Archive for the 'Britain' Category



UK Cops To Enter Gun Owners’ Homes And Secure Weapons Using Anti-Terror Laws

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks ago

UK_Police

Breitbart:

The Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO), the body that represents senior police officers in the United Kingdom, has begun a campaign to send police to enter the homes of legal gun owners to snoop on them. Many of those who may receive visits cannot understand why they would be targeted and suspect it is to discourage gun ownership in Britain.

The Countryside Alliance pressure group fears that the new initiative will target ordinary members of the public, and is due to begin on Wednesday, 15th October. The group has launched a campaign to alert Members of Parliament to the issue. The policy is also the latest in a series of ‘power grabs’ by ACPO, which is effectively a trade union, but regularly demands executive powers with little accountability to the public.

On its campaign website the Countryside Alliance said: “Legitimate gun owners are always ready to support sensible, evidence based proposals to improve firearm licensing and security. For instance we fully support unannounced checks on license holders based on specific intelligence on risk.

One stark difference between American gun owners and British gun owners is that I (and many of my readers) absolutely will not support proposals of any kind to “improve” licensing of firearms.  And the security of firearms is my business, not that of the government.

This doesn’t seem too far fetched for America, though, police entering homes to “inspect” guns under anti-terror laws.  After all, we already violate rights against illegal search and seizure and right to due process under anti-terror laws (i.e., the Patriot Act).  But here’s a word to police in America.  You try to enter homes and inspect firearms in your neck of the woods, and you may get shot.

Guns And Terror In Great Britain

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 5 months ago

The Telegraph:

In the first terrorist murder on the British mainland since the 7/7 suicide bombings of 2005, the men attempted to behead the soldier, hacking at him like a “piece of meat” in front of dozens of witnesses, before both were shot by police who took around 20 minutes to arrive.

After the killing, one of the men, believed to be a British-born Muslim convert, spoke calmly into a witness’s video phone.

Speaking with a London accent, holding a knife and a meat cleaver and with his hands dripping with blood, he said: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe …

Witnesses said that the men used a car to run over the soldier just yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, before setting about him with knives and a meat cleaver as if they were “trying to remove organs” …

There were also questions over why it took around 20 minutes for armed police to arrive on the scene, during which time the killers calmly walked up and down the road, carrying their bloodied knives and a pistol, while members of the public confronted them.

So let’s run down the facts.  Two men armed with knives and a gun hack another man to death, the police respond no sooner than twenty minutes after the attack, and laws in England virtually prohibit carrying of weapons or owning of weapons beyond firearms used for hunting (which cannot be carried on your person).

So to repeat.  Man prohibited from owning a gun gets killed by criminals who were prohibited from owning a gun but who didn’t have any regard for the law since they were criminals.  People who witnessed the crime could only shout at them since they didn’t have guns either.

Got it.

British Soldiers Told Not To Shoot IED Emplacers

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

This remarkable report comes from The Telegraph.

British soldiers who spot Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs are told not to shoot them because they do not pose an immediate threat, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

They are instead being ordered to just observe insurgents and record their position to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

The controversial policy emerged at an inquest into the death of Sgt Peter Rayner, 34, a soldier from the 2nd Batallion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who was killed in October last year by an improvised explosive device as he led a patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Wendy Rayner, 40, disclosed that in the days leading up to his death her husband been told that it was not his job to attack insurgents laying bombs.

Mrs Rayner, who lives with their young son in Bradford, told the inquest that the insurgents were being allowed to get away with the murder of British troops.

She said: “They are not allowed to fire on these terrorists. If they can see people leaving these IEDs, why can’t they take them out? One officer even told him ‘I am an army Captain and you will do your job’.

“We have lost too many men out there, they had seen people planting IEDs yet could not open fire or make contact with them. I believe strongly if people had taken on board what he was saying more he might have been here today.”

Under the Geneva Convention and the nationally administered Rules of Engagement the 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan are told they can only attack if there is an immediate threat to life.

A key part of the MoD’s counter-insurgency theory holds that it is more important to win over civilians by not killing innocent people than it is to eliminate every potential insurgent.

Analysis & Commentary

The penultimate paragraph is total crap, and the MoD knows it.  IED emplacers are combatants, and the British Soldiers no more have to wait for a gun to be pointed at their heads than a sniper has to wait for the same thing from a Taliban fighter 1000 yards away.

So that excuse is just a ruse.  The final paragraph outlines the real reason for the problem.  The British military doctrines for counterinsurgency, taken primarily from their experience in Northern Ireland, includes almost at every step of the process the de-escalation of violence no matter what the cost.

