Tag Archives: army

UK to send more troops to Afghanistan

The BBC reports that NATO wants the UK to send more troops to Afghanistan. Is this really such a good idea?

Sending a few more troops may win favour in Washington, the original source of the request, but will it make a difference on the ground?

Not without a change of strategy and mindset. Current political and military thinking is based on minimums. The minimum number of troops committed for the minimum amount of time. This is less about winning and more about not losing. Isn’t it time we stopped doing the same thing over and over again expecting something different to happen?

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.

‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘First class’
Doug Beattie, bestselling author of An Ordinary Soldier

‘A must read.’
Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zone

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

‘Five stars’
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army

‘Not just for soldiers’
William Reeve, BBC World Service and Afghanistan Correspondent

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ten reasons why you should read SPIN ZHIRA.

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.

No 2 Coy, Zumbalay
SPIN ZHIRA: The true story of a man’s entanglement in love, life and war.

Here are ten reasons why you should read it:

  1. SPIN ZHIRA is a true story of love, service and adventure that lifts the lid on the British mission in Afghanistan.
  2. It is not an officially sanctioned memoir and has not been endorsed by the Ministry of Defence. It is not subject to the usual constraints and conditions the ministry imposes on in-service authors.
  3. SPIN ZHIRA has received critical acclaim from best-selling authors, soldiers and citizens. Despite being an unofficial memoir, SOLDIER, the official magazine of the British Army also awarded five stars.
  4. SPIN ZHIRA reveals not only the courage and heroism of Britain’s Armed Forces but also the unique sense of humour that sustains them on operations.
  5. Not every Taliban is a terrorist. SPIN ZHIRA explains why ordinary Afghans felt compelled to take up arms against the infidel invaders.
  6. Learn three simple steps to keep you safe in the mountains – or a firefight.
  7. Discover the difference between camber and rocker.
  8. Find out what really happened to UK taxpayers £15m/day investment in Afghanistan.
  9. SPIN ZHIRA is a rare insight into the real male mid-life crisis. What every woman needs to know and why every man should be careful what he wishes for.
  10. SPIN ZHIRA is guaranteed to make you laugh and cry – or your money back.

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 

SAS ROGUE HEROES

A new book, Rogue Heroes by Ben MacIntyre, is published today charting the early days of the Special Air Service.

It reveals how the organisation, which has been shrouded in mystery since its inception in 1941, survived numerous ‘cock-ups’ and obstruction from the army’s upper echelons to become the world-renowned force it is today.

It also reveals that many of its secretive missions behind enemy lines included, in the words of its founder, David Stirling ‘executions in cold blood’.

It seems that little has changed since those early days except that the modern SAS now enjoys the patronage of politicians and senior officers, seduced by raw courage, bravery and ruthless efficiency:

‘Towards the end of our tour a night raid in Rahim, conducted by a joint SAS and Afghan Special Forces team (TF196), resulted in three brothers being gunned down in their compound in front of their wives and children.

Again I found myself in conflict with British Tier One Special Forces. TF196 insisted the men were insurgents, but this claim seemed highly improbable to me. The brothers’ compound was just a short distance from one of our patrol bases and any suspicious activity would almost certainly have come to our attention. Our own J2 Shop had nothing on the men. The general consensus from our analysts was that the SAS, while ruthlessly efficient as always, had directed their special talents against the wrong targets.

When I challenged a TF196 spokesman on their version of events he played their top secret joker once more. Speaking to me by phone from an undisclosed location he said the information was classified. As a known Taliban‑loving apologist and mere part‑time soldier I could not be trusted and had no authority to contradict elite tier one special forces. A short while later I received another telephone call from the charming colonel in Task Force Helmand (TFH) ordering me to drop my line of enquiry. Although he remained amiable I detected a hardening in his tone.

The TFH top brass had silenced me, but the Rahim ‘spin zhiras’ remained determinedly voluble on the subject. They steadfastly maintained the brothers’ innocence and were outraged at the brutal executions in front of the victims’ families. Emissaries were despatched to the patrol base threatening retaliation and demanding an apology and blood money for the relatives. The PB Commander was bitterly angry that the raid had gone ahead without his knowledge, destroying the work his own men had done over the previous six months to marginalise the Taliban and protect the population from insurgent violence.

