The Army is making the same old mistakes in Afghanistan, say

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by redleg6, Sep 3, 2009.

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  1. from the Times, 3 September

    Michael Evans, Defence Editor

    Britain is failing to learn from the “military mistakes” made in Iraq in developing ways to defeat the Taleban in Afghanistan, according to a series of critical articles published in an internal army journal.

    One devastating contribution, from a former sergeant-major in The Parachute Regiment who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, also paints an alarming picture of soldiers and their families under huge stress from repeated tours.

    The articles appear in the British Army Review, which is often used as a platform for controversial comments and opinions about the way that the Armed Forces conduct operations.

    The latest edition, published yesterday for internal consumption in the Army, focuses on the perceived failures of Britain’s campaign in Iraq and the risk of repeating errors in counter-insurgency in Afghanistan.

    Some of the most critical comments come from Colonel Peter Mansoor, a former American commander who worked closely with General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq until a year ago, and an academic who lectured at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

    However, other insights into the military campaigns and the consequences for the soldiers, and for the way the missions are being run, are provided by a reservist major, formerly a company sergeant-major in the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment, and a Territorial Army trooper.

    General Sir Richard Dannatt, who has just retired as Chief of the General Staff, admits in a foreword in the journal that the articles “make uncomfortable reading” but he welcomes the debate.

    “The events discussed [in the journal] were set against a backdrop of concurrent and challenging operations in two theatres where our forces were operating and fighting with bravery and distinction, but which inevitably had an impact on some key issues, not least of which was the availability of resources,” General Dannatt says.

    He reveals that a review of doctrine applied in Iraq and Afghanistan, Operation Entirety, has already helped “to focus the Army on the enduring campaign in Afghanistan”. The review will be published soon.

    Condemnation in the journal of Britain’s strategy in Iraq, particularly the decision to withdraw troops from Basra in September 2007, leaving the city to be taken over by extremist Shia militia, echoes criticisms made by senior American commanders at the time, which were rejected by the Government.

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, admitted in January that Britain had been “smug and complacent” in the early days of the Iraq campaign.

    What the experts think

    The Major: Gerry Long

    The stress on families of repeated tours has yet to be properly assessed. The higher echelons of the Army, the civilian and political overseers, have never encountered this kind of stress and do not understand that the smallest mistake, the minor penny-pinching process, can have repercussions out of all proportion to the original measure; the death of a thousand cuts is an everyday event in the British Army.

    “On return [from Iraq and Afghanistan], what welcomes the Army after the homecoming parade and the memorial service? Health and safety inspections and the Human Rights Act, with the necessary paperwork to go with it.

    “Both operations have been almost totally based on land; the greatest burden has been carried by the Army, Royal Marines and RAF support helicopter force in cost not only to personnel and families, but equipment — wearing out as fast as the soldiers suffer burn-out. The effect of repeated tours, stress of battle, suicide and divorce continue to mount, often out of view of the greater population or the political elite.”

    Major Gerry Long served with the 1st Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Iraq, and in Afghanistan

    The military lecturer: Daniel Marston

    "Observers expected that the British forces going into Afghanistan and Iraq, given their history of success in counter-insurgency, would automatically be better suited to waging wars among the people than their American counterparts. The British Army, in practice, appeared to be losing its way in terms of practical application of key facets of COIN [counter-insurgency].

    “Many officers and NCOs ... were apparently unaware of important operational and strategic aspects of COIN. The British Army cannot turn its back on a difficult campaign and disregard lessons, some of which are admittedly very tough to swallow ... The British campaign in [Iraq] was not a glowing success, as some within Whitehall and PJHQ [the MoD’s Permanent Joint Headquarters] may try to claim.”

    Daniel Marston is a former senior lecturer in war studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

    The trooper: David Maddock

    "British forces in Afghanistan today are fighting an asymmetric war, a war we have fought many times before in Arabia, Malaya, Northern Ireland and Iraq ... If we have such a vast amount of experience, why are we not implementing the lessons learnt by those who have fought and died before us? Developing and improving concepts, tactics and doctrine will lack impact and effectiveness if the commanders who are expected to implement them are singing off a different song sheet every six months [when the brigade is rotated]. I don’t believe compromise with the Taleban is possible.

    “We will have to break the back of the Taleban ... taking away their ability to plan and execute complex operations, disabling their ability to procure new and more devastating weapons and, most importantly, destroying their influence over the civilian population.”

    Trooper David Maddock, of the Territorial Army’s Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry, served in Afghanistan in late 2007 and early 2008

    The US Colonel: Peter Mansoor

    "Only through a thorough appreciation of the mistakes it made in Iraq can the British Army turn defeat into victory as it fights the untidy wars of the early 21st century. It should not ... gloss over its recent experience in Iraq ... Although the conditions [in Afghanistan] are different, the lessons of Iraq are still relevant.

    “The British failure in Basra was not due to the conduct of British troops, which was exemplary. It was, rather, a failure by senior British civilian and military leaders to understand the political dynamics ... in Iraq, compounded by arrogance that led to an unwillingness to learn and adapt, along with increasing reluctance to risk blood and treasure to conduct effective counter-insurgency warfare . . .

    “British commanders attempted to cut deals with local Shia leaders to maintain the peace in southern Iraq, an accommodation that was doomed to failure since the British negotiated from a position of weakness.”

    Retired US Colonel Peter Mansoor served two tours in Iraq and was executive officer to General Petraeus in Iraq
  2. Is the lack of response to this (and to the other thread its posted on) a sign that:

    a. Nobody has a view on this sufficient to bother commenting.
    b. They've missed it.
    c. They agree but are too tired/weary to add anything to it ?

