UK Army Problems

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 8 months ago

Another valuable discussion thread at the Small Wars Journal has been started going by the same title as this post.  It links to a Telegraph article that discusses decreased training for troops sent to Afghanistan.

Fears that poorly trained and inexperienced troops will be sent to plug the gaps on the front line in Afghanistan were raised last night after it emerged training times for combat soldiers are to be halved.

In a desperate bid to find enough infantry to fight the Taliban next year an “exceptional” measure of reducing training from 28 weeks to just 14 weeks is set to be introduced, it was reported last night.

Up to 1,000 Army recruits could be fast tracked into the war zone in order to bring under-manned battalions up to strength with each one an average of 100 men short.

The “accelerated training” measure has been introduced at a time when thousands of officers and senior NCOs are leaving the Army fed up with poor pay, accommodation and continuous operational tours with little time at home.

A Council member from Windsor states in reply “We’re falling apart in slow motion, and you can see it in everything we do. The last thing to fail will be the blokes in the sections, but that will happen eventually when the C2 and decisionmaking supports crap plans that put people in the wrong place at the wrong time, have treated them like serfs for too long. No one is biting the bullet: Double the size of the infantry, Double their wages, Enforce the training standards; sack anyone who doesn’t pass muster.”

This is a sad thing to watch – a once great nation which fielded a once great armed forces, reduced to sending warriors into battle unprepared.  The council member says this points to larger problems, though.  It appears as if he is correct.  First of all there is the non-denial denial by the duplicitous Gordon Brown.

The government dismissed suggestions on Thursday that it would send troops into combat in Afghanistan without proper training, but acknowledged that instruction could be ‘tightened’ for reserve units.

The Times said 1,000 recruits faced the prospect of receiving just 14 weeks of training, rather than the usual 26-28 weeks, before being sent to the front in Afghanistan, where British forces are severely stretched.

 A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown dismissed the report, saying: “There’s absolutely no question of compromising on our training standards or sending troops into operational theatres unprepared.”

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that training for combat infantry would not be cut, but added:

“The option for more focused, concentrated training is being looked at for reserve forces, not regular forces, and it would potentially increase the amount of training for certain individuals in the Territorial Army.”

We have come to expect this behavior from Brown, who famously denied negotiations with the Taliban and then proceeded to describe British negotiations with the Taliban.  Now for the translation of Brown’s words and a better description of the real plan.

The senior officers who have proposed an accelerated training course for 900 fast-track recruits for Afghanistan have admitted that there would be risks for the Army’s “reputation, duty of care and performance under pressure on operations”.

The Ministry of Defence said that civilians recruited into the Army under the proposed accelerated training programme for Afghanistan could be signed up for less than 15 months as part of a plan to meet manpower shortages.

These specially selected recruits would be badged as members of the Territorial Army, not as regulars, although officials admitted they would fulfil the role of regular infantry.

A review of battalions available for Afghanistan next year had revealed that most would be 100 soldiers short, and this has been the reason for the proposal to recruit a batch of soldiers under special circumstances and give them a shortened form of training.

After the report in The Times yesterday on the controversial new scheme, the MoD put out a statement in which it said: “Nothing has been agreed or indeed discussed by chiefs, but there are ideas potentially to recruit people under possible TA conditions of service to the Army for a limited period of time. They would complete training and an operational tour with the option to leave or stay on afterwards.”

Under the proposed scheme the TA-badged soldiers would be offered the option of joining the regular Army, remaining in the TA or becoming civilians again, once their short-term contract was completed.

This plan sends poorly trained troops into the most important billet in any counterinsurgency: infantry.  It is a pointer to larger, more systemic illness within the leadership beginning at the very highest levels of the administration.  Leadership sets the example, and the senior field grade officers carry it out.  This is the same poor vision that caused the British retreat from Basra in 2007.  We have been critical of this retreat at the Captain’s Journal, especially since it was announced and carried out because it was believed that if the British were no longer present in the city, the targeting of British troops would no longer occur (couched in pedantic language to make it sound like counterinsurgency military doctrine in action).

But the road to recovery involves admission of the illness.  This has been admirably done by Colonel Tim Collins concerning the British efforts.

Britain’s withdrawal from a chaotic Basra has “badly damaged” its military reputation, a commander honoured for his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq said today.

Colonel Tim Collins, who rose to prominence as commander of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, delivered a scathing indictment of British efforts to stabilise the southern Iraqi province, saying that “great incompetence” in the military leadership had left it in “chaos.”

“I think the whole enterprise has been characterised by muddled thinking and lack of planning and over-optimism,” he told BBC Radio 4.

His comments followed Britain’s handover yesterday of security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities in Basra, the last of four provinces in the oil-rich south under British control, and came after the release of a videotape from Osama bin Laden’s deputy crowing at Britain’s “decision to flee” Basra.

Though ministers insist the transfer is the result of an improving security situation in the region, others, including figures in the British and American militaries, have characterised it as a retreat rather than a withdrawal.

This same doctrinal confusion underpins the British strategy to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  It should be understood and acknowledged that the British spirit, people and institutions can field a military worthy of her history.  These things point to a problem with leadership at the very highest levels and going through the ranks to field grade officer.  Britain should be complaining that she deserves better leadership than she has had.

Prior:

Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement
Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles
British Versus the Americans: The War Over Strategy
The British-American War Continues: MI6 Agents Expelled from Afghanistan
Our Deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam

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You are currently reading "UK Army Problems", entry #919 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,British Army,Iraq and was published February 1st, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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