It not only loses counterinsurgencies, but it loses the support of the public (and in part, the later causes the former).  It’s what the British did in Basra, and it’s what they did in Musa Qala.  The enlisted men in the British Army are brave and well-trained, and the U.S. Marines have the utmost respect for the British Royal Marines.  But there is a doctrinal sickness in the officer corps of the British Army.  Not the British public, and not the British enlisted man.  The officer corps.  The officer corps of the British Army needs a gut check before it ever attempts another war of any kind, conventional, hybrid or counterinsurgency.

Prior: True Confessions of British Counterinsurgency

True Confessions of British Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

General Sir David Richards recently discussed the British experience in the Helmand Province, and he gave an interesting perspective to the British public.

Serious intelligence failures meant British commanders were unprepared for the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan as soldiers “turned up a hornets’ nest”, three of the country’s most senior military officers have said.

General Sir David Richards, the chief of the defence staff, told MPs the British had got involved in a very serious situation, adding: “War is a bummer.”

A failure of intelligence, notably about tribal loyalties and aggressive US operations, and ill-thought out attempts to eradicate the opium poppy harvest, combined to exacerbate an already dangerous situation facing the 3,000 British troops sent to Helmand by the Blair government in 2006, the officers said.

[ ... ]

Houghton, a widely respected general who, along with Richards, was interviewed by Cameron for the top military post, listed a number of problems that came together.

Britain’s military commitment to Iraq was higher than it was anticipated it would still be in 2006, and British troops arrived in May, “the natural start of the fighting season”.

The Taliban, at the time, encouraged the belief that foreign troops were out to eradicate the poppy harvest, a valuable source of income for local farmers. Some 200,000 labourers migrated from Pakistan to help with the poppy harvest, and some were happy to stay as “guns for hire”.

Houghton added that US troops had just engaged in “particularly kinetic” [aggressive] military operations at the time.

Moreover, at the behest of President Hamid Karzai, British troops were deployed to forward “platoon houses” in northern Helmand areas such as Sangin and Musa Qala. The soldiers turned out to be dangerously exposed and too few in number.

Assessing the list for a moment, the Brits did indeed deploy to hard area, the same areas that know a U.S. Marine presence right now.  There have not been enough troops, and the Brits certainly had a hard time of things in Helmand.  They didn’t have the necessary troops to cover the Province, and Taliban fighters had taken over Now Zad as an R&R area.  When the U.S. Marines arrived in Now Zad they brought two trauma physicians with them due to the severe injuries they sustained.  They routinely slept forward deployed in groups of two or three Marines in what they would later term as “Hobbit Holes” dug into the earth and other structures.  Now Zad was almost entirely outside the wire.

Yet the British Generals are hedging.  It wasn’t the lack of troops that lost Musa Qala.  It was the ill-conceived alliance with one Mullah Abdul Salaam.  But the most significant observation concerns U.S. operations, and the British regarded them as “particularly kinetic.”  A clearer statement is given to us by The Independent.

These included the Taliban’s portrayal of moves to eradicate opium plants as evidence that the UK forces wanted to destroy local farmers’ livelihoods, the appointment of a new provincial governor which destabilised the tribal balance, and previous intensive American military operations which “whipped up” the situation.

American military operations whipped up the situation.  This is an absolutely remarkable comment.  Just remarkable.  In Getting the Narrative Right on Southern Afghanistan I strongly criticized a strategic assessment conducted by Professor Theo Farrell of Kings College in London.  Being a classy fellow, Theo offered a clinical and unemotional response in the comments.

In my visits to Helmand, I have found differences of opinion – some expressed in strong terms – betw Brit and USMC officers. But I consider this entirely natural (indeed there are considerable differences of opinion w/in the Brit Army, as I expect they are w/in the US Army and USMC). So I don’t want to overplay these. The one general difference that I would draw out is over the pace of progress. Basically Marine commanders push the pace beyond that which the British consider sustainable and indeed desirable. Fast progress on the military line of ops is not sustainable in COIN if it outpaces too much the governance and development lines of ops.

I don’t think there is a ‘gov in a box’ theory of COIN. Basically, this term came from somewhere in ISAF command as part of a media spin which ultimately backfired. I believe that M4 was referring to the District Delivery Program, which was a GIRoA program to rapidly develop governance in 80 key terrain districts. 6 were selected for trial, 4 in Helmand. Nad-e-Ali was one of these, and it may be that Marjah was part of this package (as before Op MOSHTARAK, Marjah was actually part of Nad-e-Ali; it became a full fledged district afterwards). DDP has some promise. And the latest word I hear is that Marjah is looking pretty good. But the main point of my analysis, which I refer to in this interview, is that COIN takes time. The CLEAR can be done fairly quickly, as indeed the Marines demonstrated in Marjah. But the HOLD requires the slow building up, consolidation and/or improvement of governance, infrastructure and basic services. That stuff just can’t be rushed. You can’t fedex it in.

