional, but we have to rethink our mindsets. Again, as I've said with the American Congressional Medal of Honor, nobody "wins" a medal; they earn it.
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Old 06-10-2007   #7
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Thanks for sharing this awesome report with us.
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Old 10-18-2007   #8
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Default UK Operations in Afghanistan

House of Commons Defence Committee, 9 Oct 07:

UK operations in Afghanistan: Government Response to the Committee’s Thirteenth Report of Session 2006–07
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1. The Government welcomes the House of Commons Defence Select Committee’s (HCDC) report on the UK operations in Afghanistan.

2. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) joins the Committee in recognising the scale of the challenge in Afghanistan. The country has come a long way since the overthrow of the Taliban regime but the size of the challenge was, and remains, vast. As the Committee highlights in its report, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world; with weak government authority outside the capital, limited infrastructure, and where educating women used to be a criminal offence. The Secretary of State and other government officials have always made clear that addressing these problems will take a number of years.

3. Yet despite the scale of the challenge, real progress is being made, bringing tangible changes to the lives of ordinary Afghans. Seven million children are now in school and there are ten universities operating around the country, against one (barely functioning) under the Taliban. 83% of the population now has access to medical facilities, compared to 9% in 2004. In addition, 4.8m Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland, safe from the oppression they suffered under the Taliban. Significant progress is also being made at a Provincial level. In Helmand alone, the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team has implemented over 150 projects, often with engineering support from the military. Examples include the building, extending or refurbishing of 12 schools, the construction of three new parks including a women’s park, 6 projects improving local healthcare facilities including the construction of a twenty-room midwifery hostel, and 5 projects improving the rivers and irrigation canals that enable local farmers to earn a living. While there is much still to do, the International Community is making good progress in helping Afghanistan recover from decades of civil war and Taliban rule.

4. We are grateful to the Committee for recognising the efforts made by the MoD to increase the number of UK Forces, the firepower they have at their disposal, and the selection of vehicles available to Commanders in theatre. Protecting our troops is paramount and although it is impossible to protect them from every eventuality, we do as much possible to provide the best protection we can. We also welcome the Committee’s recognition of the increase in the number of helicopters that the MoD has provided since the initial deployment in 2006. We keep our force package in Afghanistan under continual review to ensure that commanders have all that they need to achieve the ISAF mission.....
Complete 14 page document at the link.
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Old 11-06-2007   #9
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Default The (UK) Soldiers Story

Yesterday the BBC Panorama programme had an hour long report following a Grenadier Guard platoon in Helmand Province - follow the link:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/programmes/panorama/default.stm

Under the title Taking on the Taleban - the Soldiers Story, there is a short report and a comments area:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programme...ma/7071859.stm

There have been similar documentaries, notably by Sean Langan, but not in such a prime time slot (Monday evening). It is amazing footage, albeit with a "spin doctor" stopping some filming and the words of the Guardsmen say it all.

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Old 11-07-2007   #10
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Yes, I watched part of this last night. I'm not quite sure what to make of this piece. On the one hand, the BBC reporter actually seemed to be trying to get under the surface and actually kind of understand what he was witnessing; on the other hand, he still didn't seem to really quite grasp just what it was he was witnessing. Good effort though, especially by the standards of our times. I don't think I either saw (or at least noticed) the "minder"; maybe inattention on my part or I just plain didn't see those parts.

As I said, I'm not sure what to make of this documentary; in some ways it's impressive, and in other ways it (the BBC reporter actually) struck me as not really understanding what was going on. I wonder what the general public thinks when they watch this.
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Old 12-31-2007   #11
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Much longer piece by Ben Andersen on the Grenadier Guards in Helmand. Well worth the read.

Biggest takeaway is that COIN ops in Afghanistan are definitely NOT ongoing in Helmand - British and coalition troops are not present in enough numbers to hold population centers, much less provide genuine population security, and depend upon firepower to maintain tactical dominance over a foe unafraid to tactically close with them.

Along the same line, Sebastien Junger on American paratroopers in Nuristan.

Last edited by tequila; 12-31-2007 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 01-06-2008   #12
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Default Anglo-US reporting the Afghan War

Thanks Tequila, both excellent articles by embedded reporters / cameramen and alongside for weeks.

There is another SWJ thread on whether domestic opinion will NOT oppose continuing military involvement in Afghanistan. The LRB article by the BBC reporter in its comments on the ANA and the UK soldiers reaction to the ANA reinforce my view UK opinion will not be patient for the ten years required.