Shortly after we completed our tour the Rahim patrol base was abandoned and Afghan National Security Forces ceded control of the area to the Taliban. Perhaps these events were not linked to the slaying of the supposed insurgents but, given the long memories of our Afghan hosts, this seemed unlikely to me. Our actions had done nothing to strengthen the legitimacy of the GIRoA government as the Petreus COIN Field Manual had directed.

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.

rogue-heroes  SPZ001_Front Cover with reviews

Defence Chiefs accused of giving ISIS a ‘hit list’.

Following this morning’s news in The Times that the MoD, in its infinite wisdom, has published the details of every regular officer, reservist officer and university trainee on a government website, the Daily Mail have now picked up the story. My poor ex-father-in-law will be choking over his dinner:

‘I took out my patrol camera and started photographing anything I thought might be useful for the report I would be writing on my return. I’d got into the practice of doing this early on in the tour and had found it to be invaluable. Engrossed in this task I turned the corner of the compound and almost walked into Haji Jalander, the old Mujahideen I’d interviewed back in MOB Price. Somehow he’d slipped through the Danish cordon unnoticed.

Although I knew Haji was from Zumbalay it hadn’t occurred to me that I might meet him here. But my surprise was nothing compared to his. The last time we’d met I was pretty sure Haji was up for killing me. I certainly wouldn’t have been the first khareji he’d put to death, but once again I had the advantage on him. I was armed with more than just a camera, while he had only his trusty radiator key on its slender brass chain.

Finding my wits I wished him ‘As‑salaam Alaykoum’, to which he instinctively replied before he could check himself, ‘Alaykoum As‑salaam’. Pleasantries over we stood and stared at each other for a few moments before we were joined by one of the Tiger Team lads who spoke a little English.

I waited patiently while they spoke rapid‑fire Pashtu. It was clear the Tiger was getting the full backstory on how Haji and I came to be acquainted. Haji went on at length and the more he spoke the more the fierce old Muj was winding himself up. I was reminded of my soon‑to‑be‑ex father‑in‑law who had a similar capacity to raise his own blood pressure to dangerous levels simply by reading The Daily Mail.

Eventually Haji ran out of steam and the Tiger turned to me and skilfully translated his lengthy diatribe into four words: ‘You know this man?’

I acknowledged that I did and asked him to enquire after Haji’s son‑in‑law. Had he returned? This was obviously a mistake as it set Haji off on another long stream of uninterrupted invective.

The young Afghan soldier was clearly a master of the paraphrase. Laughing a little too nervously for my liking, he translated this last tirade:

‘He says you will die here today, the Taliban will not let you leave alive.’

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.

 

ISIS GIVEN HITLIST

Deborah Haynes reveals in The Times today that the MoD, in its infinite wisdom, has published the details of every regular officer, reservist officer and university trainee on a government website.

I first met Deborah in Camp Bastion in 2012 when my unauthorised and unmonitored conversation with her caused the army media team who were handling her visit to get into a flap that I may have said something ‘off-message’.

When she called yesterday to ask me how I felt about the MoD’s public disclosure of my name, along with 20,000 others, I was a little taken aback. I assured her she must be mistaken. After the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013, servicemen have been repeatedly warned about the dangers of revealing their military service on social media and are cautioned against wearing their uniforms in public. Following this guidance and the very real risk of being targeted by Islamic terrorists, the MoD would never be so cavalier with our personal security.

I should have known better. This is, after all, the same ministry that continued to issue Lariam to troops long after the manufacturer had warned of the mental health risks associated with the drug. The same ministry that awarded Sir Bernard Grey a £45,000 bonus after he ran up an £23,000 expenses bill. And the same ministry that has paid £440 million in a failed recruitment drive.

Our names were published without our consent following a freedom of information request submitted, presumably, by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or one of his flunkies. Now that Deborah has exposed the blunder it’s comforting to know that the MoD has no plans to remove the list, insisting that ‘the security of our people is our foremost concern’.

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.

Who ate all the pies?

Until December last year, Sir Bernard Grey was the MoD’s Chief of Defence Procurement, hired in by David Cameron in 2011 to help tackle the ‘black hole’ in MoD equipment spending and to curb cost overruns.