    Meanwhile back to Katie Price et al........
  3. Katie Price's rape cry dubbed desperate bid for attention
    Thursday, September 3, 2009,11:59 [IST]

    London (ANI): Katie Price’s plans to garner public sympathy after separating from Peter Andre by revealing her rape ordeal have backfired. Price had recently disclosed to OK! magazine that she had been raped when she was younger. However, fans have dubbed her revelation “a disgrace” and “a desperate bid for attention”.

    Buzz up!
    The Daily Star reported a fan’s blog post as saying: “Can anyone believe a word she says? It’s a desperate bid for attention. “First there was the cancer scare, then the miscarriage – and now it’s rape. No-one is saying she is lying, but her timing seems to be spot on. Rape should not be used to score column inches. This is a disgrace.”

    Another admirer wrote: “The woman is so transparent she could be used to glaze a house.” Price has published three autobiographies but her rape does not find a mention in any of them. Even pals have questione d her motives to confess her rape at this time .

    Peter’s friends have also been surprised by Price’s outcry. One of Peter’s pals said: “She had mentioned a sex attack when she was younger, but he didn’t know about the rapes.” In a TV interview earlier this year Price had said a stranger had touched her in a park when she was six years old.
  4. Why no comment?
    If you are treated like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed on bullshit, you will act like one eventually. You treat people like schmucks they will act like schmucks. How can you say anything other than you are perfectly happy and having a wonderful time if it means contradicting the spin. You have to trust us. We know more than you. You have all the helicopters you need. Trust us as we trust the Press who we allow to freely report. What is funny is that the Afghanis know the nature of the British State. They know we will leave as soon as possible and any fool who trusts us is dead meat. They know you get to power faster with the more people you kill. It is only the moderates who get shafted when negotiating with the Brits. Remember, we sell our friends and buy our enemies.
  5. Britain always starts with a second raters commanding, mind you as this ones gone on longer the WW II we are due the emergence of a Leader.
    Labour commits to 5 wars but objects to paying for any.
  6. Andy_S

    Andy_S LE Book Reviewer

    Bit surprised the BAR is so behind the times on this: Nothing in this that has not been in the popular press various journals and websistes and, indeed, ARRSE, long before now.

    Perhaps BAR - largely read by the officer corps - is, itself, relective of the conservatism of the army's upper echelons...?
  7. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Ouch, no doubt there is a period of painful reflection looming on the horizon about our performance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The oft wheeled out comment that it is all about resources resources is an excuse to hide behind and only half of the problem. The reason why the US became so effective in what was supposed to be our area of excellence is because once they realised they were wrong, they had a very public, very open, very critical debate. From that came a set of actions which they resourced and followed through with ruthless single mindedness. Resources were but one of the elements, the most critical being a very open admission of weakness. Of course our inbuilt arrogant superiority complex means doing the same is going to be both very difficult and painful. Witness a few weeks ago similar articles appearing, was it in the RUSI journal or it might have even been BAR.

    Long road ahead
  8. BAR. British Army Review is in fact mentioned in Times article.

  9. Actually to be fair it was RUSI first, and at the time the subject of a long-ish ARRSE thread. The BAR pieces, summarised in yesterday's Times, are new. But Meridian is still spot on for my money. It all starts with a willingness to confront failings, some of it publicly and much of it deeply painful, particularly to senior officers (serving and retired) who have invested so much in policies that have failed and advice that has been wrong. BAR is behind the times and IIRC the earlier RUSI piece accused it of as much. The question really is will any of it make any difference (whether ? Is it all froth ? One would have hoped the piece by Pete Mansoor, a very experienced and effective US Bde Comd had people all over the Army/MOD squirming. But does the new CGS see it this way and is he prepared to start breaking the furniture in order to make real changes ?
  10. I'll second that. I was also struck, in reading the excellent D-Day book by Anthony Beevor, by a phrase he used to explain the British Army's failure to adapt between WW1 and WW2: "their torpid military culture".

    It takes a real kick in the ass to change a culture. We got sloppy after Waterloo, and only the feckup in the Crimea woke Britain up to its military decline. The reforms that followed took over 30 years, all told, and were driven by civilians, rather than by soldiers. They gave rise to the tiny (twice our current strength, IIRC) but formidable regular force - that became known as the Old Contemptibles.

    After WW1, however, through the habitual intellectual 'torpidity' encouraged in the regular officer corps, the lessons the regulars might have learned from the terrifyingly competent for-the-duration-citizen-soldiers who were responsible for securing victory in WW1, were almost entirely lost in the decades that followed.

    Let's pray that this is a sign of another post-Crimean reawakening.

    • adjective 1 mentally or physically inactive. 2 (of an animal) dormant, especially during hibernation.

    — DERIVATIVES torpidity noun torpidly adverb.

    — ORIGIN Latin torpidus, from torpere ‘be numb or sluggish’.
  11. One of my theories is that Armies need to be at War in order to develop and to grow in stature. Certainly the British tend to atrophy between engagements and quite frequently get off to a very bad start in the next session.
  12. Thats it then. Thats the answer. The reason the Taliban are on the rise is because of a silicone enhanced boiler and her orange ex-husband. Methinks someone has hit the wrong thread.
  13. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Duff, when has the UK armed forces not be in a conflict since the end of WWII then?
  14. Deleted
  15. an opinion frequently voiced by soldiers who are looking for an excuse for avoid devising ways of getting better at their job during peacetime, in my view.

    Absence of conflict presents only the challenge of testing the practicality of new options: otherwise every army would be useless on day 1.

    Admitted, there is a case that says 'victory goes to the fastest learners' (Yanks in WW2 France demonstrably learned by experience faster than Brits facing the same opponents) - but then, if our military were to value and reward fast learning and practical creativity in peacetime, our soldiers would feel embarrassed about espousing theories such as yours.