Its bleak and ferocious, but is it still winnable?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by PartTimePongo, Aug 19, 2007.

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  1. Excuse lifting the entire thing Mark, but it's an incredible piece.

    'It's bleak and ferocious, but is it still winnable?'


    Mark Townsend has spent three weeks with British troops in Helmand who are fighting for their lives - and sometimes losing them - in a conflict that grows more gruelling by the day. He found them facing fresh enemies, as well-trained jihadists from around the world arrived to confront the Nato forces


    .

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,2151830,00.html

    An incredible piece, and one that contains plenty of material for DGMC to crow from the rooftops, but also shows issues that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
     
  2. A superb piece of hard-nosed, tell-it-like-it-is journalism, and I am reading similar pieces in newspapers and magazines which have never been particularly noteworthy as being supportive of the Army.

    Plenty for DGMC to be crowing about? Of course there is, there always has been. The problem is we don't live in a society where we crow on the nightly news about our brave boys fulfilling their internationalist duty. Not to mention that DGMC appears more interested in ensuring that the tales of 'every day' heroism depicted in this article don't receive a wider audience, thus drawing attention from the appalling job our chaps are doing.
     
  3. We can still win. Problem is, I don't know if we still believe we can.
     
  4. 'You have to ask whether British troops should have been sent here in the first place'

    My point exactly. Pull out now and let them get on with it.
     
  5. A very thought-provoking article. He gives the impression that a stream of new fighters are arriving to fight the British. Is it possible that numerous muslim terrorist organisations are sending fighters to Helmand to be blooded against what is considered to be a tough opponent, i.e. a battle-hardened British infantry battalion? If that is the case, they may well be training and selecting the leaders for the next generation of fighting.

    Interesting thought isn't it. I hope our poltical leaders and J2 staffs are thinking along similar timescales to those who wish us harm.
     
  6. Afghanistan is Britain's Vietnam. Believed it from when the announcement to send Brit troops in last year, I still believe it to be the case now. NATO countries aren't pulling their weight, so what is new? Our only real friends are English speaking nations in the World. Now is the wrong time to go soft on our relationship with the US. Chechen fighters have access to extremely hi-tec weaponry. A very worrying article.

    Absolute respect to the boys on the ground. Heroic, astonishing bravery.
     
  7. What spoilt the story for me was the fact that officers supposedly asked a journalist if 'it is still winnable'. Surely they were in a better position to judge that, given the information they had to hand, rather than some journalist who had been at the sharp end for days at a time, if that.

    Unless it was some sprog 2nd Lieutenant who didn't know the right person to ask.
     
  8. How the blue blazes is a 2nd Lietenant know wether the war is being won or not from his personal experience?
    He'll have enough on his plate keeping a platoon together and dealing with the daily needs and fulfilling daily objectives.

    You can only get the size of a mountain from afar.
    When you are climbing it you have know idea of its shape or size. You can only deal with the rock in front of your face which always needs you urgent undivided attention.
     
  9. Hold your horses. Talk of "a British Vietnam" seems a trifle dramatic and premature. Am I right in believing that there are roughly 1500 frontline troops actually engaged in the fighting?. Not quite on the scale of the US Vietnam effort, is it? Undermanned, under equipped? - it would seem so, and that seems to be the main problem outlined in the articles. It looks like a grossly inadequate number to take into a proper war, with any expectation of winning it.

    If civilisation as we know it is really threatened by the natives of Afghanistan and assorted itinerant jihadis, as the Govt would have us believe, then they need to start putting in the manpower and resources, as well as giving the Afghan and Pakistani authorities something of a reality check. At the height of the Troubles, I think troop levels in Ulster were around the 25,000 - 30,000 mark, which puts the current numbers in Afghanistan into perspective. Completely inadequate, and it bears all the hallmarks of NL gesture interventionism, made on the somewhat mistaken assumption that "not a shot will be fired in anger". Mr Reid was a bit out with his figures, but if the candle is still thought to be worth it, then HMG better start putting in what is required, or draw a line under this episode before any more British blood is spilt and before GB gets lined up for national humiliation number two. But 'Vietnam', it certainly isn't. Yet.
     
  10. "War is just an extention of policy by other means." ... or something like that, said Clausewitz.

    The point being that military action is just one component of the full equation that is policy. Afghanistan is going to be 'won' or 'lost' on the basis of getting policy right. It's not going to be won by winning the body count.

    Military has every right to ask an outsider whether the 'war is winnable'. It's a plain simple acknowedgment that they are wondering if their selfless efforts are in vain. The military can win every single battle, but the war can be lost on policy. Vietnam ring a bell?
     
  11. From what I've read, one of the features of the Vietnam debacle was the constant interference of the Policy makers. Forgive me for being simplistic, but if a situation is judged serious enough to warrant military intervention, then the only policy needed, at least while the bullets are flying, is 'Win'. Everything else is secondary - hearts, minds, reconstruction, all take a back seat.

    If the Govt is not prepared to do what it takes to win, or at least to have a realistic chance of winning, then they've got no business getting involved in the first place. It's an all or nothing thing. No point in coming second.
     
  12. My bold

    Exactly - the only level of officer potentially stupid enough to ask that question of a journalist who, to use Your arguement, is too far from the mountain to accurately read it even with a telescope, although He has once climbed one, maybe two mid difficulty pitches whilst having his hand held by an experienced climber.

    Only a complete novice would ask that person if the mountain was climbable.
     
  13. My bold.

    Someone who has all the facts probably, a military analyst possibly. But a journalist?

    And I have no idea of the correlation of journalists and policy in this matter.
     
  14. That's a long sentence, Sven, and a difficult one for me to understand. I think the point goodkurtz was making was that the journalist, unlike the subbie, will have spoken to generals, will have contacts in the MoD, and will have access to stories from the wider region- a perspective wider than the view of poppy fields and mud brick walls the subbie is experiencing.
     
  15. Dannatt hinted tonight that more British troops might be on their way to Helmand soon. The Military believe this can be won by throwing a couple of thousand more British troops into Helmand. I do not believe it will be won in this way. The planners got it badly wrong. Just as Iraq was misjudged so too is Afg. Military Chiefs and naive Labour Ministers actually thought soft NATO "partners" would provide troops to the most dangerous regions. They haven't. And if the same people think they are likely to any time soon, they need their heads examined. Afg is important, but our continental allies have proved unreliable bed partners. I would welcome a reappraisal of our international relationships. The Germans are clearly useless. Their police training committment in Kabul actually existed without any clear mission aims. Presumably so that they could not fail in their mission. The Norwegian socialist party does not want to see Norewegian forces placed in combat, but presumably they are happy to rely on NATO protection on their Northern flank. Despite many desperate pleas for re-inforcements, nothing of any meaning has been forthcoming. The list of uselessnes is long.

    Britain's Vietnam? Anyone see an exit strategy here? Or a single, clear mission aim? Or any respite from our partners? No wonder British troops are starting to question the worth of their sacrifice.