Let me also emphasise that I’m not saying for a moment that the Brits have all the answers or that they are somehow better at COIN than the US Marines. British Army officers are the first to admit now that they’ve much to learn from their American brothers in arms. And indeed, 52 Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade have only praise for the MEU (I think it was the 24 MEU) which provided critical support to Task Force Helmand in 2007-08. I spent some time with the 2/8 Marines in Garmsir in late 2009. As I emphasise in my report on Op MOSHTARAK for British Land Warfare Command, armies aren’t good or bad at COIN, commanders and units are. Anyway, my report can be downloaded from here.

I appreciate the professor’s good natured comments.  But I still think we’re missing each other’s point.  If Theo cares to elaborate further I welcome the correction or clarification.  As to the issue of “government in a box,” I simply cannot account for General McChrystal’s remark that Marjah was a “bleeding ulcer” just months (or weeks) after arrival of the Marines.  Only someone with a childlike belief in magic could possibly believe that the Marines could waltz into Marjah with a governor and make things okay.  Michael Yon also tells me that to a man, the British officers believe in the “government in a box” view of counterinsurgency.

But more to the point, I am not implying, nor would I imply, that the U.S. Marines are better at counterinsurgency than the British.  The U.S. Marines claim that they the greatest at everything, and cheaper and faster than anyone else, but that’s just propaganda and they say it all the time about everything.  Tactics are just that, and any army can be trained for tactics as long as they have high quality NCOs, and the British and Americans do have high quality NCOs.  Additionally, I know first hand that the U.S. Marines (whom I know) have the utmost respect for the Royal Marines, more so in fact than they do for themselves.  But who is better at tactics is irrelevant.  The aggregation of tactics does not make a strategy.

Speaking of the U.S. Marine presence in Garmsir (24th MEU), they did more than support a British operations.  They killed some 400 Taliban fighters, and in spite of complaints over the heavy kinetics by the British, turned over an AO back to the British that was relatively stable and free of Taliban violence.  When the Marines took Garmsir, the local elders were even courting the Marines and told them “if you protect us, we will be able to protect you.”

But upon returning to Garmsir and taking over from the British, they met stiff Taliban resistance.  The locals told the Marines that they wanted them to follow and kill every single Taliban fighter, but the U.S. Marines and the British are still significantly at odds over their approach to counterinsurgency.  The Marines made a conscious choice to be more aggressive than the British in Sangin, and the British advisers continue to counsel the same approach that the British took in Helmand.  They want the U.S. to “de-escalate” the situation.

The point has never gone to tactics and the ability to implement them.  There is a school of counterinsurgency that believes that until heavy kinetics has the insurgency on the run and effectively defeated, legitimate governance cannot exist.  The opposite school sees a more symbiotic relationship between actors and root causes in counterinsurgency.

It isn’t my intent to argue this disagreement in this article.  My point is that while the British may be the best and most staunch allies of the U.S., the perspectives concerning counterinsurgency, stability operations and irregular warfare couldn’t be more dissimilar.  I say again, for General Sir David Richards to remark that U.S. kinetic operations “whipped up” the situation is truly remarkable itself.  Just remarkable.

When Mullahs Misbehave: Iran Smuggles Rockets, U.S. Winks

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 7 months ago

The Telegraph has the story.

British Special Forces in Afghanistan have seized a convoy of powerful Iranian rockets destined for Taliban fighters.

The haul is the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran’s support for the Taliban, military officials said.

The consignment of 48 rockets hidden in three trucks was intercepted last month after a fierce fire fight which left several insurgents dead in the remote southern province of Nimroz, bordering Iran.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British ambassador has raised the matter with officials in Tehran.

“I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence that Iran continues to supply the Taliban with weaponry – weapons clearly intended to provide the Taleban with the capability to kill Afghan and ISAF soldiers from significant range,” he said.

“It is not the behaviour of a responsible neighbour. It is at odds with Iran’s claim to the international community and to its own people that it supports stability and security in Afghanistan.”

The 122mm rockets have twice the range and twice the blast radius of the Taliban’s more commonly used 107mm missiles and have not been seen in action against Nato forces for the past four years.

The 48 weapons had been deliberately disguised to appear manufactured elsewhere, but tests by weapons experts had determined they were from an Iranian factory.

