'It's been even harder than we expected'

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by McHammock, Sep 19, 2006.

Welcome to the Navy Net aka Rum Ration

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial RN website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Des Browne's speech to RUSI


    Surprised no RR comment already.
  2. Probably a lot in Aarse though, I shall have a scan shortly.
  3. Odd isn`t it? what sort of statement is that? Yes the British Public know exactly how brave our troops are, The British Public also know exactly how short they are of essentials, Ammunition and sleep come to mind, yet again we have the spin of government, always promising never delivering, blaming every government but our own, the sooner these tossers are out of power the better.
  4. Its been harder than we expected-----

    Wonder what they really expected ?????????????????

    The Afghan war zone has been a hot bed for at least two hundred years
    and even before then ----the British had great problems there in Q. Victoria's day and thats when Pakistan was part of the Empire.
    The Soviets had a great time too and basically gave up after trying to explain the losses to the Russian peoples.
    Then the coalition troops plus volunteers from the UN try to do a walkover.

    No chance---the guys they are fighting were taught by the US/UN in the bad old days when Russia was the USSR --the weapons the Taliban have in their armoury are probably the same ones as they were given to fight at that time and they also have the spare Russian weapons aswell.

    What goes round comes round.
  5. Levers_Aligned

    Levers_Aligned War Hero Moderator

    Truth of the fact is many fold.

    Firstly, our doctrine has been firmly based upon defence of the eastern European front for many years. It wasn't until fifteen years ago that we rediscovered desert warfare and only then against a technically less-able force, who were routed once the go was given. Since then all that has happened is a maintenance of capability, and stagnation of attitude, whilst the governments we vote in went to work on the so-called 'peace dividend'. For that, read, 'yippee ... tax cuts at the expense of defence'. I find it incredible that we tooled ourselves up to the yingers against a pretty impressive but worthless force and then once that broke up, we find ourselves potless and struggling on two world conflict fronts.

    Everyone paid attention on 2 Apr 1982, the men boarded ships and went and got back our territory (even though it was never ours in the first place, eh?) yet now after subsequent skirmishes in the Balkans, SL, Afghanistan and Iraq, the public has switched the **** off from it all. That's how easy it is, and that's just what Blair wants. If it were just a few dozen miles away from our coastline, the great British public - lumpen, pizza-eating, soap-opera addicted hedonists they are to a man - would stop carping about which **** will next grace the front bench of the house, which take-away to order in and which loathesome celebrity is going theough their Mayfly-lived shitstorm in the trash papers. Full bellies = empty skulls. Nobody votes, nobody cares. No one can tell you who the **** is the Opposition spokesperson for Education, no one can give you the RPI status.

    It's like one gigantic human experiment in conditioning - use the very ******* asset designed to protect the people of this land from foreign aggression to do the dirty work for the simpletons in their quest for mineral domination and keep the lab-rats who pay for them fed on shit, shit and more shit. ******* like Des Browne, when speaking ineloquently and visibly bristled on Sunday lunchtime TV should refrain from using the term "What it is important to remember ... " before launching into yet another chicaneric bullshitfest and remember this: he is not out there fighting. He is not getting rounds fired at him by skilled guerillas, fighting in their own back yard against the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne. He should also take into account that whilst the wider, apathetic unwashed will glaze over at his very appearance on television, certain people who are hidebound by duty to stay silent watch and listen to every ******* word he says, noting the inaccuracies, the utter horseshit and the absolute lies he uses to assuage any further blame that his government has fucked it up again, not only in picking a fight with ruthless warriors who have seen a few off in the past but failing in their absolute prime duty to provide absolute support to their employees as they put themselves in the line of danger once again.

    It doesn't matter how much these elected, privelidged lawyers and financiers tart up the language to make it sound like they are doing us a favour by 'restructuring'. The bald fact remains that they are turning down the heat whilst outside it is snowing still. Anyone who leads a country which still regards itself as a major hitter cannot fail to complete the equation that spells out power + influence = strong defence. Frankly I don't care what emphasis they choose to place on 'assymetric threats' and other such bollocks.

