Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Eyes shut and fingers crossed

What's wrong in Afghanistan? Ask the British.
Top ranks within the Ministry of Defence and other Whitehall departments are accused of:

* grossly underestimating the threat from the Taleban;

* ignoring warnings that planned troop numbers were inadequate;

* offering only the military advice they thought ministers wanted to hear;

* signing off on a confused command- and-control structure.

If any of this is sounding familiar, please choke back the urge to puke and continue reading. (Emphasis mine)

One senior serving officer who asked not to be named said of the planning stage: “There was institutional ignorance and denial. We who had bothered to put a bit of work in and had done the estimate realised that we needed much more than we were being given.”

Another source, in government at the time, said that the military was pushing hard for the mission despite warnings that preparations were inadequate. “The advice to ministers grossly underestimated the risks,” he said. “The few people who were doubters were either too cowardly or too cautious to say what they really thought.”

You could shorten all this to something along the lines of believing that an insurgency was nothing more than a bunch of rag-cladden wogs with out of date weapons with no more than a snowball's chance in hell of creating a problem for a world class army and marine corps with world class weapons, excellent training and unbelievably expensive webbing.

Until they employ those "cowardly" tactics all those basement fuckwads keep crying the blues about and kick your fucking teeth in.

Major-General Andrew Mackay, a former commander of British troops in the province who has left the Army, accused the military of being too acquiescent in rolling over to political bidding. “The genesis of this approach is born of complacency, the thought that ‘we can deal with it as and when it happens’. It resulted, I believe, in the upper echelons of government going into Helmand with their eyes shut and their fingers crossed. For those who fought and died or suffered injuries in that period, this proved a very costly means of conducting counterinsurgency.”

In January 2006, John Reid, then the Defence Secretary announced that Britain was sending 3,300 troops to Helmand on a stabilisation mission that would last three years and cost £1 billion. Within weeks the troops were fighting for their lives, reinforcements were rushed in and costs skyrocketed.

Go back and read all of that very, very carefully.

And now we get to something very close to my skin.

The Special Air Service was one of the first to raise the alarm.

Its report after a foray into Helmand in the summer of 2005 said that replacing the small, well-funded US mission in Lashkar Gah with a larger, under-funded British one was likely to create trouble. “They noted that there wasn’t much of an insurgency in Helmand, but that if you wanted one then send the British there,” said an officer who has seen the report.

Alright, I have my long standing beef with the SAS over an entirely different incident, but I would never question the excellence of their on-ground ability to assess. They know their stuff. Period.

Mark Etherington, a development expert who helped write the cross-government plan for Helmand, said: “It was clear from the outset in my view that there had been a radical underestimation of the challenge.” Reporting back to the Cabinet Office, his team recommended further intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. “But there was a real sense of the clock ticking, that ‘the Minister is jolly keen to get into Helmand — don’t bring me bad news, bring me good news.’.”
And then there's Canada... in Kandahar. How much of an insurgency existed before we moved south?

No one can dispute the dedication of those who went and will go to Afghanistan to do a singularly impossible job. The concept of rebuilding Afghanistan is noble enough to shield an individual from the overarching sense that the intensified military mission to Afghanistan, by any country other than the US, was nothing more than an attempt to nation-build, and Afghanistan was never the nation to be built; It was and is the stadium to which nations sent and continue to send their expeditionary forces to bolster their own national prestige in the eyes of other western nations.

Afghanistan is now the unfortunate battleground of particular nations and their fat-assed political leaders trying to display their sperm count to the world. It is an abusive use of armed forces and callous expenditure of human life in the pursuit of the drum-major's position in a whimsical victory parade that will probably never step off.

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