So let me make sure that I understand this.  British SAS nab a convoy of three trucks shortly after they cross into Afghanistan from Iran carrying a load of potent rockets for use against U.S. and allied forces.  Last time I checked, Iran does not have wide open borders where any sympathetic, Iranian, Taliban-lover could decide to truck in a load of 122mm rockets on a whim.   The rockets came from the mullahs and their henchmen, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  No two ways about it.   Yet the article phrases this as, “the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran’s support for the Taliban…”  This is not “evidence” of anything.   It is the proverbial smoking gun.   It is both hands in the cookie jar, crumbs all over the face, cookie sticking out of the mouth.   And, so far, the most strident statement comes from the British Foreign Secretary, to wit: good neighbors do not send 122mm rockets across the border.

Here is an account published in Yahoo News! of the same incident which provides additional details:

The shipment is seen as a serious escalation in Iran’s state support of the Taliban insurgency, according to NATO officials and described in detail by an international intelligence official.

It’s also an escalation in the proxy war Western officials say Iran is waging against U.S. and other Western forces in Afghanistan, as Washington continues to lobby for tougher international sanctions against Tehran to dissuade it from its alleged goal of building nuclear weapons.

Fascinating.  This is a “serious escalation” of Iran’s “proxy war…against U.S. and other Western forces…”  Yes, indeed.  It seems to be accepted that Iran is waging a proxy war against us.  Afterall, the U.S. is not blameless.   We are hurting Iran, lobbying “for tougher international sanctions” that do nothing to stop their nuke program but, on the other hand, no doubt hurt their feelings very much.

The article goes on to note that the Taliban are not happy with the common weapons and ammunition being provided by the mullahs:

In a separate development, the intelligence official said a high-level Afghan Taliban leader had travelled to Iran in the past two weeks to meet with a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force leader to ask for more powerful weapons to attack Afghan and NATO troops in the spring and summer fighting season.

***

In the alleged meeting with the Quds Force, the Taliban leader is believed to have asked the Iranians to provide more shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile systems, such as the two Iran provided in 2007, which were used against one British and one U.S. Chinook helicopter, the official said. But Iran has not provided such weapons since, sticking to the smaller 107-millimeter rockets, C4 plastic explosives that have been used in some improvised explosive devices here, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms like AK47 assault rifles, the official said.

Good to know that the IRG has some limits on what types of weaponry they will and will not furnish for the express purpose of killing Americans.  Of course, we assume that the IRG has not “provided such weapons since…”  How can we know for sure?   Maybe the IRG sent our Afghan commanders a small note:  sorry about those AA missiles, guys.  Just kidding around with you!

What sort of response has this “escalation” earned the regime in Tehran?  (A regime, mind you, that is incomparably more brutal and bloodthirsty than the Libyan regime that Obama recently said had lost its right to rule).

Nothing.

If one our readers can provide a link or quote to an official White House or State Department response to this latest outrage, I will gladly update this post.   I have yet to find one.   This is perfectly consistent with an Administration that, over and over again, is voting “present” on every, major foreign policy issue.

Iranian uprising in 2009?  Sorry, can’t meddle.  Don’t want to be seen intruding on the internal affairs of the bloodthirsty tyrants in Tehran.

Overthrow of autocracy in Tunisia?  Missed that one.  Sorry.  Busy getting a Slurpee or something.

Riots in Egypt?  Well, um, some of us think Mubarak is a swell guy and others think he has to go, but not yet, eventually, maybe, and probably soon if it looks like the protesters are actually going to succeed.

Revolt in Libya?  We’re thinking….long and hard.  Yes, Qaddafi should step down, but we are not prepared to help in any meaningful way, regardless of the slaughter.

Pathetic.

And here we have the latest outrage from the Dictators in Tehran, caught red-handed providing rockets to the Taliban (and entertaining Taliban officials with weapons shopping lists) and the Administration has no response.

But cheer up.  Our recently-demoted to second-class-ally-status Brits are going to have a word with the Iranian ambassador.  Terrific.

How much lower can we sink?

U.S. Agrees to Divulge British Nuclear Secrets to Russia

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Telegraph:

Information about every Trident missile the US supplies to Britain will be given to Russia as part of an arms control deal signed by President Barack Obama next week.

Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems, said: “They want to find out whether Britain has more missiles than we say we have, and having the unique identifiers might help them.”

Professor Malcolm Chalmers said: “This appears to be significant because while the UK has announced how many missiles it possesses, there has been no way for the Russians to verify this. Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal.”

Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain’s policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal.