    War is war.

    And if you wish for peace, you should be prepared for it.

  6. Leavers could not agree more (if not with the language) all those legal/spin/PC etc types are riding for a big fall. I just think everybody is getting sick and tired of them. What we really need is a return to the real world.
  7. Could I recommend the use of paragraphs in your next rant? :)
  8. For those of you without access to the grate (sic) man's speech, I've pasted a transcript with a few additional side thoughts.

    There may be some of you here expecting a speech full of admissions of mistakes (well, Tango Sierra, the Government is far too arrogant for that). You can’t believe everything you read (after all, you are reading this).

    I have described Afghanistan as ‘a noble cause’.

    We are there under the authority of a UN resolution, at the request of a democratic elected government, and with the support of the local people (are you Local?). We are there to ensure the country does not slip back under the control of the Taliban – an intolerant, brutal regime who oppose education, disregard the most basic human rights, and place no value on human life. We are there to ensure Afghanistan does not slide into civil war – after decades of conflict in which 2 million of its own people have died, and millions more have fled. If there is a chance to put a stop to this – however difficult – then there is a strong moral imperative to seize that chance.

    But Afghanistan is not just a noble cause. It is also strongly in our own national interest. Lawless states or areas are always dangerous: to the people who live and suffer there, to regional stability, and in the end to global security. In the case of Afghanistan, the particular threats emerging from those lawless areas – terrorism, and opium – were (and still are) delivered onto the streets of the West – as we know and remember all too well, particularly at this time of year (Halloween?).

    It is no surprise, then, that there has been broad support for the cause from the beginning. People disagree about strategy, they disagree about tactics, they disagree about the shape of the force, about whether we are giving it enough support. But behind all this disagreement, at a more fundamental level there is a consensus that we must succeed in Afghanistan (because we’ve now given you no choice).

    Even those few (and I feel a Battle of Britain speech coming on) who disagree, do so not because they question whether the mission is important, or indeed legitimate, but because they think it is impossible. Some think it impossible because of the nature of the country: because they think its size, terrain, and warrior culture stack the odds too heavily against any foreign force. They cite the experience of the Soviets, or the British a century before, and say – if they sent in hundreds of thousands of troops, and still failed, how can we hope to succeed with a fraction of that number. Others think it’s impossible because of the nature of the mission: because they think that trying to build a nation through the use of foreign force is always self-defeating.

    I respect these views. But (and at my skool, I was allowed to start a sentence with a but) I believe both are wrong, and that they are wrong for the same reason: they don’t fully appreciate the nature of what we are trying to do. We are not ‘invading’: we are there at the invitation of a government which has legitimacy and support (in Kabul). And (my skool also allowed me to start a sentence with an "and") we do not kid ourselves that we can build institutions by force. Everyone I work with in the military is acutely aware that in a mission like this, military force cannot deliver success by itself. It can create however a set of conditions – a level of security, a shift in the balance of power – in which political progress can deliver success. But that political progress itself must be legitimised and reinforced by improvements in basic services like water and sanitation, and eventually by economic development (when you’re up to your a**e in alligators, always remember that the prime objective was to drain the pond). And lest we forget, this is a process well underway in Afghanistan. Security in the North and West has brought real change over the last 5 years: more and better schools, more and better hospitals, new jobs, and the return of millions of refugees (not all of whom are insurgents). We are not just hoping that this mission can work – we know it does. But it has to work throughout the whole of Afghanistan if we want to secure what has already been achieved (whatever that might be).