On first impressions, Sir Bernard seems an odd choice as the MoD’s austerity chief. Leadership by example is a core tenet of our Armed Forces and he does not strike me as a man accustomed to self-restraint. ‘Fat Cat’ seems an entirely fair and accurate description of this particular MoD mandarin.

Whatever your opinion of former austerity-Chancellor George Osborne’s policies, his lean and hungry demeanour and his perpetually pallid complexion gave the distinct impression that he was practicing what he preached. Sir Bernard is, no doubt, a very talented man but belt-tightening is, quite evidently, not his area of subject matter expertise.

One of Sir Bernard’s first initiatives in his new job was to run up a £23,000 expenses bill. The MoD were so pleased with this they immediately awarded him with a £45,000 bonus on top of his £225,000 annual salary (nearly twice that of Chancellor George Osborne). In 2014/15 Sir Bernard’s pay increased in-line with his waistline to an impressive £380,000.

In order to avoid criticism for shelling out such large sums of public money to Sir Bernard, in April this year the MoD awarded a £60,000 ‘non-competitive’ deal to an external consultancy, Pole Star Strategy, to assess the effectiveness of his reforms.

According to Companies House, Pole Star Strategy has just two officers: Sir Bernard and Lady Kathryn Grey. The MoD insists Sir Bernard and his wife are ‘uniquely placed’ to conduct his performance review and will ‘provide best value for money’. Just so long as they do so under the guise of a private limited company.

Pole Star’s review is expected imminently. I think we can already guess the outcome.

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.

Did the UK leave Helmand too soon?

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.

Purchase your copy of SPIN ZHIRA

Incompetence and Arrogance at the MOD

The Times, 05 November 2012
Alfie and I make the front page of The Times today. Apparently Alfie’s application for enlistment into the Reserves has been delayed by red tape.

In November 2012, Deborah Haynes, The Times Defence Editor used a photo of Alfie and me to illustrate an article she had written exposing failings in Army Recruiting. Four years later and she is still writing about it.

It is yet another example of the extent of the incompetence and arrogance at the MoD. Despite obvious failings, little has been done to address the issue. As General Melchett once said, ‘If nothing else works a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through’.

The impact is considerable. It creates significant gaps in our defence capability, leaving the army undermanned and the nation vulnerable. The knock-on effect is to increase the demands on our serving soldiers who are required to do more with less to fill these capability gaps which, in turn damages morale and well-being.

But perhaps the most depressing aspect of this astonishing mismanagement and waste is that it appears to have gone unchecked without any apparent accountability or culpability. Even now the MoD seems to be in denial, insisting ‘action has been taken’.

13718735_10153767027981334_6994360140441170744_n

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.

Purchase your copy of SPIN ZHIRA

What a Muppet

Animal
Writing in The Telegraph, former SAS officer, Colonel Tim Collins OBE warns that the  Army must reshape after Chilcot.

Colonel Collins is best know to the public for his eve of battle speech to the Royal Irish Regiment prior to the Iraq invasion. For obvious reasons it is perhaps less well known that he is also a former ‘Tier One’ Special Forces soldier and counterinsurgency specialist. As the name suggests, Tier One are Britain’s most elite troops so it’s reasonable to assume that Colonel Collins knows what he’s talking about. And on the face of it he does. The army must reshape after Chilcot. That much is clear.

It is of intense frustration to me and many others that lessons were not learned in Iraq and subsequently applied in Afghanistan, particularly with regard to counterinsurgency doctrine. Despite good intentions, both countries are now significantly worse off following Western military intervention.

Chilcot should now be the catalyst for change, or in Colonel Collins words, ‘we need to know if it was incompetence or obsequiousness that led to these blunders, and move to crush whatever caused them.’ We already knew that Colonel Collins was a straight talker.

I want to agree with Colonel Collins, I really do. After all, he is a former Tier One Special Forces soldier, a steely-eyed flat bellied killer. I’m a former wheezy part-timer. It’s not going to go well for me if we get into a fist fight. But Colonel Collins is a muppet. There I said it.

