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Old 10-23-2014   #1041
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Default Brave as lions but poorly led – the British heroes of Helmand

The headline for a review of a forthcoming, two-part BBC documentary 'Afghanistan: The Lion’s Last Roar', which promises to:
Quote:
...break the culture of relative silence that has surrounded the military presence in Afghanistan
Link to BBC, first programme Sunday evening 9PM (BST):http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nd3rq

Link to the review in The Daily Telegraph, by Peter Oborne:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...f-Helmand.html

Oborne's review has several themes, here are some tasters:
Quote:
... it is obvious that neither the politicians nor the generals who reported to them knew what they were doing. Britain had no serious knowledge or understanding of southern Afghanistan.

(Citing General Sir David Richards) We were actually hoping for the best and planning for the best.

To sum up: British forces were ill-equipped, underprepared and, at the most senior strategic level, atrociously led. The men themselves were nevertheless brave as lions. The conflict in Helmand will be remembered for centuries as a shining example of astonishing heroism combined with pointless sacrifice.
Listeneing to Whitehall-Westminster voices and the military they all want to maintain the key national, British interest 'The Special Relationship' Oborne concludes:
Quote:
They even failed in their key strategic objective of maintaining our alliance with America. Basra and Helmand have caused the United States to lose faith in the capability of the British Army.
There is a main thread for the UK in Afghanistan, with 135,545 views.
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Old 10-26-2014   #1042
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Default We are giving the Afghans a chance at a better life

A commentary by retired General Dannatt, :
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As Britain prepares to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, General the Lord Dannatt reviews a mission that has taken 13 years, cost 453 lives, but left a troubled nation with hope
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...tter-life.html

There are some odd passages, notably over the Helmand deployment in 2006, for example:
Quote:
As British patrols fanned out across Helmand, the Taliban challenged our presence. In June 2006, a major firefight took place in the town of Now Zad. At the time, it was not known whether this was a one-off testing of the British resolve or the pattern of things to come. It was the latter and, fearful of a resurgent Taliban movement, the Helmand provincial governor, backed by President Hamid Karzai, requested that the district administration centres be held by the British forces. This request was granted and most of the 3 Para battle group was committed to holding these centres, which became major battlegrounds.
As the UK & USA have handed over Camp Bastion to the ANSF, the BBC has a series of articles. Within one is this poignant comment:
Quote:
Any reading of the culture, the history or politics should have prevented us from taking on Helmand.
Plus a radio programme next month by a Major General Mackay who resigned after his command tour, I shall listen and report back.

Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29744972
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Old 10-26-2014   #1043
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Default US, British Forces Close Base in Southern Afghanistan

US, British Forces Close Base in Southern Afghanistan

Entry Excerpt:



--------
Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.
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Old 10-29-2014   #1044
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Default Watch it!

I enjoyed watching the first episode of ''Afghanistan: The Lion’s Last Roar', although in places it was disturbing - at how reckless we were - and sad.

At one point Geoff Hoon, the Defence Minister, aware senior (army) officers were critical over the deployment to Helmand took them to meet Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. None of them then said a word!

Rather oddly interviews with soldiers dominate; all three services were deployed (notably the Royal Marines, though a Major General does appear) and the RAF officer head of all UK forces 2006-2010 did not appear.

The planning and limited on-site recce do get a mention, by a specialist civilian team and the SAS - who looked and reported without shooting. Some background reading is in this:http://cips.uottawa.ca/wp-content/up...ms_Nov2009.pdf
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Old 10-29-2014   #1045
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Default Britain’s Fourth Afghan War

An analysis by RUSI's Director, Michael Clarke:https://www.rusi.org/analysis/commen.../#.VFFbWGet0dX

It starts with - in the sub-title:
Quote:
This week, UK Armed Forces formally ended combat operations in Helmand. British troops return from Afghanistan not with a victory, but a score draw away from home; a job well done in unpropitious circumstances.

(Ends with) It’s not a peace to be celebrated in Trafalgar Square. But nor is it dishonourable or a source of national humiliation.
I do not agree with his conclusions. Nor his optimism that the USA regards the UK military, maybe the nation, in the same way it did in 2001.
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Old 10-29-2014   #1046
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David,

I think you guys are still sore at us for that little event that happened in 1776, because we Yanks are not allowed access. However, YouTube to the rescue, for now at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMP8O_pIMxE

Apparently this is named after a book reference the Suez incident (another thing you guys may still be sore about)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lions-Last.../dp/0060108584
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Old 10-29-2014   #1047
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Bill,

I doubt anyone at the BBC remembers 1776, even 1956. We can be quite forgiving you know. Few recalled we'd burnt down The White House two hundred years ago.
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Old 10-30-2014   #1048
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
A commentary by retired General Dannatt, :Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...tter-life.html

There are some odd passages, notably over the Helmand deployment in 2006, for example:As the UK & USA have handed over Camp Bastion to the ANSF, the BBC has a series of articles. Within one is this poignant comment:Plus a radio programme next month by a Major General Mackay who resigned after his command tour, I shall listen and report back.

Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29744972
Dannet's article is interesting on a number of points. I will confine myself to two:

"From 2006 until the arrival of a large US contingent in Helmand in 2010, British operations, despite the heroic endeavours of successive Brigade groups, were always constrained by lack of manpower on the ground. The operational design to clear areas of Taliban, to hold them securely and then build, in partnership with the local population, a more stable community for the future was sound, but hobbled through lack of manpower."

Why have an operational design that was not resourced? You either resource your plan or amendthe plan to the level of resources allocated.

I am not sure an effective ANSF of 300,000 is necessarily force for stability if (as is reported) this is an unsustainable strength. Who is going to pay them?

I will see if I can master technology sufficiently to see and listen to the BBC!
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Old 10-30-2014   #1049
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Default A reply to Britain's Fourth Afghan War

Yesterday I posted an analysis by Michael Clarke, RUSI's Director. This is my reply.

His final two sentences should be read again: ' It’s not a peace to be celebrated in Trafalgar Square. But nor is it dishonourable or a source of national humiliation'.

The end of the UK military campaign in Afghanistan, principally in Helmand Province, has not left that country at peace. If you look hard the Taliban have been successful in returning to control towns already in Helmand's "Green Zone" (alongside gains elsewhere). Often in towns and villages where ISAF took casualties and expended a lot of gold.

It is far too early to judge whether our nation's sacrifices in Helmand are only very temporary gains for the government and people of Afghanistan. Perhaps next year we shall look back and see that the Taliban have been kept at bay.

Dishonourable? Few doubt the commitment and sacrifice made by those who served in Afghanistan, but it is clear a good number of veterans have already asked was "mowing the lawn" really a national necessity. That is why a number of army officers resigned, a few who went onto write books.

Did we as a society dishonour those who served, civil and military, maybe at times we did. Did our national politicians dishonour them? Yes, yes. Whether it was the lack of resources for years (helicopters for example), the deployment in 2006 itself and the absence of political control over the key local command decision to spread troops thinner in "platoon houses" which is one example now in the public domain.

Afghanistan 'a sustainable democracy and a better economy' - really? It is an economy addicted to foreign aid, measured in US$ billions - more than all of Western Europe got in Marshall Aid after 1945. A nation that cannot itself fund its own military. Once the thousands of foreigners exit the only booming industry? Opium poppy cultivation and then heroin production!

A steadfast, capable ally for the USA? Well Whitehall-Westminster may think the 'Special Relationship' is unaffected by the American re-assessment of the British contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan they are fools. We are NO longer seen as a capable ally, for some Beltway insiders Australia is a better ally.

We rightly went to war in 2001; along with virtually every NATO country we were distracted by Iraq for five years and allowed ourselves to dream that Afghanistan could be rebuilt as a nation with an effective national government. Then for reasons of national pride we deployed not to Kandahar Province, but to Helmand Province - a "backwater" in my opinion. Once I heard at RUSI it explained as the Canadians were already there we had to go elsewhere; that they were an ally seemed to have been lost. Or that Kandahar is of far greater strategic value.

Sadly today my judgement is that our Fourth Afghan War is a national humiliation.
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Old 11-04-2014   #1050
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A comment by an academic, Andrew Mumford, 'Legacies of the War in Afghanistan':http://nottspolitics.org/2014/11/03/...n-afghanistan/

Here is one passage:
Quote:
There was unwillingness within the highest echelons of the British military and political establishment to face up to the difficulties of prosecuting a complex counter-insurgency war in a country that had never been successfully occupied by outside forces. Senior British officers were chastened by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in July 2011 for ‘moderating the demands of commanders in the field’ when briefing ministers on the Afghan war. This led to a situation whereby the unwarranted optimism of the highest ranks ‘denied the necessary support to carry out the mission from the outset’. The lack of a consistent campaign narrative and chronic equipment shortages were also factors cited by the committee as failings of the British war effort.
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Old 11-08-2014   #1051
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A short, anonymous commentary 'The UK Military: Lessons from the Fourth Anglo–Afghan War 2001–2014':http://goglobalmedia.com/the-uk-mili...war-2001-2014/

To which one UK Army officer stated:
Quote:
Flawed and confused in part, but analysis of where issues are is good.
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Old 11-09-2014   #1052
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Watched episodes 1 & 2. Before this, I have watched two earlier documentaries covering some what similar subject. Both are on youtube if anyone is interested.

Afghanistan -The Battle For Helmand:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR6-ZAn5nKc (Added this appears to be a BBC documentary by Mark Urban, probably made in 2011 and lasts just under one hour).