The fact that the Americans used British nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip also sheds new light on the so-called “special relationship”, which is shown often to be a one-sided affair by US diplomatic communications obtained by the WikiLeaks website.

Details of the behind-the-scenes talks are contained in more than 1,400 US embassy cables published to date by the Telegraph, including almost 800 sent from the London Embassy, which are published online today.

Although the treaty was not supposed to have any impact on Britain, the leaked cables show that Russia used the talks to demand more information about the UK’s Trident missiles, which are manufactured and maintained in the US.

Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.

The Telegraph is referring to the New START treaty already ratified by the U.S. Senate, and for which Secretary Gates lobbied.  I had previously argued that the treaty was one-sided and brought the U.S. no discernible advantage in any area of weapons or nuclear technology, or foreign policy.  When Ronald Reagan advocated for the initial START treaty, even Time Magazine noted that it was one-sided in favor of the U.S., a fact which caused Time incorrectly to predict its failure.  Reagan negotiated from a position of strength.

But what we’ve learned now goes past a bad treaty – and it was a bad treaty.  It goes to reputation, to status, to honoring allies and friendships, to standing.  It makes this administration out to be pusillanimous weasels willing to sell out even our closest friends to enemies and criminals for a mere smattering of success on the world stage.

We pressed the reset button in foreign policy with Russia, but Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev viewed this as having made us sniveling lackeys.  Our enemies think we are fools and clowns, while our allies cannot trust us.  So much for success on the world stage.  Mr. Obama, we all knew Ronald Reagan, and you sir are no Ronald Reagan.

Obama’s Smart Diplomacy with Great Britain

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Obama is showing off his smart diplomacy again.

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Mr Obama said: ‘We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.’

And here I thought that the U.S. and the U.K held a special relationship!  You know, we have claimed that “the Administration has reinvigorated U.S. foreign policy with robust diplomacy and strengthened our traditional alliances.”  I guess the U.K. isn’t a traditional ally like I thought they were.  Maybe they don’t think so either.

We also claimed that we are building “new alliances.”  Well, at least we aren’t doing something so stupid as snubbing upstart allies like Georgia, especially since Putin threatened to hang Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili “by the balls.”

It’s good to show strength and respect for tradition, you know.

U.S. Marines and British Advisers at Odds in Helmand

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

From Rajiv Chandrasekaran with The Washington Post:

U.S. Marines and British civilian advisers are waging two wars in the hilly northern half of Helmand province: They’re fighting the Taliban, and they’re quarreling with each other.

The disagreements among the supposed allies are almost as frequent as firefights with insurgents. The Americans contend that the British forces they replaced this spring were too complacent in dealing with the Taliban. The British maintain that the Americans are too aggressive and that they are compromising hard-fought security gains by pushing into irrelevant places and overextending themselves.

“They were here for four years,” one field-grade Marine officer huffed about the British military. “What did they do?”

“They’ve been in Musa Qala for four months,” a British civilian in Helmand said of the U.S. Marines. “The situation up there has gotten worse, not better.”

The disputes here, which also extend to the pace of reconstruction projects and the embrace of a former warlord who has become the police chief, illuminate the tensions that are flaring as U.S. forces surge into parts of southern Afghanistan that had once been the almost-exclusive domain of NATO allies. There are now about 20,000 U.S. troops in Helmand; the 10,000 British soldiers who once roamed all over the province are now consolidating their operations in a handful of districts around the provincial capital.

The new U.S. troops in the south are intended to replace departing Dutch soldiers and relieve pressure on under-resourced and overburdened military personnel from Britain and Canada, where public support for the war has fallen even more precipitously than in the United States. But the transition entails significant new risks for U.S. forces, who are now responsible for more dangerous parts of the country.

To the south of Musa Qala, U.S. Marines are in the process of moving into Sangin district, where more than 100 British troops – nearly one-third of that country’s total war dead – were killed over the past four years. Senior Marine officers initially resisted being saddled with the area, which they dubbed “the killing fields,” but they relented after pressure from top U.S. commanders.

The influx also has elicited conflicting emotions from coalition partners. British and Canadian officers say they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to confront a mushrooming insurgency by themselves, but they also cringe at the need to be bailed out by the United States.

“There’s a mix of relief and regret,” said a British officer. “We’ve spilled a lot of blood in Sangin and Musa Qala, and we’re quite frankly happy to leave those places, but we don’t want this to look like another Basra,” referring to the southern Iraqi city that U.S. and Iraqi forces had to rescue after it was seized by militias upon a British pullout in 2007.

Analysis & Commentary

But it does indeed look like another Basra.  Let’s take a stroll down memory lane for a moment.

