Category Archives: Spin Zhira

Want to improve your skiing? Get a board.

If you’re planning a ski holiday this winter, then it’s time to start including some ski specific training in your workouts. Not only will it reduce the risk of injury and ensure you get the most out of your slope time but, when you spring out of bed on day three of your holiday, your body will thank you too.

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to improve your skiing is to enhance your sense of balance and the best way to do this is to get a board. A wobble board.

Wobble board

In the weeks before your holiday stand on your board (in your ski position) every day until you can comfortably maintain your balance for a full minute.

And that’s it.

Of course, you’ll need to work a little harder if you want to dominate the steeps or boss the moguls but one of the the best ways to own your skis is to get  a board.

Spin Zhira/skiing

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For a longer life: Go Skiing.

Good balance is an essential component of skiing and should form part of your pre-season training routine.

In the month before your ski trip try brushing your teeth standing on one leg. It’s a great exercise that will not only improve your ski performance but may even help you live a little longer.

According to the UK’s Medical Research Council, 53-year-olds who could stand on one leg for ten seconds with their eyes closed were the most likely to be fit and well in 13 years’ time. However, those who could manage only two seconds were three times as likely to die before the age of 66.

In addition, Dr Yasuharu Tabara, associate professor of genomic medicine at Kyoto University in Japan found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health.”

So there you have it, skiing (and/or standing on one leg) is not only good for the brain but will also help you live forever.

Spin Zhira/skiing

Extraordinary Moment or Catastrophe?

Jonathan Beale returns to Afghanistan for the BBC and reports on the recent three day ceasefire in Kabul when Taliban fighters and Afghan National Army soldiers posed together for the cameras.

Despite a recruitment crisis in the Afghan National Army, with some units 70% undermanned, Senior NATO commanders see this as progress and evidence that ‘the strategy is working’.  Lt Gen Richard Cripwell, the most senior British military officer in Afghanistan, describes it as an “extraordinary moment”.

But, as Jonathan so rightly points out, “then again that’s exactly what I heard so many times from so many senior British army officers during their time in Helmand.”

His words seem painfully prophetic. In the same news cycle, the New York Times reports that elsewhere in Afghanistan government forces have lost over 200 officers and soldiers killed in action in sustained attacks over the weekend by Taliban insurgents. According to a senior Afghan security official, speaking anonymously because of the delicacy of the issue, “It was a catastrophe.”

Are we still doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome?

Chris Green is a former soldier and businessman. In 2012 he spent nine months in Helmand Province Afghanistan as a member of the International Security Assistance Force. He subsequently authored a critically acclaimed book, SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand, A true story of love, service and incompetence. He regularly blogs on defence and current affairs issues.

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick HennesseyThe Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘A must read.’
Richard DorneyThe Killing Zone 

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read.’
Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars 

‘First Class.’
Doug Beattie MC, An Ordinary Soldier

 ‘Absolutely fantastic’
Dr Mike MartinAn Intimate war

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

For once, Boris is right.

Much to the delight of everyone, not least himself, Boris has put his foot in it again. His glib comments opposing the Danish burqa ban have caused offence and created a media storm in a teacup.

Although none appear to have come forward to express their outrage, his (mildly) offensive comments about letter boxes and bank robbers may well have upset some (very sensitive) women who choose to voluntarily wear the burqa. This hardly matters, of course, because politicians of all parties and persuasions have rushed to defend their absolute right in a liberal society to dress as they please.

But in all the outrage, the claims of Islamophobia and the calls for Boris to apologise  we seem to have lost sight of the real issue. The burqa is not as ridiculous as Boris claims in his Telegraph column.

Anyone who has visited Afghanistan, as Boris and I both have, will know the burqa is a symbol of the appalling injustice and oppression inflicted on women in that country and elsewhere. It is inconceivable that anyone in the UK (or Denmark) who chooses to wear the burqa of their own free will does so in ignorance of this incontrovertible fact. And that’s why Boris is right to rebuke them (however mildly).

I have risked my life in the defence of liberty and would willingly do so again. I will defend your right to freely express yourself, however distasteful I might find your views. But in return, I demand the right to question the motives of anyone who chooses to wear symbols of oppression or discrimination.

Swastikas or burqas, they’re equally repugnant to me.

“UNLAWFUL” AND “HORRIFIC”

The BBC reports that the UK ‘knew US mistreated rendition detainees’ following the publication of a report by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

The report states that British agencies continued to share intelligence with allies despite knowing or suspecting abuse in more than 200 cases. Committee chairman Dominic Grieve said agencies knew of incidents that were “plainly unlawful” while Baroness Chakrabarti described them as “horrific practices”.

While it seems clear that the UK’s Security and Intelligence Services were aware of the inexcusable treatment of US detainees it would appear that, thankfully, they did not themselves routinely participate in rendition or enhanced interrogation.

This restraint and reluctance to collaborate more fully with US agencies in these activities may well have been because of the existence of the ISC and the oversight procedure to which intelligence services are accountable.

Is it also now time to hold an inquiry into UK Special Forces activities in Iraq and Afghanistan which are not subject to Parliamentary oversight, and which it has been alleged contravened the Laws of Armed Conflict?

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Unlike the Intelligence Services which maintained a separate chain of command, UK Special Forces submitted themselves to a US command and adopted US methods and tactics, such as kill/capture missions.

