Monday, 6 September 2010

COIN - Counter Insurgency in Afghanistan and the Foreign Office

There is an article in the Washington Post about further US criticism of British Troops in Afghanistan. Linky

To summarise, it says the US thinks the Brits did bugger all for the entire time they were in Helmand. And the Brits think the US are a bunch of gung ho arses that have spent their entire time since they took over some of the responsibilities for Helmand wasting time and money on irrelevant areas.

On one level, there are unfortunately some home truths here for us Brits, especially on delivering the facilities that the locals want. Very Long term the FCO are probably right, the Afghans need to build it themselves to get self respect, I also suspect that the US is angling for some permanent Halliburton contracts which long term is hardly a great winner as the Shah of Iran et all should have proved to America by now. Trade to Americans seems to be a one way street unless you're China as the BP Jones act debacle, Berry Compliant and the US banking aspects of the Patriot act et all has spectacularly shown. Now I'm not accusing the US soldier of being this mercenary, they are good and honourable people, but I will be quite happy to point the finger at the US Senators who will be pressuring the US DOD to make damn sure that Mosque - self erecting MK2 to be shipped to Afghanistan is built in his district.

However we're not looking at the long term, as the report quite rightly says, the war in Afghanistan is unpopular, results need to be shown quickly and the Americans are correct. This is exactly where we went wrong in Southern Iraq, Occupying forces have a small timeline to deliver. We waited for the Sir Humphries of the FCO to extract digits there as well. They trotted out their Oxfam "Teach somebody to catch a fish" shite, read the Guardian Play Book like it was holy skirt and because the roads didn't get better and the sewage stacked up we lost friends at the speed of 1000 greased gazelles. The FCO are the very definition of institutional inertia and the Army doesn't have time to sit around and wait for their 40 year time scale so their man in Havana gets a chance to bring back a nice ethnic wife to impress his Notting Hill friends.

I suspect that the Washington Post hasn't even attempted to look at the how’s and whys of those decisions were made - they weren't all down to costs. The Musa Qula ceasefire for example was to introduce normalcy and stability in the area which did help the co-illation. And it is right out of the US COIN playbook. But there's no point making excuses, no point in whining about how deeply unfair it all is. We have been seen to drop the ball a couple of times, and our prestige in the world matters to me. We can whine about it or do something about it, I suggest the latter.

Regarding the sign "Promise everything, deliver nothing" that is mentioned in the article. Americans think "House MD" is a sarcastic cynical bastard. If he was a British doctor we'd think he'd been on the happy pills or just been told he was allowed to naked wrestle the Swedish Bikini Team in a big tub of whipped cream the minute he's off duty. The British Army have a humour that when somebody gets his leg blown off and is screaming "I've lost my leg", his Sergeant pipes up with "No you haven't you dozy cunt, its over here". Very few Americans get this black humour, this inbuilt mocking of authority and directives (and also ourselves), nearly all Americans take it at face value. It would seem this Marine Colonel has made the same mistake.

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