At home, Britons were stunned by the graphic footage of their soldiers being assaulted in a city thought to be “safe,” especially in comparison to the blood-soaked urban areas of the Sunni Triangle which dominate news coverage emanating out of Iraq. The violent imagery was only the latest and most troubling indication of the British military’s failure in Basra and its environs, a disastrous turn of events which seemed unthinkable two years ago, when British troops were welcomed into Basra with relatively open arms.

The root of this failure stems from the very strategy that was once lauded as the antidote for insurgent violence. Known as the “soft approach,” the British strategy in southern Iraq centered on non-aggressive, nearly passive responses to violent flare-ups. Instead of raids and street battles, the British concentrated on building relationships with local leaders and fostering consensus among Iraqi politicos. In Basra, the British were quick to build and expand training programs for a city police force. As a symbol of their faith in stability-by-civility, the British military took to donning the soft beret while on patrol, avoiding the connotations of war supposedly raised by the American-style Kevlar helmets.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion, this “soft” approach seemed remarkably successful, especially when juxtaposed with the chaos that had engulfed other parts of Iraq. Basra seemed to adapt relatively well to the new order of things, with little in the way of street battles or casualties. Both the British and American media — ever-ready to point out the comparable failures of American arms — energetically hailed the peaceful and stable atmosphere in Basra as a significant indicator of the virtues of the British approach, upholding it as the tactical antithesis to the brutal and aggressive Yanks. The Dallas Morning News reported in 2003 that military experts from Britain were already boasting that U.S. forces in Iraq could “take a cue from the way their British counterparts have taken control of Basra.” Charles Heyman, editor of the highly-respected defense journal Jane’s, asserted: “The main lesson that the Americans can learn from Basra and apply to Baghdad is to use the ‘softly-softly’ approach.”

The reporting also featured erudite denunciations of the rigid rules of engagement that governed the United States military, while simultaneously championing British outreach. Ian Kemp, a noted British defense expert, suggested in November 2004 that the “major obstacle” in past U.S. occupations and peacekeeping efforts was their inability to connect with locals due to the doctrinal preeminence of force protection. In other words, had Americans possessed the courage to interface with the Iraqi, they might enjoy greater success.

It did not take long before the English press allowed the great straw man of a violent American society to seep into their explanations for the divergent approaches. The Sunday Times of London proclaimed “armies reflect their societies for better or for worse. In Britain, guns are frowned upon — and British troops faced with demonstrations in Northern Ireland must go through five or six stages, including a verbal warning as the situation gets progressively more nasty, before they are allowed to shoot. In America, guns are second nature.” Such flimsy and anecdotal reasoning — borne solely out of classical European elitist arrogance — tinged much of the reporting out of Basra.

AS A RESULT OF THE EFFUSIVE media celebration, even some in the British military began believing their own hype, with soldiers suggesting to reporters in May 2003 that the U.S. military should “look to them for a lesson or two.” As a British sergeant told the Christian Science Monitor: “We are trained for every inevitability and we do this better than the Americans.” According to other unnamed British military officials, America had “a poor record” at keeping the peace while Basra only reinforced the assertion that the British maintain “the best urban peacekeeping force in the world.”

Continuing with the state of affairs in Basra after the application of such a soft approach:

Richard Beeston, diplomatic editor of The Times of London recently returned (in 2007) from a visit to Basra, his first since 2003. He says in 2003, British soldiers were on foot patrol, drove through town in unarmored vehicles and fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off. He says the changes he saw four years later are enormous.

“Nowadays all troop movement in and out of the city are conducted at night by helicopter because it’s been deemed too dangerous to go on the road and its dangerous to fly choppers during the day,” he says.

Beeston says during his latest visit, he noticed a map of the city in one of the military briefing rooms. About half of the city was marked as no-go areas.

British headquarters are mortared and rocketed almost everynight.

This is indicative of many parts of southern Iraq, says Wayne White, a former State department middle east intelligence officer. White says the south is riddled with rival Shiite groups vying for power, and roving criminal gangs because there’s nothing to stop them.

“There’s virtually nothing down there in the way of governance that answers to Baghdad in an effective way,” White says. “There are mayors, there are police but in many cases these people have no loyalty to Baghdad, operate along with the militias, have sympathy with them.”

The British efforts were roundly criticized by residents of Basra as well as the ISF, and British forces ultimately had to retreat under the excuse that it was the very presence of the British themselves that was causing the violence (there is no better way to end a war than to withdraw out of the fight, or so the British convinced themselves).

