Sorry there was no link to this but the Sunday Times online wants a quid and I've already bought a hard copy! I've done a rough precis.
The reporter Miles Amoore has a younger brother serving in British Army who was wounded out there and, as you would expect, the piece is even-handed. It opens with an account of a US Marine dying after triggering an IED, and then moves on to say that the marines couldn't understand why the Brits hadn't pacified the area and came to the conclusion that the reason must have been that they were spread too thinly- which is why their first move was the closure of more than half of the 22 patrol bases set up by the Brits. They then started to aggressively exploit previously untouched areas, the Americans were surprised at the intensity of the fighting in Sangin comparing it to Falluja- one of them said "There was no time to ease into it, people started dying immediately".
There then follows a fuller account of the patrol in which the US Marine is killed, relating the difficulties faced by the troops in such an environment.
The thoughts of a British veteran on the negative American opinions of British efforts follow: "We were all pretty pissed off when we heard. To say that we had no success is both ignorant and extremely short-sighted. We were there for four years and had already tried
what they are now trying, which is obviously not working judging by the casualties". It is clear that regardless of embarassing Wikileaks revelations there is a consensus that the more freedom allowed to the Taliban in Sangin, the more effective they become, the article gives examples of how the insurgents constantly learn and evolve their techniques and tactic- for example remoting battery packs of IEDs to make them almost inpossible to detect.
The article concludes saying the 3rd Bn, 5th Marines have had their successes but also that as they clear ground they will have to build new patrol bases to hold it, leaving them spread too thinly.... one officer tells his men "There is no panacea , it's about situational awareness . The only ground that's safe is the ground you're standing on".
Speaking to folks in Helmand last week, who were well placed on these things, a lot of them noted that the US has done a major volte face on the Sangin issue. I spoke with a lot of guys who said that the US troops they spoke to were pleading with us to take it back from them.
While there is an element of crowd pleasing in this, I have the real impression that something is going badly wrong in Sangin, but I expect the US will learn from its mistakes and sort it out.
I remember a couple of months reading in a paper - I think it was the Times - where a senior American marine ws quoted that the corps weren't too keen on taking on the Sangin gig . I was trying to find it on the net
It has been said for a while that HERRICKs center of gravity is the population (both Afghan and Western)
By RIPing UK PLC out of SANGIN, the impact of the casualty rates there are transferred to the US public, which is more able to cope with the casualty rates than the UK public. The UK needs to see a reduction in casualty rates in order to keep it committed to ISAF.
ISAF have played this right at the strategic level, but RC SW have got it wrong at the operational level:
They have moved from a persistent presence of a repetative raiding approach. - Those PBs were there to secure the population. Now the US are ignoring that population, and fighting to secure a different population. Bonkers. The newly secure poplation wont expect them to stay.