    Let’s be clear – success won’t be what we understand by security and prosperity and proper governance, but it will be progress and it will be massively worth achieving, both for them, the Afghans, and for us (I knew watching Star Trek would come in handy). I accept that this looks some way off, against a background of intense fighting, and to be frank, currently relatively little direct progress on governance and reconstruction in the South. In part, this was inevitable at this stage. NATO has been in charge in the South for less than two months. And we always knew the South would be hard: as John Reid made clear (along with, "without a shot fired").when he announced the deployment in January. There has been no effective governance in the South for decades; it is the centre of the drugs trade; and most of all it is the Taliban heartland. It has been lawless for years, perhaps it always was, and all of those who have profited from this lawlessness were bound to go to any lengths that they could to resist any attempt to bring it under the rule of law.

    We do have to accept that it’s been even harder than we expected: the Taliban’s tenacity in the face of massive losses has been a surprise (to all but the professional Military), absorbing more of our effort than we predicted it would, and consequently slowing progress on reconstruction. This year’s poppy harvest, planted before we arrived, is larger than ever before; and across the border in Pakistan, a new approach to security in the border areas may hold hope for the future, but might even see an increase in Taliban activity in the shorter term.

    So we face a number of challenges.

    The first is to try to ensure that the intensity of the campaign against the Taliban does not distract from the core mission, of following security with political and economic progress. In Helmand, the best prospects for this progress are in the central area around the Provincial capital. But to bolster the Government, and to prevent the Taliban from operating in the outlying areas with impunity, we took the fight to the Taliban in their own backyard, in Northern Helmand, establishing what are called ‘platoon houses’. This was a necessary measure to enhance security in the province, but defeating the Taleban in a campaign of attrition is not an end in itself – we must not lose sight of the overall central mission (drain that pond).

    The decision on how we position our forces is not straightforward. Six months into the campaign, we (the Government) are still learning about the Taliban insurgency. There are signs this may be having an effect, and that the Taliban, and local Afghans, are tiring of this constant fighting. Local leaders in some areas are showing signs of wanting to reach an accommodation to limit or indeed to stop the fighting. It is too early to say where this may lead but it does show the picture is complex, changes from day-to-day, and is not the simple narrative which it is sometimes portrayed to be. This reinforces my view that only operational commanders should make decisions, about which forces go where, and when. I am not prepared (oops, too late now; I’ve said it) to second guess them from Whitehall (until it all becomes less difficult). I urge others not to do so either. I know people are interested – and rightly so. But maintaining a running commentary on this can only put at risk the lives of the very soldiers that those people purport to be speaking out for (so, up yours grieving relatives and loved ones).

    This brings me to the second challenge (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition) – which is making sure these commanders have the forces they need (or, at least allowed) to give them the flexibility to carry out the mission. As has been widely reported, NATO have estimated they need 2,500 more troops – 1,000 of whom are combat troops. We are still in the middle of the process of finding them. I’ve been in close, often daily contact with my counterparts and with the Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. There was some good news last week, with the Poles announcing their intention to provide a battalion (as they’d already promised) – which will go a long way to meeting the requirement – and with no caveats (nor adequate logistical support). The Canadians are also increasing their contribution, notably sending out additional Engineers to reinforce the development effort, much as we have done. There are others also considering whether they can do more, but it is for individual nations to make public their own decisions on this. But there is no denying it has been difficult, and that we’re not there yet (well, when I say "we", I actually mean ....).

    It is important, however, to understand the context of these discussions. When NATO agreed to take on the Afghan mission, it did so against a clear plan which started in Kabul, then the North, and then the West. Many nations have taken their turn providing troops to get us to where we are now, and there has been a considerable collective investment, and a considerable collective sacrifice too. I know that some of our partners feel, with some justice, that they have done their bit, and many are now focused on other tasks elsewhere in the world. Some have doubts that the mission will succeed. Others, candidly, have more direct concerns about the level of risk they are prepared to expose their soldiers to. These are understandable concerns (particularly in those Countries that are used to losing wars).

