Saturday, 26 September 2009

From Helmand to Whitehall

Via The Helmand Blog, the story of the unusually early departure of Major-General Andrew Mackay as reported in The Telegraph:
Major-General Andrew Mackay, a general who led the Afghanistan campaign has resigned over his disillusion in the direction of the Government’s strategy.

Major Gen Mackay, 52, who was the architect of the military’s new counter insurgency doctrine, is said to have told colleagues of his anger at the lack of resources being put into the battle.

He is also said to be “disillusioned” over the failure of the Foreign Office and Department for International Development in fulfilling their obligations in Afghanistan.

The resignation will come as a significant blow to the Government and the Army as Major Gen Mackay, who led a brigade in Helmand, was seen as a leading proponent for readjusting Britain’s counter-insurgency plan that has foundered during three years of fighting in Helmand.
The rest here.

The UK Ministry of Defence insists his departure is ‘a personal matter’, see the BBC News account.

That BBC page includes an audio clip worth listening to, of BBC Radio 4’s World at One’s interview with Major Nick Haston yesterday, He was Maj Gen Mackay's deputy chief of staff, and resigned from the British Army earlier this year in protest at policy and equipment shortages.

The Helmand Blog is run by Major Paul Smyth from the UK Forces Media Ops team. He has previously posted a number of stories by Michael Yon, the renowned independent American journalist who’s spent longer time with British troops in Helmand than most other reporters. Understandably Major Smyth wants to make clear that he’s not the officer referred to in Michael Yon’s scathing account of British Media Ops in Helmand.

After detailing the obstruction of efforts by both himself and other journalists to cover the war in Helmand, Michael Yon makes this core point:
There is the maxim that a customer can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant’s kitchen by the restroom. After much experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have discovered another: Soldiers always treat correspondents they way they treat the local people. When soldiers treat correspondents badly, they treat local people even worse and are creating enemies. Those troops who brag about how they mistreat or detest correspondents are abusing and resentful of the local population, and they cannot win this sort of war. The people will kill them and the media will bash them and they will blame the people and the media. When a soldier alienates sympathetic correspondents, he has no real chance against mortal enemies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and they will defeat him. Yet there is subtlety: for “the people,” in the case of Media Ops, is you.

Michael Yon doesn’t limit his criticisms to operations in Helmand. He also uses very unparliamentary language about the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth. The piece is titled Bullshit Bob.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I'm afraid that Afghanistan is being let go. Down the Taliban drain, that is.