Recall also that the British made that awful deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam in which he was supposed to bring his fighters to Musa Qala to help retake the city from the Taliban (in exchange for governorship of the city).  All Salaam ended up doing was sitting in a house ten miles away screaming like a little girl for Karzai to come and rescue him when the fight started .  The British are as hated in Musa Qala for this fiasco as they were in Basra.

To be sure, the British enlisted men are as faithful, loyal and brave as any troops in the world.  It is their senior leadership, their officer corps and their counterinsurgency doctrine that is causing the problems.  And I am told that to a man, the British officers believe in the government in a box theory of counterinsurgency, even after such a notion failed in Basra, Musa Qala and then finally in Marjah.

Finally, the reason that the U.S. Marines have British advisers in Helmand isn’t clear.  The continued presence of them will only cause continued conflicts.  The U.S. Marines have their own brand of counterinsurgency, and it worked in the Anbar Province of Iraq.  In fact, small wars is a specialty of the Corps, and perhaps the British advisers could take back a thing or two from the Marines to their own command.

In closing, it’s also very disturbing that the British have lost or allowed to get stolen 59 Minimi machine guns.  That’s right.  Read and believe.

Serious questions are being asked about a cover-up by commanders in Helmand after the 59 Minimi machine guns were not reported missing for almost a year. The theft was revealed only when American forces recovered two of the guns following a battle with the Taliban.

He has ordered an inquiry into why enough weapons to equip an infantry battalion could go missing without anyone noticing or being informed.

The light machine guns, which can fire 1,000 rounds a minute, were flown from Britain to Camp Bastion in Helmand last October. They were then transported overland to British forces operating at Kandahar airfield but it is believed the convoy was either ambushed or the weapons were illegally sold. No one realised or reported that they had gone missing until last month, when American forces operating in southern Afghanistan discovered two of the guns, whose serial numbers matched those stolen. Defence sources have described the incident as a “terrible embarrassment for British forces”.

“We have no evidence that they have been used against British forces but clearly it’s an alarming situation,” said one defence source.

A Royal Military Police investigation has been under way since the end of last month. Dr Fox was said to be “livid” and “hit the roof” when told about the incident.

“Alongside the official investigation, he has ordered a wider review of how weapons are transported and is asking some serious questions over how this happened,” an MoD source said. “It’s astonishing that 59 machine guns went missing last year and no one realised it for months.”

Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, who was told about the incident this week, is said to be furious that the weapons were allowed to be taken by the insurgents and, potentially, could have been used against British troops.

A review of transport practices is irrelevant.  A time of prayer, a bit of seriousness and a good house cleaning is in order for the MoD and the British Army.

One Kilometer Outside Musa Qala

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 7 months ago

British troops are poised to hand over control of Musa Qala to the U.S. Marines.

British troops are to hand over control of the largest town in north Helmand to US forces as part of a major “rebalancing” of UK forces in Helmand, the Defence Secretary said yesterday.

Speaking on a visit to Helmand, the Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said that Musa Qala would be handed over to US forces in the next month and that “further changes” are likely to ensure that British forces have the “greatest effect in countering the threat posed by the insurgency and protecting the civilian population.”

The decision to hand over Musa Qala to US forces had been one of a series of options under consideration by senior Nato commanders. In January The Times reported that British troops were likely to be pulled out of Musa Qala, Kajaki and possibly the iconic town of Sangin …

British troops originally moved into Musa Qala in June of 2006 to counter Taleban attacks that threatened to overwhelm weak local security forces in the town. In late 2006 British forces withdrew from Musa Qala under the terms of a controversial deal that saw local tribes promises to exclude the Taliban and govern the town.

However, Taliban fighters retook Musa Qala in February 2007 and held it till December when it was retaken in a major offensive by a mixed US and UK force. The retaking of the town was aided by the defection of a local Taleban commander, Mullah Abdul Salaam, who was subsequently installed as the local district governor.

Twenty-three British soldiers have died in and around the town. General Messenger said that British forces would leave behind a success story.

There is a problem within the Ministry of Defence (and the higher echelon of the chain of command) in Britain.  Musa Qala is not a success story.  The British warrior is a good as any on earth, but the officer corps has a troubling predilection to grant themselves special dispensation to turn their own failures into successes (it happened with the campaign in Basra).

Let’s take a quick detour through recent history.  The British were on the front end of the attempt to make deals with the Taliban, and even earlier, the local tribes.  A deal was indeed struck with the locals to turn away the Taliban.  The promise didn’t obtain, and the Taliban took control of Musa Qala.

