Two years after British Forces pulled out of Camp Bastion, Jonathan Beale, the BBC’s Defence Correspondent asks: Did the UK leave Afghanistan’s Helmand too soon?
The answer is yes and no.
‘No’ in the sense that one definition of madness is to keep on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen. US and UK counter-insurgency doctrine is childishly optimistic and doesn’t work. Two failed counter-insurgency interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan are clear evidence of this, but the doctrine still stubbornly persists. Staying in Helmand on these terms would have done nothing more than prolong the agony.
‘Yes’ in the sense that, with the right doctrine, more could have and should have been done. But it requires a shift in mindset as well as doctrine. Current political and military thinking is based on minimums. The minimum number of troops committed for the minimum amount of time. The best logic for staying in Helmand is to honour the sacrifice of the fallen, so that they did not die in vain. This is not a winning formula.
If we are to return to Helmand it must be with a new counter-insurgency doctrine, a clear understanding of the desired outcome and a realistic time-frame measured in decades rather than years.
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.