“…so last month he returned home and we all breathed again. It was a considerable experience. In so many of the photographs there is this grey haired man among all the young 19/21 year old “squaddies”.
The grey haired man is me and his comment inspired the title of this book which is first and foremost the true story of my considerable experiences as a Spin Zhira, literally White Beard in Pashtu or Old Man in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
According to the Department for International Development, life expectancy in Helmand is 44 years. Another study identifies that, in 2012, the average age of the British squaddie was 20. By either measure I was, indeed, an old man in Helmand and I have the white beard to prove it.
In this capacity I was privileged to witness the incredible bravery, courage and devotion to duty of the young men and women of the British and Danish Armed Forces as they fought a counter-insurgency campaign for which there was little popular mandate in their home countries. It is a war I have no doubt history will judge them to have lost by almost any measure other than body count.
But this is not their fault.