Tag Archives: Helmand Province

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.


Women barred from launch of Qassim Girls’ Council

The BBC reports that Saudi Arabia has launched a girls’ council without any girls.

It’s an embarrassing oversight. The women, we are told, were in another room linked by video. It reminds me of a similar initiative in Helmand Province in which women were included in the District Community Council:

‘NAHR‑E‑SARAJ IS ONE of 14 districts which make up Helmand Province. Each is governed by a council of elected officials known as the District Community Council (DCC). This was an entirely Western institution conceived by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). Founded in 2010, elections were to be held every couple of years when each of the mosques in the district would be entitled to select three men to represent them. These representatives would then form an electoral college who would vote on the 20 or so from their number who would actually serve as DCC councillors.

Gereshk being a shockingly liberal city, the Nahr‑E‑Saraj DCC was unique in Helmand Province in having a small number of female councillors. This was something the DfID representatives in Gereshk had insisted upon at the initial election and which had been grudgingly accepted by the district’s menfolk. To get around the obvious problems of actually allowing women a free vote, or the possibility that a female might defeat a male election candidate, such women as were permitted to do so by their husbands held a separate vote to select only the female councillors. On election, these token women councillors were not allowed to join their male colleagues at the council table and were authorised to debate and vote only on women’s issues. No one seemed entirely clear what these gender specific issues were, but this didn’t matter because they were never discussed.

Despite these rather obvious flaws, DfID took great pride in its female councillors. To my mind, rather than representing progress towards gender equality, they highlighted the lack of it.’

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. A true story of love, service and incompetence.
Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry or your money back (but check the small print first), 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.

‘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.