British soldiers say the ferocity of the fighting and privations they face are far worse than generally known. (Reuters)
HELMAND PROVINCE ‘ British troops deployed in southern Afghanistan were stunned by the ferocity shown by die-hart Taliban fighters, while top NATO officers on Wednesday, September 13, struggled to find reinforcements.
“We did not expect the ferocity of the engagements,” a British officer who has served in the southern province of Helmand, told The Independent.
“We also expected the Taliban to carry out hit and run raids. Instead we have often been fighting toe to toe, endless close-quarters combat. It has been exhausting.”
Some 4,000 British troops make up the majority of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force deployed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
Captain Leo Docherty, the former aide-de-camp to the commander of the British taskforce in southern Afghanistan, has resigned in protest at the “grotesquely clumsy” and “pointless” campaign against Taliban. The criticism, the first from an officer who has served in Afghanistan, came during the worst time so far for British troops in the country. In total, 22 British troops have been killed so far in September.
More than 90 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, and the casualties in the south have raised questions about NATO’s ability to successfully complete its mission.
The British troops complain that no matter how many Taliban fighters they kill, they keep coming back.
“We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming,” one soldier told the British daily.
“We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border,” he added.
The solider asserted that they have used almost all their available military cards including B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s.
“We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs. At one point our Apaches ran out of missiles they have fired so many,” he said, noting this has not prevented ambushes.
“Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed.”
Lt Gen David Richards, ISAF commander, admitted that British forces have been involved in some of the fiercest fighting since the Korean war in 1951.
Even Afghan civilians are complaining. “We are not safe now; it is more dangerous than it was just a few months ago,” one man said in the market town of Lashkar Gar.
In Brussels, top N ese worthy tasks. What the media fails to mention is that the trans-Afghan gas pipeline will eventually pass through Helmand and Kandahar, although its construction has recently been suspended due to rebel activity.
Could it be that securing this area to allow pipeline construction is the real reason British troops are fighting in Afghanistan? If so then it’s a pointless exercise, as even if the pipeline is constructed it would never be secure in a hostile country like Afghanistan.
In the nineteenth century the British lost two disastrous wars fighting Afghan tribesmen, I fear we are seeing the mistakes of history repeated.