Today's SWJ Blog article by Captain Hsia (?) and LTC Gentile's reply indicate the divergence between domestic priorities and fighting overseas. How long will US opinion stand for apparently fruitless attrition?

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Old 01-06-2008   #13
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Default The historical record appears to show that

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T... How long will US opinion stand for apparently fruitless attrition?
davidbfpo
About 30% will object to any attrition of the type you mean, about 30% will tolerate it for ten or more years and the other 60% will vacillate depending on the apparent futility or success of the effort.

There is always a divergence between domestic priorities and fighting overseas -- that was true even during WW II. There is also a divergence between those who willingly fight and those who do not agree with fighting (or a particular fight -- the latter divide being mostly political while the former is more emotionally based) -- that, too occurred even during WW II. To my mind, such a divergence is perfectly natural, has historical antecedents and is not at all worrisome. I'd be more inclined to worry if such a divide did not occur...

For most of the years of existence of both our societies, the relatively small Armies did their thing and were totally divorced from civil society -- both sides were content that such a divorce existed -- and we survived. While both societies today are more sensitive and softer in outlook (for lack of better terms), my belief is that the raw numbers and basic beliefs of both sides are pretty much the same and I do not find it all worrisome.

To the point of your question I quoted -- I suspect the answer is quite few more years at the current rates.
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Old 01-07-2008   #14
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Default Ken

To what do you attribute the apparent lack of recognition of the American public of the fact that we have a truly all volunteer military? That is the kind of military that is, as you put it, divorced from the general public. Disregard, please, the partial exception of the Guard and Reserve when you think about my question since it changes the dynamic.

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Old 01-07-2008   #15
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Default I think that total knowledge of anything to do with

the Armed Forces of this nation among the total population is so low and of such questionable content among the few that have some knowledge that most people tend to ignore the services unless something focuses their attention on them. That has generally been the case and that trend has been exacerbated in recent years due to some anti-war films, TV shows and a skeptical if not hostile media class.

I also think that is essentially a normal condition and has been less true only during and after the big wars, Civil, WW I and WW II when there were numerous veterans among the population (and, importantly, Congress and the 'ruling' elites).

Most of the public treats Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines just like they do Butchers, Cops and Garbage Men -- someone who does the nasty jobs that society does not want to do for itself and "I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one -- much less my son to be one." They sense it is NOT a nice job -- and it is not in many respects -- therefor the people who engage are unlikely to be nice. In earlier times with a draft (which we do not need to return to), and far larger forces, that was ameliorated by the sheer number of neighbors kids and relatives serving. That amelioration dissipated in the late 70s and was effectively gone by 1995.

The problem is not confined to the population at large; many of the senior folks in all services have, IMO, an antiquated view of their own (and other services) and the WW II model is firmly fixed in the eye of entirely too many people, military and civilian.

World War II was an anomaly, couched as a war of national survival (it was not IMO), it was absolutely a war of national commitment and that is, I believe, rightly rare. We effectively fought in Korea and in Viet Nam using that WW II model downscaled to fit (and how did that work out for us...) and for various reasons without the national commitment. We did it again with some modification in Desert Storm and to a far lesser --and far more effective -- extent in the early stages of OIF. Yet, we still are training on the WW II model with some slight changes introduced by civilian educators hired during the 1970s who had to figure out how to train MacNamara's project 100,000 (which expanded to far more than that number...).

Starting in 1980 we recruited a lot of bright kids and the complexion of the service changed; most of the senior leadership missed that and continued to treat their minions as Project 100K dregs. If the leaders missed it; there's no way the public could understand it.

With about 1.5M serving actively, you've got an activity that engages about .005 of the population; a population that is attuned to sound bites, is effectively taught no civics, no history and is beaten over the head with the socialistic cant that war is Evul -- and that includes many in Congress. No surprise at all they don't understand it -- or even want to think about it if it can be avoided.

The average US citizen is not aware of any of that -- given our pathetic education system and overemphasis on self esteem accompanied by a clueless media dominated by and subservient to the entertainment industry, how could they be aware?

It's my opinion that the services themselves have not adapted to the talent they have, that they have all done a pathetic job of stating the case for their existence and for the way they do some of the things they do and that they have unduly antagonized the media to some detriment. I also believe that Congress critters -- at least some of whom have a duty to know and understand the services -- have not done their jobs well in that respect. That in turn means that knowledge of the services and knowledge of the kids that make up those services is narrowly held by mostly immediate families.

