Monday, May 23, 2005


The secret that's not a secret: British troops to Afghanistan

I figure that anything you can read here at Simply Appalling is probably not a secret, but that's the way Scotland on Sunday characterized the latest plan to send British troops to Afghanistan.

Here's the headline and breathless introduction by Brian Brady—

Secret UK troops plan for Afghan crisis

DEFENCE chiefs are planning to rush thousands of British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Ministers have been warned they face a "complete strategic failure" of the effort to rebuild Afghanistan and that 5,500 extra troops will be needed within months if the situation continues to deteriorate.

An explosive cocktail of feuding tribal warlords, insurgents, the remnants of the Taliban, and under-performing Afghan institutions has left the fledgling democracy on the verge of disintegration, according to analysts and senior officers.

The looming crisis in Afghanistan is a serious setback for the US-led 'War on Terror' and its bid to promote western democratic values around the world.

Defence analysts say UK forces are already so over-stretched that any operation to restore order in Afghanistan can only succeed if substantial numbers of troops are redeployed from Iraq, itself in the grip of insurgency.

Brian Brady might want to read my post of April 5—"What's up in Afghanistan and why is Blair sending more troops?"—which was based in part on a story in the daily edition of his own paper.

Clearly the Blair government, by leaking this "secret" report, is prepping the British public to accept not only a tenfold increase in British troops to Afghanistan—from less than 500 to over 5,000—but an additional cost of a half billion pounds Sterling (approximately $915,000,000).

The significant difference from last month's account is that in that story those troops were to have come from troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. The current report paints a picture of a government in a dither over where to get the troops—

"People within the MoD [Ministry of Defense] are now saying we will have to deal with this and go into the south of the country. What they are saying is, don't do it piecemeal. We will have to do it properly."

Senior army and navy officers, along with officials from the Treasury, were in the region last week to survey the options.

But American military experts last night claimed an increase in the British presence in Afghanistan would inevitably threaten the numbers committed to Iraq.

"There is not enough Coalition power, or Afghan government power, to extend their writ into the areas that have proved impossible to control. This is going to be a very difficult period.

"They might struggle to cover their commitment to Iraq, but even if they do that, it would mean that the UK could not take on any further military commitments anywhere else."

But perhaps the British are not in such a dither as it first appears. The Blair government may be playing a game with the Americans by saying in effect, "Okay, guys, we can't be both places at once. If you want us to help in Afghanistan, you're going to have to accept a pull-out from Iraq. Your call!"

The truth is that the Blair government has quietly been trying to figure a way to pull troops out of Iraq for some time now (see, "What's up in Britain?"). Afghanistan may look like just the ticket.

Unfortunately for the British, this may be a case of "jumping from the frying pan into the fire." The Brits have had it relatively easy with the Shia in Southern Iraq. Mixing it up with Afghan warlords and Taliban fanatics could easily turn out to be the worst nightmare imaginable for the British military.

Follow-up post
A further note on the Brits and Afghanistan (6/2/05)

Previous posts
What's up in Britain? (9/23/04)
What's up in Afghanistan and why is Blair sending more troops? (4/5/05)

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