Armageddon was yesterday today is more serious

Prince Harry is now in Afghanistan about to command an Apache Gunship perhaps a few more of you will now agree that he was entitled to unwind in Las Vegas before he shipped out.

Our troops have been giving their young lives for us in Afghanistan for nearly twice as long as we were fighting the Second World War.  UK forces have been in Afghanistan for almost a decade.  The death toll now exceeds that of the Iraq War and over 100 soldiers died last year.  I saw all those coffins passing through Wootton Bassett (before the Cameroons decided that it was not good publicity and decided to divert to a less public route) and thought, “how did we get into this mess?  I then recalled that it was another adventure for Mr B Liar.

There is plenty of criticism for those foolish enough to underestimate the perils of involvement in a country that has over the centuries, eaten invading armies for breakfast.  Not least the British, who in Helmand Province rediscovered the kind of desperate frontier fighting not witnessed since the early days of Empire.

Now despite a vast expenditure of blood and treasure, the war is drawing to a predictably messy conclusion.  The Obama administration is engaged in an unseemly race with government of Hamid Karzai to conclude a peaceable settlement with the Taliban, and the British as always hanging on to American coat-tails must get out as best they can.  Part of this exit strategy is to train Afghani personnel for their Police and Army so that they are in a better position to slay our troops.  I’m not certain the Wellington was right in his belief of it being better to have the nasties inside his tent pissing out than leaving them outside, pissing in.

British and other ISAF troops face a determined enemy in the Taliban (called the brave Mujahidin fighters when they were fighting the Russians).  The insurgents consist mainly of Afghans, though numbers of Arab and Uzbek fighters are also involved.  Groups of fighters are usually organised along local tribal lines, led by a senior, experienced commander.  We are now learning that some of the most senior of the Taliban are living between battles over the border in luxury homes in Islamabad, with their families.  A situation denied by Pakistan but then they told us that they were also unaware that Bin Laden was doing the same.  As Mandy Rice Davis once famously said “Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?”  Damn I’m showing my age again.

In the run up to the last election, Gordon Brown (spit) delivered a speech at London’s Guildhall after the Lord Mayor’s show.  We oldies know exactly what follows the Lord Mayor’s Show . . . . . . . . He related with his usual ‘smoke and mirrors’ presentation style, that he had a cunning plan to map out an exit strategy for our troops to pull out of Afghanistan (sans body bags we hope), starting in 2010 or maybe 2011.

What will happen to our homeland security if we stop kicking Mr Taliban?  Gordon told us that our presence is vital to prevent terrorist attacks on the streets of Britain.  The Cameroons have repeated this mantra many times since they put Gordon in his place.  Still I’m sure that everything will be alright because politicians on both sides of the pond tell us that the end is in sight.

The politicians wheeled out a poodle Major General, (I’m sure a very Gilbert & Sullivan modern Major General) on the MOD defence staff who told us now that the Taliban aren’t playing fair because they refuse to present themselves in a sterile battle-space for a precision attack by our troops –sneaky b@stards- they send small bands of Taliban-style fighters using such weapons as roadside bombs and who can then merge into the local population.  Just fancy that, the Taliban using Taliban-style fighting methods – hang on, weren’t they trained and armed by our S.A.S. soldiers during the Russian incursion?  My God! If they can’t stand still and fight we should jolly well leave them to sort out their own problems.

I wonder if Major General Paul Newton has ever been nearer to battle condition than watching Blackadder on TV.  Perhaps he has been blind-sided by ambition.  What did they say of Lord Haig in WW1 “Lions led by Donkeys”?

I seem to have learned a few lessons personally after a well thought out ‘exit strategy’ when we came out of Korea, then a total SNAFU – sorry Situation Normal All Fouled up, we didn’t used Fouled in the Navy but the meaning was the same, when I was pulled out of Suez.  Then I was involved when the planned exit strategy for our troops to leave Aden when we were to hand over power to the NLF.  This turned into rat sh*t with a bloodbath and 22 soldiers were killed on a single day and my ship took part in a Dunkirk style withdrawal.  Some strategy, I remember our skipper remarking “We have some lessons to learn”.

Then we went to Cyprus and those sneaky EOKA devils looked just like normal Cypriots whether Turkish or Greek.  We had another planned exit strategy with red faces.  I was a civilian when Yugoslavia kicked off – Can someone tell me who won?  Was it Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro?  Oh c’est la guerre – Still we will be alright now in Afghanistan with someone like Cameron and Obama who “are striving every day to ensure that no mistakes are made over our troops in Afghanistan”.

At the moment I am working out how to get the Taliban to stand still on open battlefield conditions . . . . . . . If they could be issued with elf ‘n safety yellow florescent tabards which have a target painted on them.  Hey Mr Obama . . . . . . I have a cunning plan. . . . .

About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.

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