He identifies ‘intervention operations’ as the most likely future scenario for which our military should train. In other words, precisely the same kind of campaigns conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan which have so humiliated the British military. So far so good. But rather than addressing the issue of our woeful counterinsurgency strategy, the strategy that has radicalized Muslims across the globe and is the direct cause of so much chaos and suffering in the country’s we have now largely abandoned, we are treated to a barely coherent rant.

Allowing women to serve in combat roles is a ‘crazy social experiment’ imposed upon the military by ‘failed male politicians with no military knowledge’. The Armies of our European partners in NATO are  ’18-30, Club Med-style organisations with a vaguely military theme’ and so it goes on.

According to Colonel Collins what Britain needs is more infantry ‘capable of operations that were once the preserve of Special Forces and Commandos’. He recommends looking to former Commonwealth countries to make up the current shortfall in recruiting. But this isn’t arguing for change, this is arguing for more of the same.

The  disastrous campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were characterised by a dramatic expansion and reliance on special forces. We have learned nothing from these campaigns if we do not learn that the tactics of drone strikes, night raids and kill/capture missions undertaken by special forces only weaken the legitimacy of the counterinsurgent and make more insurgents. Politicians and senior officers may have been seduced by the raw courage, bravery and ruthless efficiency of our Tier One troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but, as history now shows, they do more harm than good.

Tactical victories have resulted in strategic failure, not once but twice. Continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen is seldom a recipe for success.

Colonel Collins isn’t advocating for reform at all. He seeks to perpetuate a flawed doctrine in which he claims expertise but which has only succeeded in plunging the countries we sought to stabilise into further chaos and widen the rift between West and East. As every right minded person must agree, this is precisely not what we ought to do and it’s why Colonel Collins is a muppet. Just don’t tell him I said so.

Purchase your copy of SPIN ZHIRA

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.

So you think it’s hot?

Afghan heat
It’s Britains hottest day of the year so far, but by Afghan standards it’s positively balmy. In the summer months temperatures in Helmand Province regularly reach 50°C/122°F:

‘I WAS LYING naked in a pool of my own sweat when the men of the Light Dragoons turned up. It can’t have been a pretty sight but they didn’t seem to notice. In the stifling heat of yet another cloudless Afghan afternoon I was sprawled on my camp cot in the transit accommodation at PB Clifton trying to remain as still as possible. Even completely naked and motionless I was still pouring with sweat in the oven‑like confines of the tent, but at least I was in the shade.

Lieutenant Ed Whitten, Sergeant Lee ‘Davo’ Davidson and the men of Support Troop, A Squadron, The Light Dragoons formed a Police Advisory Team, part of the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group (PMAG), tasked with improving the capacity and capability of the Afghan Uniformed Police. Based on everything I knew about the AUP in our district it was a much needed but enormously challenging task. Ed and his men had been given just three months to turn things around.

PB Clifton was to be their base for the duration and with no time to waste they immediately set about transforming the transit accommodation into their new home. I pulled on a pair of shorts and marvelled at their resourcefulness and ingenuity. Within a few short but industrious hours they’d created a tented palace worthy of Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar the Great, the third and greatest emperor of the Mughal Dynasty whose proxies had ruled the Upper Gereshk Valley in his name from an ancient fort just a few klicks from where we now stood.

All the grubby, salt‑encrusted camp cots were replaced with brand new models, each sporting its own integrated mosquito net and hanging shelf. The detritus of previous occupants was swept away and replaced by electric cabling with a precious power socket in every bed space. In one corner a few canvas easy chairs surrounded a low coffee table sporting an updated collection of Zoo and Nuts magazines together with a few Penguin paperbacks for the literati amongst them. Out front they even built a little private terrace complete with a couple of Hesco bastion loungers. Ed and his men clearly knew how to live and as Davo, his second‑in‑command rather pointedly observed, any fool can be uncomfortable in the field.

It was all in humiliating contrast to the squalor I’d previously been living in and I was more than a little ashamed.

If Ed and his men had formed a low opinion of my personal hygiene standards they were nonetheless wonderful hosts and adopted me as one might adopt a mangy and ill‑tempered cat left behind by a previous owner. They generously insisted that I benefit from all their equipment upgrades and included me in their daily banter. Most generous of all, they had a secret source of deliciously chilled water and would always remember to bring me a bottle whenever I was around.’

Purchase your copy of SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand

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.