Tag Archives: BBC News

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.

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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

“No witch hunts but no cover ups”

It’s been an extraordinary few days. When I agreed to be interviewed by the Sunday Times and the BBC over allegations the SAS killed unarmed civilians in Afghanistan I knew I would be getting into hot water.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have expressed admiration at my bravery or incredulity at my stupidity.

Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve been accused of being a Taliban loving apologist and, despite the glorious summer sunshine, it has not been an especially carefree few days.

I believe we forgot some important lessons from history in Afghanistan. Field Marshal Slim, one of Britain’s most successful and respected wartime military leaders, described Special Forces ops in Burma as ‘deeply embarrassing to the commanders on the ground’ because they were ‘controlled from some distant headquarters…with a complete lack of coordination among themselves and in dangerous ignorance of local tactical developments.’

It’s my view that Slim’s statement, written in 1945, could equally have been applied to Afghanistan in 2012.

David Stirling, the revered founder of the SAS, expressed concern over the legitimacy of some SAS missions in the latter stages of WW2, which he considered to be nothing less than ‘executions in cold blood’.  Contemporary accounts by former SAS soldiers of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have also alleged so-called mercy killings by special forces operatives in direct contravention of the law of armed conflict and similar to that which saw Sergeant Alexander Blackman convicted of manslaughter.

I cannot say whether or not the current allegations are true but I do believe that the lack of oversight and accountability that the SAS enjoys makes it possible. I maintain that I saw enough in Afghanistan to suggest that an investigation is warranted but I also agree with Lord Dannatt, the former Head of the Army, that there should be ‘no witch hunts but no cover-ups’ . The Ministry of Defence should not be allowed to make this go away.

On the morning of 10th March 2012, British Special Forces burst into the offices of Haji Gul, a respected businessmen in Gereshk, the District Capital of Nahr-E-Saraj and violently abducted him on suspicion that he was a Taliban financier. Bound and blindfolded he was taken to a detention centre in Camp Bastion where he was held for 30 days without charge or access to legal representation before being released without explanation or apology.

At the time I counselled against this course of action but was over-ruled on the basis that if Haji was innocent he would not object to being kidnapped and held against his will. If special forces operatives have nothing to hide it seems to me that they should not now object to an investigation into their conduct, all the while enjoying their liberty and access to justice. Even in war, soldiers are not above the law.

 

Deadly car bomb targets Afghan Bank – BBC News

The BBC reports that at least 29 people have been killed and 60 wounded in a car bomb blast outside a bank in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

The bomb was detonated at the gate of the New Kabul Bank branch in Lashkar Gah as people queued to receive their salaries.

Lashkar Gah was once the headquarters of Task Force Helmand but is now a city under siege. What has happened to all the “cautious optimism for the future” expressed by the international community back in 2014?

The Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team’s grandiose pronouncement that it “achieved its aim of building a strong platform for future governance and development in Helmand” sounded ridiculously overblown at the time.

Three years later it sounds inexcusably incompetent.

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

‘Absolutely fantastic. Vivid. Tragic. True. This is the book to read on service in Afghanistan.’
Dr Mike Martin, bestselling author of  An Intimate War

‘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.