There is sufficient evidence and anecdote, including the first hand accounts of former SAS operatives, to warrant an investigation but this has been repeatedly blocked by the Ministry of Defence.

If we are ever to understand our strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan or the concurrent rise of Islamist extremism we must first examine the policies and practices of detainee mistreatment, incarceration without trial or access to legal representation, rendition, waterboarding, kill/capture missions, night raids, drone strikes and collateral damage algorithms.

WORDS AND DEEDS

Our political leaders will always find the time to parade in front of the media at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, just as you can be sure to find your own MP standing at the local war memorial as the clock strikes eleven.

However, when it comes to debating and formulating veterans policy it’s a different story. On the first day of what is Armed Forces week, parliament debated the ending of historical prosecutions of armed forces veterans. None of the party leaders felt the need to attend and only one Labour MP wasn’t doing something else. All the Lib Dem and SNP MPs were washing their hair or otherwise engaged. While more than 50 Conservative MPs showed up, including Mark Lancaster the Minister for the Armed Forces, his boss Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Defence was not among them as you might have expected.

And if you thought this was just a one-off you’d be wrong. In March 2016, MPs were asked to debate “the complete vacuum of provision” of care for service veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

On that occasion only 12 Conservative Ministers bothered to turn up.

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Of course, later the same year all the usual suspects were on parade at the Cenotaph, just as they will be again this year.

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Words and deeds are not aligned.

“I made her and I can break her.”

Our Service Chiefs appear to have let Gavin Williamson know what they really think of him by leaking his cringe making boast from a private meeting to the media. Meanwhile, former head of the army, Lord Dannatt helpfully comments that he fears Williamson ‘could be forced to resign over the issue’.

It looks to me like a complex ambush with multiple firing points.

Even before the excruciating interview with Richard Madeley, I doubted whether Williamson, or Private Pike as his cabinet colleagues prefer to call him, was really up to the task of Secretary of State for Defence.

His pronouncement early in his tenure that “a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain” not only underlined the fact that Mr Williamson has no first hand experience of killing terrorists himself but also served to expose his naivety and inexperience.

It would seem that, in the intervening weeks and months, he has failed to grow into the role and the Service Chiefs are now cutting him loose. It’s going to make for an interesting Monday morning on the fifth floor of the MoD main building.

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.

Amazon Five Stars A JOURNEY OF LOVE, SERVICE AND ADVENTURE. EXCELLENT!

Amazon Five Stars A MODERN WARFARE LITERARY CLASSIC! OUTSTANDING READ.

Amazon Five Stars ENTERTAINING, THOUGHT-PROVOKING AND COMPULSORY TO READ.

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA 

Unfinished business or ancient history?

Reporting for the BBC from Kabul,  Auliya Atrafi explains why so many of his fellow countrymen blame the British for everything.

He tells us of a persistent rumour that ‘the hand of the British is behind every evil in Afghanistan.’ It is a widely held belief that I encountered again and again in Helmand Province.

Britain has suffered some of it’s most humiliating military disasters at the hands of Afghans, most notably the destruction of Lord Elphinstone’s army  in the 1842 retreat from Kabul and the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, an engagement which took place 40 miles east of Lashkar Gah, the British headquarters of Task Force Helmand from 2006 – 2013.

Many Helmandis’ forefathers had a hand in the British defeat at Maiwand and earnestly believed that Task Force Helmand had returned, 126 years later, to avenge the 969 British and Indian troops who died there. By contrast, most British troops were unaware of the battle and, for those few who did, its significance was dismissed as ‘ancient history’.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. A true story of love, service and incompetence.

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.

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick HennesseyThe Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘A must read.’
Richard DorneyThe Killing Zone 

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read.’
Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars 

‘First Class.’
Doug Beattie MC, An Ordinary Soldier

‘Absolutely fantastic’
Dr Mike MartinAn Intimate War

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

 

ARMING THE TALIBAN

General John Nicholson, the head of US Forces in Afghanistan thinks the Russians are arming the Taliban. I have no reason to doubt him but I think General Nicholson may also need to look a little closer to home to find the source of Taliban funds.

During my time in Helmand local nationals on both sides of the conflict were of the firm conviction that the US funded the Taliban via Pakistan. It seemed preposterous to me at the time and I dismissed the rumours. Given that many Helmandis not only still held the British accountable for the occupation of 1842 but also for the Russian invasion of 1979 because ‘all infidels look the same’ it was not an unreasonable conclusion.

However, I was forced to reappraise my view after reading Christina Lamb’s book Farewell Kabul.  Gen. Nicholson has spent almost his entire career in Afghanistan and I’m sure he is familiar with these claims so it’s interesting that he would choose not to address these too. It is also odd that the BBC interviewer did not think to ask the question.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. A true story of love, service and incompetence.
Over-matched, over-ruled and over-weight, Spin Zhira is a tale of one man’s personal battle against the trials of middle age set on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan. Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry or your money back.¹

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick HennesseyThe Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘A must read.’
Richard DorneyThe Killing Zone 

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read.’
Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars 

‘First Class.’
Doug Beattie MC, An Ordinary Soldier

 ‘Absolutely fantastic’
Dr Mike MartinAn Intimate war

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

¹Check the small print first