    But those of us who are already fully committed in the South – ourselves, the Canadians, the Dutch, the Danes, the Estonians and the ever-present Americans (who are not part of the problem)– must remind our partners that it was their agreement and support that brought us to this point, and that the mission is as vital as it always has been. In fact, it is vital not only for Afghanistan, but also for the threat that a lawless Afghanistan poses to the region and world; and also, now that NATO has taken it on, for NATO’s own credibility (there, now I’ve said it). We have reached the point, which we always knew we would, where NATO is tackling the most difficult regions, the South and soon the East. NATO nations must decide whether to back their investment, re-affirm their original intent – and to send a clear signal to the Taliban, and the Afghan population, that NATO as an alliance is strong and determined to see the task through.

    The fundamental point is that NATO is an alliance. When it decides to use military force, all partners should be prepared to face equal risk. While particular skills and capabilities may be stronger in some Armed Forces than in others, no one has a monopoly on determination and courage. I suspect most Armed forces are like our own – they relish the challenge, even when it is as difficult as this, and I am sure they want to honour their countries’ commitment to the task we have taken on. We must persuade our partners – and help them persuade their publics (as we have ours) – to let their forces do just that.

    The third challenge (our main challenge is ...) is understanding the nature of the opposition. We have fought to a standstill those who are trying to destroy the security we are creating. They cannot beat us and in some places, as I have said, there are signs they may be beginning to see this – but this is only the first necessary step in the path we hope they will take – and at the same time there is still much to learn about them. We must understand the motivations of those who are fighting us, since not all of them are the same.

    Foremost among them are the Taliban – the same group who ruled Afghanistan with intolerance and repression up to their overthrow in 2001. Since then they have been under pressure from the American-led coalition and from the Afghans themselves. There have been some high profile defections. The Governor of Oruzgun Province for example in the South is himself ex-Taliban, brought in by the Government’s reconciliation programme and now backing political and economic progress. Some of his associates have joined him, and we need to persuade more to follow. But there will always be a hard core who are implacable, irreconcilable and determined to fight to keep their impunity in the South, and possibly to reclaim the whole country.

    This hard core is small – maybe a thousand (that looks the right number of noughts), it is hard to tell. But the leaders are clever (well, some are), sophisticated and well aware of how to play to the world gallery. They are adept at forming alliances of convenience with the drug barons and criminal gangs, who likewise have everything to lose from any move towards legitimate governance. And together they recruit footsoldiers from among poor, ordinary Afghan tribesmen. These tribesmen are persuaded to fight not because they hate us, or because of an Afghan culture of resistance, but simply because they are paid (and I need you all to believe this) – often with money made from drugs. It is this group, probably the majority of those involved in the recent fighting, that matter to us most.

    We don’t want to kill them, or defeat them – we want to convince them to back peace, to back the view of the future represented by the Afghan government, rather than by the Taliban or the drug lords. I fully acknowledge that if we cannot do this, if we cannot persuade them to put down their guns, then we will struggle to make progress, and there will be a real danger that their deaths will motivate others to join the fight, and potentially turn this into a conflict of a different kind.

    But I do not believe we are at that stage. If we can create security, the reconstruction will follow and it will show them the benefits of peaceful co-operation. But in the short term we also have to convince them that we will not be beaten in combat, and that the Taliban lack the strength to impose their vision of the future of Afghanistan. This has cost lives, lives of our people, and of people we could have worked with – but for that we can blame the Taliban unreservedly. They have an utter lack of regard for the value of human life.

    So we face a difficult task – we must win the battles through force, but not in a way that loses the whole campaign. If there is any Armed Forces that can tread this line, it is ours – honed by training, experience and culture to apply force with proportionality and with judgement (must remember to check where the ever-present Americans are). So when you hear on the news that we have fought the Taliban in Musa Qala or Sangin, recognise that this terrible and dangerous work is being done by soldiers (Marines and Airmen?) who understand the challenge completely – they will fight like they were at war, but if there is an opportunity instead to silence the guns by persuasion, they will take it – even if you don’t read about that part in the papers, or see anything of it on TV.

