On my blog I frequently accused the previous government and the Ministry of Defence over just how much they valued our troops considering they went to a war under equipped and over-stretched. Sadly my accusations have proven to be quite true as this report points out.
A devastating report into the Afghanistan war has concluded that the British task force sent into Helmand in 2006 was ill-equipped, under-resourced and too weak to defeat the Taliban.
In Operations in Afghanistan – which is deeply critical of both senior commanders and government ministers – the Defence Select Committee states that the Helmand mission was undermined by bad planning and poor intelligence, and the task force was capped at 3,150 troops for financial rather than operational reasons. Much of the blame for the failings is levelled at senior officers for claiming that field commanders were content with the support they were receiving, when the reverse was true.
The report reveals that the high levels of British casualties was not predicted. Since 2006 more than 370 British troops have been killed and almost 2,000 wounded.
I’m a big fan of armed neutrality, I personally don’t believe UK forces should be involved in any conflicts that really don’t concern us. This means we shouldn’t have been in Iraq and we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, certainly not doing what we are doing now. If we do go to war (and it is a war) then we go in with overwhelming force, we do what we have to do, then we get out. Not that I’m saying that we haven’t brought some benefits to these countries, just that they aren’t our countries and sooner or later what we do there will come back to haunt us. Primarily our armed forces should be available for home defence, defence commitments to our allied territories (Falklands etc) Possible availability for Commonwealth problems/peacekeeping and that’s about it. We shouldn’t be available for EU conflicts, nor available as U.N. peacekeeping.
Our troops should also have the best possible equipment available at a cost effective level, particularly with regard to modern battlefield weapons, this means we should also have our own burgeoning defence industry, producing said equipment (under license if necessary) If we want the best, then we either make it or buy it, which ever is easiest and if we do buy it, then it’s under the condition that we make it under license or fitted out to our spec in our country. basically means we can buy the aircraft, ships and tanks and refit them if necessary to our needs, not the manufacturers idea of our needs. Means also if we buy helicopters, they come ready to fly in all weathers, not just when the sun is shining etc.
The courage of our armed forces seems to be in diametric opposition to the integrity, honesty and competence of those who order them into battle and who see to their needs, they should have the best equipment available to them, their families should be housed and cared for in decent conditions and most of all they should be allowed to get on with their jobs with the minimum of political interference.
Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem Tommy this an Tommy that to describe the general public’s attitude to the troops, this has changed somewhat as the public do seem to be in favour of the military and the military covenant. Sadly it seems our politicians, civil servants and the higher military staff again are out of touch with the public mood.
I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)