Tag Archives: Iraq War

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.

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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.

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Is the era of ‘cautious optimism’ over?

 

On 6 July 2016, Britain learned that it had joined the invasion of  Iraq in 2003 ‘before all peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted’ that it had ‘sent ill-prepared troops into battle’ and had ‘wholly inadequate’ plans for the aftermath.

Of course, we knew these things already.

Despite the long wait (7 years) the huge cost (£10.4m) and incredible detail (2.5 million words) the Iraq enquiry was less revelation and more affirmation of the things we already knew to be true but dare not speak.

Obama

On the same day, a grim-faced President Barack Obama announced that planned US troop withdrawals in Afghanistan have been shelved, further prolonging the United States’ longest war.

The inability to end the war in Afghanistan does not come as a complete surprise either.

Way back in the spring of 2012, Major General CM Gurganus, USMC confidently asserted, ‘we are winning and the Taliban are losing’. No one really believed him. It was patently obvious that we were not fighting a simple binary war with a winner and a loser.

Later that same year Brigadier Douglas Chalmers, the senior British Commander in Helmand was less assertive and spoke of ‘cautious optimism’ for the future.

Of course, both men were talking bollocks. And I suspect they knew it too.

Just as in Iraq, US led, British backed military intervention in Afghanistan has been disastrous. Many of the findings of the Chilcot report, particularly with regard to post-conflict planning and reconstruction, can be equally applied in Afghanistan.

How did we fail to learn these lessons?

I believe it is because we have a culture of shooting the messenger that pervades both the American and British  Armed Forces. We are so focused on success that we cannot countenance failure. To maintain morale and careers it becomes necessary to spin failure into success, telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to know. This blindness to failure prevents us from learning from failure.

The language of ‘cautious optimism’ has been very costly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps, after Chilcot, we are now ready to learn this lesson.Spin Zhira header blurb for website v1.3SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

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.

 

 

Different War. Same Lessons

 

Different War Same Lessons

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

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.

Chilcot Report or King James Bible?

Helmandi Politics

At 11.35 today Sir John Chilcott’s long awaited inquiry into the Iraq War is released to the public. It is expected to be critical of a number of high ranking officials.

Commissioned by Gordon Brown in 2009, the report has been subject to long delays and runs to some 2.6 million words. Many family members of British soldiers killed in Iraq fear a ‘whitewash’ and point out that we don’t need an enquiry to see that ‘Iraq’s actually worse than what is was before we went in’.

Colonel Tim Collins, made famous by his inspirational eve-of-battle speech at the outset of the war in 2003 also believes ‘we shattered Iraqi society’ the very opposite of the instructions he gave his troops to ‘tread lightly there’.

The utility of a report of such magnitude is debatable and it seems unlikely that it will ever be read in full.  To give it some context the King James bible runs to 783, 137 words, the Qur’an is a comparatively slender 77, 934 words while War and Peace weighs in at 587, 287 words.

Sir John Chilcot now hopes that ‘many lessons’ can be learned from his report but had it been shorter, had it been delivered sooner could the lessons of Iraq been applied to Afghanistan?

He has said that future, military action should only be embarked on, if ‘really careful challenge analysis and assessment’ is applied to it. This sounds so extraordinarily obvious it hardly warrants a further 2,599,994 words but the implication – and the evidence – is clear. Britain entered the Iraq  war without careful analysis and both Britain and Iraq have paid a heavy price for this folly.

The evidence also suggests that precisely the same mistakes have been made in Afghanistan. Like Iraq,  Afghanistan is spiralling into civil war with violence and  corruption endemic. Helmand Province is now a battleground between Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – a battle the insurgents appear to be winning – and where poppy cultivation and opium production continues unchecked.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

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.