    What we do read about is that they are fighting incredibly hard. They are working in arduous conditions, around the clock, up to and sometimes beyond the bounds of stamina and endurance. The public rightly are concerned they are getting the right support but – please, please, do not demean their effort by thinking that they are fighting like this by accident, or because in some way they have not been properly supported. They are fighting and working in conditions because that is the nature of conflict – hard, dirty and beyond the experience of most of us to understand. They do this because they are superb professionals and we should recognise their courage, skill, and spirit for what it is (as long as they stay within budget and disregard their long term future).

    I have made the point already that as soon as we do create security, we need to follow it, straight away, with progress on reconstruction, to consolidate the security we have created, and to reassure the people that there is a real future for Afghanistan. This brings me to the final challenge I want to talk about today: the application of the comprehensive approach, that is, the interweaving of different elements – security, reconstruction, law and order, and governance, reinforcing each other ‘like the strands of a rope’.

    The need for a comprehensive approach is, I think, well understood in theory, but Afghanistan is showing us how challenging it can be in practice – more so than in some other countries where we have worked (like Iraq). In some countries poverty is overwhelming, but security is less difficult. In others, the machinery of Government may be broken, but neither poverty nor security are so threatening. The challenge we face in Afghanistan is that these different elements of the problem are so ever-present and interdependent. As we address one, it starts to expose the gravity of the others – and that is clear to the Afghans themselves. A British soldier may bring security, but if nothing comes behind it – if we can’t bring clean drinking water, or a proper school – this raises the question ‘what for?’. If we can’t arrest drug lords, because the police are corrupt or scared, or because there are no courts, or no prisons, how can we expect the villages where they work to back our view of the future instead of their view? Why does any of this need British soldiers, rather than Afghan soldiers, or police? And so on, the questions come.

    These problems are often so acute we are discovering they all need to be tackled early, if not simultaneously. What this shows us most clearly is that we must find robust, quick and above all simple (cheap) solutions that reflect the requirements of Afghanistan, not the standards or mores of Western society (must remember to mention that to Tone and George W). In some cases this means starting from the bottom up, not the top down as we would normally do. It means clean drinking water and basic sanitation for local doctors (sod the people), simple, workable laws in the hands of local law enforcement, well-dug ditches for farmers. Of course we also need to develop proper working Government Ministries in Kabul, Supreme Courts and so forth – but make no mistake, we have to do this in parallel, not first. We recognise this, and we have some of our best minds working on it, but it is new, and it is difficult.

    It is most difficult because it has to be done in a small window of relative safety, guaranteed by a British soldier on a street corner, watching everyone’s back (but their own). If the work is done, then the locals start to watch our backs too (not just for aiming points) – and then we get momentum. But such an environment is inevitably a perilous one for non-military staff to work in. That’s why we announced in July, among the wider reinforcements for the Helmand Taskforce, the deployment of additional Royal Engineers, precisely to start work on reconstruction in the kind of security environment where DfID or NGOs would not be able to work. But they cannot do it all themselves and we will have to be imaginative in finding ways to get this part of the job done.

    The obvious and immediate priority in Southern Afghanistan is creating security. It will be a difficult road – and the headlines will be full of fighting. This is unavoidable. But I hope I have made clear that some of the most difficult challenges lie beneath that surface. The requirement for NATO to live up to its intentions, and to all our moral obligations is vital, though also difficult when the fighting seems to be so all-consuming. But also the need to learn, quickly, about the hostile forces we are facing, to understand how to persuade them that we are there to help their country, and that we can actually do so. That we can bring them better health-care, an honest job (don’t mention the farmers), the security and stability which comes with the rule of law – essentially, some hope that the future might be different, and might be better. If we can persuade them of this, both by the skill and resolve of our front-line troops, but also by our imagination and teamwork across the full spectrum of challenges – then they will start to work with us, and join us in facing down those who try to stop progress.