In a tip of the hat to more deal-making, the British befriended one Mullah Abdul Salaam, a so-called “former mid-level Taliban commander” who promised to bring his fighters to bear upon the Taliban during the initial assault of U.S. and British troops to retake Musa Qala.  In fact, upon the initiation of the assault, Salaam “stayed in his compound in Shakahraz, ten miles east, with a small cortège of fighters, where he made increasingly desperate pleas for help.”  In other words, he screamed like a little girl.

This whole incident has been a stain on the British effort, and is not indicative of the high quality enlisted men in the British military.  The CTC Sentinel at West Point had some very direct words to the MoD regarding Musa Qala in July 2008.

Since the initial withdrawal from Musa Qala in 2006, the British image for military capability in general and counter-insurgency competence in particular has suffered a number of setbacks, by no means all in Afghanistan. The success of Iraqi forces in Basra in 2008 was widely seen as them doing a job that the British had left unfinished for political reasons. Britain’s relations with Kabul have suffered a number of setbacks, from the removal of diplomats following direct negotiations (bypassing Kabul) with the Taliban at Musa Qala in 2006 to Kabul’s rejection of Lord Paddy Ashdown to be the new UN envoy in Afghanistan … If the United Kingdom fails in Musa Qala, its relations with coalition partners and Afghans alike is likely to be harmed, and it may have a further impact on its international standing.

One and a half years ago the relations between Salaam and the British troops had soured.  The British had accused him of corruption and thuggery, while he had accused the British of undermining his “authority.”  Salaam was “feathering his own nest” while reconstruction is not forthcoming from the largesse poured into Musa Qala.  It would appear that relations have not gotten any better in the last year.  “At their latest meeting, Mullah Salaam is complaining that the Household Cavalry Regiment Battlegroup, which has been here for nearly six months, simply isn’t violent enough.”

This is from a man who couldn’t convince his own “fighters” to make good on their promises to take Musa Qala back from the Taliban.  Yet it also appears that Salaam hasn’t added one iota to the security around the area in the time that he has been “governor” of the area.  Government officials still can’t move more than one kilometer outside of Musa Qala because of security problems.

It’s time for some serious counterinsurgency in and around Musa Qala, and this means that Salaam must go, or be relegated to the sidelines as the irrelevant lackey that he is.  If the British didn’t have the resources to pacify the area, then the U.S. Marines might be able to squeeze the enemy out of hiding and kill them – and retake the roads in the area.  And so much for tribal engagement and deals with the Taliban as the answer to every problem in Afghanistan.

Prior:

The British and Musa Qala

The Example of Musa Qala

Musa Qala and the Argument for Force Projection

Our Deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam

About that Rescued New York Times Reporter

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

Jules Crittenden has a roundup of reactions to the British Special Boat Service troops’ rescue of the NYT reporter (also see The Washington Post).  Its’ impressive to me that the British took on this responsibility.  But it is the solemn duty of a country to mourn its lost, grieve its wounded, and bear the national burden of moral judgments during a time of war.  To be sure, there are limits as we have discussed in the release of the photo of young Joshua Bernard.  The concern there is not national exposure but protection of the family.

But as a country laments and engages in outrage, sometimes it’s simply appropriate to listen rather than critique.  My own feeling about this is that I support embedded reporting.  Ernie Pyle did it, and still maintained his independence from the story lines coming from the public relations efforts.  Ernie Pyle died too, but embedding is still the way to go.  But when embedding is done the reporter is obligated – morally and legally – to follow the rules set in place by those who are protecting him or her.

If a reporter wants to get the scoop or turn the story without the aid of or reference to our troops (Nir Rosen comes to mind), then my feeling is that when you play the dice you take your chances.  In a world that increasingly looks for cradle to grave security from the state, taking chances is seen as a way to strike it rich but a way to do so while relying on the government as a safety net.  It shouldn’t be that way.

But on a more personal level (as a Marine father), it needs to be remembered that every casualty is a son of America.  It’s easy to depersonalize casualties for those who are not close to someone who has lost a child to the war(s).  The country blocks out the information, but when it’s in front of you every day it’s a difficult task to accomplish.  As casualties mount, the country increasingly needs to see the moral imperative for the losses.

It’s just the way it is.  War is a costly and awful thing, and a country must be dedicated to the cause for what it sees as good and morally justified reasons in order to maintain commitment.  I cannot possibly see how the UK can justify the loss of one of its sons for a New York Times reporter.  Some discussions on this issue will foray into policy.  I’m not talking about policy.  I’m talking about value judgments.  In order to understand this from the perspective of a British parent who has lost his son to save a reporter, one needs to think viscerally and personally.  Policy just won’t do.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to ponder over the dark things that other people experience.  It helps to form values.


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