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Old 07-10-2013   #1001
davidbfpo
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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:
Quote:
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
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Old 08-14-2013   #1002
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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.
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Old 08-19-2013   #1003
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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:
Quote:
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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Old 08-20-2013   #1004
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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!
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Old 03-15-2014   #1005
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Default The MoD and sticking plaster solutions

To many this headline will not be a surprise:
Quote:
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:
Quote:
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.
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Old 03-17-2014   #1006
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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.
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932

Last edited by JMA; 03-17-2014 at 10:09 AM.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1007
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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.
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1008
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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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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1009
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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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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:

Quote:
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.
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1010
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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; 4 Weeks Ago at 02:37 PM.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1011
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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.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1012
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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.

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #1013
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General Sir Mike Jackson on Head to Head on Aljazeera:

Should the West end its wars?

Jackson tried valiantly to present a positive spin on the Afghan situation:

Quote:
"It is a great, great challenge. Afghanistan is on the way. We have not failed in the way you insist on putting it so dramatically."
When pressed he was able to produce one benefit arising out of the political/military action in Afghanistan - improved education for women.

Interesting viewing... but sad, really sad.
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #1014
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Not quite as it seems but...

British sniper in Afghanistan kills six Taliban with one bullet

Quote:
A British sniper in Afghanistan killed six insurgents with a single bullet after hitting the trigger switch of a suicide bomber whose device then exploded...
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #1015
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British Armed Forces complete handover of Helmand Province after eight years and 448 lost lives

Quote:
Moving ceremony at Camp Bastion sees UK officially cede operational command in Helmand to US, ahead of full withdrawal later in 2014
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #1016
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Default Afghanistan was our version of the Vietnam War

A simple eloquent article, under the title:
Quote:
Christina Schmid: ' I question the wisdom of what we did in Afghanistan'

Christina Schmid, who gave defiant public support to the Armed Forces after the death of her husband, reveals her reservations about the human cost of the campaign
One wonders, even after the Syria vote, if our politicians will follow her advice:
Quote:
This country is still on its knees. We cannot intervene. Morally, spiritually, physically, economically, we are broken from the last decade of conflict. We have to be realistic, to tread carefully, to ask what can be achieved.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ghanistan.html
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #1017
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Default A doomed mission - Rory Stewart writes

Quote:
It is time that the British government, the military and Parliament draw the correct lessons from this failure, and change the way we operate. The decision to “surge” troop numbers was doomed to fail because we had the wrong people, and the wrong objectives for our Afghan strategy. And we lacked the structures, oversight, and culture to put this right, over more than a decade. This was true across all parts of government.....It took us 10 years to begin to acknowledge failure. and extract ourselves, rather than “digging deeper”. Much of this mind set was reminiscent of the attitudes that led to the banking crash of 2008.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...s-failure.html
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #1018
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David, are Brit soldiers happy this woman deems to speak on their behalf?


Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
A simple eloquent article, under the title:

One wonders, even after the Syria vote, if our politicians will follow her advice:

Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ghanistan.html
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But I think I have said enough to show that, as the Manual says, while the principles of war remain unchanged, “The tactics and characteristics of the inhabitants and the nature of the theater of operations may necessitate considerable modification in the method” of their application to warfare on the North-West Frontier of India. – Gen Sir Andrew Skeen 1932
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #1019
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMA View Post
David, are Brit soldiers happy this woman deems to speak on their behalf?
No idea. I would expect a measure of respect for her husband's service, her composure on his return and best wishes on having a new partner. Mrs Schmidt speaks for herself, not others.

I have encountered a resistance - even when in private - within the British Army to examine the Afghan campaign, identify and follow through the 'lessons'. One soldier stated an official study of 'lessons learned' 1998/99 to 2009 found no lessons had been learned - which is hardly encouraging.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago   #1020
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Default Write a book please Captain. Wot critical, stop it you!

Almost laughable MoD performance:
Quote:
A captain in the Territorial Army has resigned after a dispute with the Ministry of Defence over a book he has written that is critical of the conduct of the campaign in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

The MoD commissioned the book by Dr Mike Martin, but took exception to parts of the account. The dispute has gone on for more than a year.
Officialdom said the MoD:
Quote:
has a strong record of learning from previous campaigns and encourages its officers to challenge existing norms and conventional wisdom. However, the publication of books and articles by serving military personnel is governed by well-established policy and regulations. When these are breached, the MoD will withhold approval.
The book, An Intimate War – An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, 1978-2012., is due to be published next week.

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

The author has Kings Ph.D. and is speaking there tomorrow. From the Kings website:
Quote:
This book—based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pushtu—offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the mainstream. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent—precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched.

Dr. Mike Martin is a Pushtu speaker who spent almost two years in Helmand as a British army officer (covering Operation HERRICKs 9-16). During that time, he pioneered and developed the British military’s Human Terrain and Cultural Capability—a means to understanding the Helmandi population and influencing it. He also worked as an advisor to several British commanders of Task Force Helmand. His previous publications include A Brief History of Helmand, required reading for British commanders and intelligence staff deploying to the province. He holds a doctorate in War Studies from King’s College London.
Ex-CDS General Sir David Richards review (yes the CDS and ex-ISAF CO):
Quote:
An Intimate War is, quite simply, the book on Helmand. I sincerely wish it had been available to me when I was ISAF Commander in Afghanistan. Military, diplomatic and development professionals involved in Afghanistan, and elsewhere for that matter, read this and take note.
Link:http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/department...ds/martin.aspx

Amazon UK:http://www.amazon.co.uk/An-Intimate-.../dp/1849043361

Will this be a British equivalent to Carter Malkasian's book? Time will tell and I might ask for this as a present.
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