    My priority, for now, is to make sure our people engaged in this most vital and difficult of tasks, have the support they need and the support deserve (must mention that to big Gord). I have already said that I am expending every effort with our allies to see that our people are not left exposed in this fight. I am expending every effort too to ensure they get the equipment they need, even if that means rebalancing some of the overall effort in Defence towards the here and now, rather than the possible challenges of tomorrow (must mention that to Vladimir and the wiley chap in Peking). Across Government I am urging us to be imaginative in our approach and not let habit, or bureaucracy, constrain the solutions we need on the ground (don’t mention the sea or air).

    Above all I am determined to ensure that the British public know the truth about the fantastic job our people are doing. They are fighting tooth and nail for the things I have described, not because they blindly follow orders but because they see the answers there in front of them, and because they are the most professional and committed people in the world. I hope they will enjoy your support too (well, of course they would enjoy it, if only they had it).
  9. Would you trust this man (?) with your life\welfare etc? I know which way I would go and that’s out at a rapid rate of knots!
  10. Would you trust ANY politician with your life dt? Apart from Lord Ashdown and the ex-Service people in the Lords, my answer would be a definate NO.
  11. As I remember the only time we won a terrorist war was Malaya,and that was done by converting the native people to accept our troops by working with the locals,not bombing and shooting them.It looks like we've gone back to the Victorian way of doing things.....shootthe buggers if they don't agree with us.....wrong,so very wrong......and our troops end up paying the price.
  12. Did you mean to put that 'not' in? :p

  13. Yes; it was an attempt at irony.

    Now you've mentioned it, I firmly believe that they are part of the problem.
  14. Nail on the head levers. Problem now lies in the fact that the Govt are so short-termist we need to work hard to pursuade them we are still relevant - the tasks we do now only make the news when we fail, and don't make headlines or good press. ERGO for the fools upstairs, no votes. No votes=no cash = ships alongside, even fewer of them, and the beginning of the end. We all need to make damn sure what we are doing is recognised for what it is - worthwhile.
  15. goldtop wrote: We all need to make damn sure what we are doing is recognised for what it is - worthwhile.

    Agreed, and we're better than ever at this, but it could well be too little too late. Most people who do not live near the coast have little or no idea what we really do on their behalf. Because the Army have a higher profile than us it is considerably easier to take cuts from us.

    Stinks - don't it?

  16. Do you ever get the feeling that the nation has lost it's way and has forgotten what makes Britain "Great"?

    We seem to be turning into goldfish chasing the next shiny shound bite or popular issue...

    Please at the next election, someone make a diffrence!...we need some spine!!
  17. Maybe we will be forced to call ourselves "Barely Adequate Britain" by the EU?Trades descriptios act and all that nonsense!
  18. FlagWagger

    FlagWagger Book Reviewer

    I think someone has been spelling it Grate Britain (the consequences of a third-rate educashun system perhaps?) - what we need now is a Phoenix to rise from the ashes!

    Yep, and with the widespread disconnect between the electorate and politics in general, the MPs seem content to continue in this manner. The domination of the political system by the major parties and the unwillingness of the electorate to consider voting for other than their usual party means it ain't gonna change soon. I heard the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" on the radio this morning, there's one particular lyric which sums it up for me "meet the new boss; same as the old boss......".

    Politics: compound word derived from ancient Greek, poly meaning many, and tic being a small blood sucking creature - says it all really! :)
  19. Ermmmm! Politikos methinks.
  20. I.M.H.O. the problem is that we now have politicians that have come through the education system having studied and taken politics at higher education level and become professional politicians. Having never done or held a real job they have no idea or concept of the real world it is all theory to them and have a great belief in spin and image to determent of all else.

Share This Page