Monday, 31 August 2009
Afghanistan And Londonistan
When the news reached Tiberius of the debacle in the wild tribal interior of Germania after Publius Quinctilius Varus led the 17th, 18th, and 19th Legions, six cohorts of auxiliaries and three squadrons of cavalry to their deaths in 9 AD you may imagine his anger at the Emperor Augustus for putting a lawyer politician in direct charge of troops in a politically unstable area with a hostile aggressive population difficult to control at the best of times.
But this is history, and nothing to do with the present. General McChrystal is understood to have advised that the present USA strategy in Afghanistan is like a bull charging at a Matador. It is a graphic analogy, but not quite right. It is more like a bull charging the banderilleros and the picadores while they wear him down for the matador to finish him off.
To put it in simpler military terms, if you cannot bring the main force of the enemy to battle, and they remain mobile, unpredictable, and difficult to locate, then you have problems that are going to be difficult to resolve in the short term. To deal with them in detail entails a long hard expensive campaign, and critically keeping the citizenry in between on your side. This will add to the expense and the problems if they do not share your mindset.
On the other hand, you could follow the example of Sir Thomas of Hoo, Lord of Hoo and Hastings, who was active in the Caux in Normandy in the 1430’s, and that is to kill as many men as you can lay your hands on and disperse the remaining population. So instead of spending two generations trying to pacify an area, it will be at least two generations before anyone there can give you any trouble.
Better still; don’t get into that situation in the first place. But this is what happens when you have lawyer politicians in charge, especially from jurisdictions that rely on adversarial procedures both in the practice of law and its making. For the lawyer, ignorant of the realities of actual combat, the structures and organisation needed, and critically the demands of logistics, sending in the troops is just another legal ploy to try to make your point more strongly than the opposition. Moreover, lawyers tend to twist any figures and rarely look at the costs, until that is, they present the bills.
Which brings me to the UK and figures. The Army total manpower is said to be at around 100,000, or whom around 15,000 are committed in Afghanistan. As anyone familiar with military history knows, those in action now, will not be those in action even in a year or two, nor later. There is a rapid turnover. At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 the 71st was claimed to have only 13 of the 800+ men who began the long march in Spain in 1808, and this was typical. I suspect the figure is right, having gone through the muster rolls of the 71st and others that are available. That was seven years.
In July 1945 when the 7th Armoured Division represented the British Army in the Allied Victory Parade in Berlin, many of the men there had not been with the division when the Battle of El Alamein was fought in late 1942. There had been remanning before invading Sicily in 1943, again for the 1944 Normandy landings, and after the advance through France further substantial remanning. In order to sustain this division of around 17,000 men a through put of about 75,000 men were needed on top of the normal extra-divisional military support. This was less than three years. We have been in Afghanistan now close to eight years.
So for the 15,000 there now, there will be those in the immediate reserve, and behind those, troops in first stage, and second stage training. So to sustain 15,000, now, others are in the immediate reserve, with a greater number needed for the future. In short, perhaps a half or more of the Army as it stands is required for the Afghanistan commitment. Of the rest, despite the out sourcing of much activity, it is only a small base on which to conduct overseas military operations. Also, it has to be remembered that the deaths and severe casualties are the smaller numbers. There are many more who have served already, perhaps several times, in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, who are still in one piece but beyond active service and are serving in the Army in other necessary capacities.
Now we come to the Metropolitan Police, on active service in Londonistan. The effect the lawyer politicians have had on this group of men and their management is deeply worrying. There have been two minor events recently, don’t believe the hype in the media, they have been trivial compared to some in the past. They are the G20 business and the recent confrontation between two groups of hooligans using football as an excuse. The Met’ has not done well; this is not the place to discuss it. What seems to be a major problem is the protocols and procedures married to command systems that cannot cope with a changing situation on the ground. There have been too many other bad examples recently.
At the West Ham ground the Met’ officers did not seem to know what they were doing or why and the hooligan groups were a hapless disorganised bunch of drunks, fat, unfit, and basically useless. The G20 protestors essentially were a random sample of activists. If the Met’ cannot handle this lot, what could happen if they are faced with groups that are anywhere near capable, half decently organised, sober, and with effective communications? The shambles at Kingsnorth with the Kent Constabulary does not suggest that any of the provincial forces could do any better, and some a great deal worse.
Where the two come together is closer than you may think. It was reported a few days ago that over the channel are 1000+ Afghans determined to come to Britain. Perhaps they are eager to take part in awareness courses under initiatives promoted by Harriet Harman. Perhaps they are hoping to find jobs in the expanding public sector. Perhaps they have watched so much Premier League football on satellite TV that they are eager to become football supporters. The point that we ought to consider is how many are already here, and how many more are in the pipeline. Add to those others of the same broad belief systems from neighbouring areas, and you begin to have some serious figures. Many may have been amongst the 100,000 or so “students” a year who disappear from the figures during or at the end of their course.
If you are a determined pessimist, you may calculate that not only are there far more militant Afghans and related others in Britain than there are British troops in Afghanistan, but the numbers of their reserves and recruits in Britain are much greater than the numbers in the British Army and the disparity is growing steadily. In less than three years in London there is to be a 16 day festival of sports under the Olympic product label, sponsored by consumer and financial product companies which will have the whole of the world’s media in attendance. So there is less than two years to have the organisation fully prepared and ready.
If the Army is still committed to Afghanistan with nothing to spare for internal security, and the Met’ and provincial police forces are still a bunch of jobsworth bureaucrats with mobile phones wandering and wondering what do to and when the various committees back at control make up their minds, what might happen?