Pathfinders- Into The Heart of Afghanistan:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXL05kuICyg (Added this is a Sky documentary from 2013 and lasts around 45 minutes)

I think British withdrawal and less than commendable operations, as Bruce Ridel put it, signifies the end of British as a global military power and lieutenant of the US.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-09-2014 at 02:34 PM. Reason: Add links and comments
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Old 11-11-2014   #1053
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Default Afghanistan The Lion's Last Roar Episode 2

Episode Two is on: 1) BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode...roar-episode-2

2) YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z79oUhIcmiM

For those without time to watch, this is the BBC News written summary:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29714738

Apologies for the delay in posting the links.
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Old 11-18-2014   #1054
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@davidbfpo, thanks for the links. I was too lazy to do so.
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Old 12-10-2014   #1055
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A review article on four current books on the UK in Afghanistan, by a British writer who went there himself and who is not a military journalist, so he is rather direct:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n24/james-m...-than-a-defeat
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Old 12-16-2014   #1056
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Default Ministers 'didn't know Tornado from torpedo' over Afghan strategy

The former diplomat and at one time the British 'special rep' to Afghanistan-Pakistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, has added a few pithy phrases on the political-military relationshipat a session of the House of Commons DEfence Select Committee:
Quote:
The lack of military knowledge among politicians meant they found the Armed Forces’ plans and jargon-filled briefings incomprehensible and could not question their strategy.

His actual words were: There were times in Afghanistan that I felt both in the Ministry of Defence and across Whitehall civil servants civilian advisers to ministers and their political masters did not show the moral courage, the intellectual courage they needed sometimes to challenge advice from the Armed Forces. At times and in places one saw military advice to ministers which was driven by a military view of the situation which was not necessarily the same as what the wider national interest might or might not be.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-strategy.html
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Old 12-29-2014   #1057
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As the new NATO mission arrives, as part of the reflections upon 2014 for the UK, The Guardian columnist, Will Hutton (not known for his comments IIRC on Afghanistan) has a column and the headline & sub-title indicate his viewpoint:
Quote:
Right-of-centre ideology has lost us the war in Afghanistan and much more besides The ignominious retreat from Afghanistan is emblematic of a wider malaise that is afflicting Britain today

Link:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...te-and-country

Sadly I agree with some of his points:
Quote:
The truth is inescapable: we are no longer a great economic, technological or military power..... If one aim was to make the British homeland safer by victory in southern Afghanistan – a fantastical claim of last resort – Britain is now less safe. More widely, our failure in Helmand, following on from the disaster in Basra where our forces were beaten back to the airbase outside the city and only the intervention of the US army allowed an orderly exit, has led to America’s profound re-evaluation of our usefulness as an ally.
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Old 01-18-2016   #1058
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Default Operation Herrick Campaign Study

The official UK Operation Herrick Campaign Study, published March 2015, is now in the public domain. Not an easy read if only from the size, 614 pgs:https://www.gov.uk/government/upload...0107115638.pdf

Published by the Directorate Land Warfare Lessons Exploitation Centre. The UK government marking 'Official Sensitive' has been crossed out; just why they didn't do a cleaner version eludes commonsense IMHO. Spotted four pgs removed too. It looks like a photocopy too.

Maybe not suitable for publication before the May 2015 General Election?

One Tweet summed it up too well:
Quote:
The document that will launch a thousand headlines in the next few weeks
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Old 01-18-2016   #1059
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In The Times (behind a paywall) there is a short article that states the study was released after a FOI application and appeal. Plus there is a theme of arrogance cited by the UK's partners.
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Old 08-07-2016   #1060
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Default Musa Qala: an Afghan "Rorke's Drift"

Thanks to a "lurker" for this Daily Mail story, about a small detachment of Paras and the Royal Irish, in 2006 holding a compound @ Musa Qala, as the newly arrived UK presence moved - at local and GIRoA insistence - to "platoon houses" to "show the flag".
Their story has not been officially recognised, but C4 TV has assembled a documentary, which will be broadcast on August 16th. Perhaps it will be available beyond the UK afterwards.

Link:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ift-Paras.html
The story starts with:
Quote:
Outgunned, outmaneuvered, hopelessly outnumbered and besieged in the Afghan desert, a small band of British soldiers chose to save a final bullet for themselves rather than fall into Taliban hands.
Quote:
For nearly two months, the 88 men of Easy Company – a mix of Paratroopers and the Royal Irish – had faced the overwhelming force and firepower of up to 500 Taliban determined to over-run the remote Helmand outpost of Musa Qala.
And their near miraculous survival has been described as a latter day Rorke’s Drift, evocative of the 1879 siege in which 140 British soldiers held off a Zulu force of 3,000, later immortalised in the blockbuster film starring Michael Caine.
For 56 days in the autumn of 2006, the men at Musa Qala faced constant fire from fixed machine gun posts and mortars.
I note the Danes were there first:
Quote:
..the Danes took with them more than 40 armoured vehicles, eight heavy machine guns and a 12-strong medical team with armoured ambulances.
Quote:
Their British replacements had just two heavy machine guns, one doctor, two medics and a quad bike. When Taliban spies reported the huge reduction in armour and weaponry, the terror leaders scented an easy victory.

I am sure other nations faced such Taliban attacks, in sieges.

The UK in Afghanistan thread was closed upon the UK's exit from Helmand. It has 1052 posts and 194k views. Musa Qala appears in several other threads, including when the USMC fought there.



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