UK military blasts own generals for Afghan ‘mess’

© Omar Sobhani
British generals were “arrogant, needy and slow” to act during the “messy” 10-year occupation of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan that cost hundreds of British lives, according to an internal report.

Acquired by the Times newspaper following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Ministry of Defence, the Operation Herrick Campaign Study blasts senior military officers over their conduct during the war in Helmand.

There is an underlying feeling that British command ‘arrogance’ hampered relationships and led to some frustrations on the ground,” the report states.

It also claims that British officers were unwilling to take advice during the war which saw over 450 UK service personnel killed and over 2,000 wounded.

This manifested itself in a British unwillingness to accept plans or ideas from a subordinate, partner nation battle group,” the study claims.

Also cited is another MoD report which says that their conduct created negative perceptions of British officers.

We continued to be considered arrogant, needy and slow to make what were perceived as simple tactical decisions,” it says.

The report sheds light on the confused and floundering nature of the UK war aims in Helmand, with the commander of the 16 Air Assault Brigade quoted as saying “we were never really clear what the strategic objectives actually were and how these might be translated into resourced tactical actions on the ground.

Nevertheless, the report also tries to cover the positives of the war, saying that troops emerged hardened, capable and resilient.

An MoD spokesman told the Times that Britain’s Afghan war delivered “vital security gains for the people of that country.”

This view appears to be at odds with the reality on the ground in Helmand, however.

In recent months, vast areas of the province over which British troops fought and died in considerable numbers have fallen to a resurgent Taliban.

Some experts claim that the occupation, which began in 2006, actually fueled the insurgency that now controls areas like Musa Qaleh and Kajaki, as well as the town of Sangin where over 100 UK troops were killed.

Critics of the war cite the words of the commander of British special forces unit 22 SAS who, after patrolling the region in late 2005, wrote a report to the government in which he said: “There isn't an insurgency in Helmand. But we can give you one."