Most people, properly, recoil at the thought of warfare. Many are deeply offended by the thought of the killing and maiming it causes. That's okay, yet, as the Marines say "Nobody wants to go to war but somebody better know how." That's a message most anyone could understand but we do not use it other than poorly; "Peace is our profession" was not a good slogan...

You mention the Guard and Reserve; these unprecedented 'peacetime' callups may to a slight extent contribute to some amelioration of the trend but I suspect it'll be slight and temporary. We'll have to see how that works out. hopefully many of them will run for Congress...

In any event, having been raised around the Navy in the 1930s and 40s, I was quite aware that I lived in a sub set of US Society, that most of the people in that sub set were there because they wished to be and that most had a rather dim but still charitable view of the larger society (exempt the four plus years of WW II). When I came back from my first trip to Korea, I was upset because no civilians seemed to realize or care there was a war on. When I came back from the second, I realized that was true -- and that was the way it was, that was really alright -- and that was their problem, not mine. When I cam back from my first tour in Viet Nam, I even found out that there were people in the Army who didn't seem to know there was a war on.

I think the divide is totally natural, I think that many in the services will think they're a notch better than most of their civilian acquaintances and that the feeling will be returned by said civilians (on a totally different basis), creating a slight tension between the two societies -- and I do not see that as at all worrisome. Natural, I'd think.

Last edited by Ken White; 01-07-2008 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 01-07-2008   #16
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Ken, very well put !

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Most of the public treats Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines just like they do Butchers, Cops and Garbage Men -- someone who does the nasty jobs that society does not want to do for itself and "I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one -- much less my son to be one."
I recall reading this Russian article and wondering about the state of our public opinion (having reached this side of the world).

USA treats its war veterans like garbage

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War veterans in the United States make up a quarter of all homeless people across the nation. It is a whole army of 200,000 people, which is close to the number of the US military contingent deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this case, the veterans who ruined their health “defending democracy and freedom” have nothing to do but hope for the help of charitable organizations.
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Old 01-07-2008   #17
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During the Democrat portion of the debate Saturday I believe it was Edwards who said this is one of the worst flaws in America. Treating our veterans in such a way he expressed great sorrow over. In ramarkable news he actually seemed genuine about it. Edwards and Obama were the only two that seemed truly interested in the plight of the poor.
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Old 01-08-2008   #18
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Default Thanks Ken

You said it well and your insights need to be pondered a bit. Don't agree with everything you said but you said a lot and I do agree with a lot.

I'm not sure the RC really ameliorates the situation but rather presents the military as being somewhat more like the draft military of old. The analogy is overdrawn of course but it may have an impact on why most Americans fail to recognize the volunteer nature of the all volunteer force. What the RC does ameliorate IMO is the apartness of the military from the rest of society, a good thing, I think, for American civil-military relations.

Again, your insights are always worth reading and pondering.

Cheers

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Old 01-08-2008   #19
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Default We cannot agree on everything, that'd be

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You said it well and your insights need to be pondered a bit. Don't agree with everything you said but you said a lot and I do agree with a lot.
collusion...

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I'm not sure the RC really ameliorates the situation but rather presents the military as being somewhat more like the draft military of old. The analogy is overdrawn of course but it may have an impact on why most Americans fail to recognize the volunteer nature of the all volunteer force. What the RC does ameliorate IMO is the apartness of the military from the rest of society, a good thing, I think, for American civil-military relations.
Excellent point, hadn't considered that and the involuntary lengthy call ups are very likely to have that effect even though most RC types have gone willingly and with remarkably little complaint. I have a lot of respect for them due to that.

Thinking on it for a second, the long term effect may be as you say a good thing long term. I still hope a bunch of 'em run for Congress...

Take care,
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Old 02-06-2008   #20
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During the Democrat portion of the debate Saturday I believe it was Edwards who said this is one of the worst flaws in America. Treating our veterans in such a way he expressed great sorrow over. In ramarkable news he actually seemed genuine about it. Edwards and Obama were the only two that seemed truly interested in the plight of the poor.
I noticed a great deal of sentiment and not much in the way of a plan. But to be fair, it's not like anyone else--from the parties to the pundits to even veteran's organizations--propose anything transformational over what's been done for the past sixty years. The reintegration World War II veterans may be a singular event in American history, coinciding with a uniquely slackish post-war economy just ready to make the most of their federal benefits and their well-earned goodwill. So how do you achieve the same level of satisfaction in an economy that is near full employment in a not so grateful society?
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