Afghanistan: We are fighting ghost soldiers

Afghanistan: 'We are fighting ghost soldiers'

Will the the US surge in Afghanistan help the British army get the resources it has been hoping for?

By Thomas Harding in Helmand
Published: 7:00PM BST 17 Jul 2009

Uphill struggle: Members of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards being briefed after a hard day in the field Photo: NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX/EYEVINE
History might record that the summer of 2009 was the pivotal moment for the British mission in Helmand. It has been a bloody few weeks with 15 dead in a 10-day period, including the most senior Army officer in three decades. These deaths, and another yesterday, and the eight coffins, witnessed by a few hundred of us in Camp Bastion and later by thousands in Wootton Bassett on Wednesday, has, after three years of evasion, produced the necessary debate about what we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan.
The resolve of politicians and military commanders is being tested as never before – as indeed is public support for the mission. But the harsh reality is that we must be prepared for more deaths if we are to succeed in Operation Panther's Claw, which began four weeks ago to clear a Taliban stronghold in central Helmand, and in the longer campaign in general.
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More troops, more kit in the short term.

In the long term, some joined-up thinking about our objectives. Are we trying to take and hold as much of the ground as we can? Not with 8,300 soldiers in theatre we aren't. What are we doing about the enemy positions within Pakistan? Nothing is not a satisfactory answer. Either we pitch in with both hands, find the resources to fight a proper war (there's always money knocking around for foreign aid contributions or pointless inquiries into the security services on the word of some dodgy terrorist, so it can't be that hard finding some for the war) or we get the ANA ready to hold their own as quickly as we can then get the hell out and hope the country doesn't implode too badly; whatever we do we cannot continue this attrition indefinitely.
Question are we at war or on operations? If we are at war then HMG should issue a mobilisation of the reserves and the TA and commit the money needed and let the military do it´s thing.