I do not pretend to have any detailed or specialist knowledge on the Afghan campaign. However, it became very clear, very quickly, that the whole thing was an A1 cluster-fuck of the first order! When Defence Minister Dr. Reid (doctor of what, exactly?) opined that British troops would be in and out without firing a shot, I feared the worst. And so it turned out. However, in my general reading over the years two names kept recurring - Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles (pronounced 'Cooper-Coles') who was British ambassador in Kabul 2007-2009, and Brig. (ret'd) Ed Butler, formerly commander of 22 SAS and then, in 2005/6 commanded 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand. These two men were the ones I saw on Monday giving evidence to the Commons Select Committee enquiring into the whole Afghanistan farrago. From several of the books and articles I have read elsewhere they stand out as critics, not just of the how the campaign was fought but whether, given our resources, we should ever have fought it at all. Both paid the price for "telling truth to power" because Butler retired as a brigadier when, with his incredible service record, he had been tipped as a probable army chief, and Cowper-Coles took early retirement from the Foreign Office in 2010.
Before the Committee both these men told it the way it was, that is, the senior army brass were simply clueless but, under pressure from their advisors with a keen eye on future budgets, they simply kept repeating the mantra - "Crack on, chaps!" The top civil servants in the MoD and the FO were told of the impossibilities but just refused to pass it on to their political masters. The politicians, of course, blundered on in a fairyland of false hopes and cruel deceptions. By way of comparison to today's gutless weasels, Cowper-Coles pointed to one of the very greatest Chiefs of Staff this country has ever been lucky enough to have, Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke, who used to tell Winston Churchill - yes, Churchill, the greatest statesman of his age! - almost on a weekly basis, "No, Sir, you cannot do that because it will not work!" with the very definite threat that if his advice was ignored he would resign. Compare that to the likes of Baron Richards of Hurstmonceaux, formerly Gen. Richards and our CGS in 2010, who complained bitterly about the campaign after he had retired with his Lorship safely in the bag! No sign of him resigning and taking early retirement like Butler did!
There is no doubt in my mind that our ruling classes, civilian, military and political are rotten and cowardly and stupid to the core. There are some very hard conclusions to be drawn from that and I will lay them before you later.
Please be aware that - again! - I am out for most of the day tomorrow so I may not post anything until tomorrow night - if I have any energy left!