Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Double down in Helmand

War is a tough teacher. Stretched thin by the "ridden hard and left-up wet" policies of Labour, the British are pushing their own surge in AFG.

BRITAIN is to deploy its biggest contingent of paratroopers and special forces since the second world war in a bid to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ministers are to send 3,000 paratroopers, including the entire Parachute Regiment, to southern Afghanistan in the spring, as well as trebling the number of special forces in the country.

It will be the first time in the regiment’s history that all four para battalions, including its reservists, have fought together on the same battlefield.
Hmmm. Looks like a 12-month fighting season this year.

There is another background story running in parallel here. As the Anglo-Saxon-Dutch-Pole-Dane-Estonian army digs in - the soft underbelly of NATO continues to look at the face of the enemy and starts making glances at the exit.

NATO's failure to deliver on pledges made to Afghanistan has frustrated the United States and raised questions in Washington about Europe's commitment to that war, according to U.S. officials.

Next week marks the first anniversary of NATO taking control of operations throughout Afghanistan. It also marks a year of unfilled requirements that military officers say hurt their ability to combat a resurgent Taliban.

The requirements, many of which are classified, include more helicopters, hundreds of troops and 3,200 trainers for Afghan forces, according to U.S. officials.

NATO has about 35,000 troops in Afghanistan. Of the 26,000 U.S. troops there, 15,000 are dedicated to the NATO mission while the rest conduct counterterrorism operations. Britain has the second-largest presence, with about 7,000 troops.


"NATO countries at the highest level made commitments at Riga about what they would do and when they would do it in Afghanistan and those commitments have not been fulfilled," Long said.

"The biggest example of that is exactly the example you're talking about," she said when asked about Germany.

Gates blamed apathetic voters in Europe for the lack of commitment on the part of NATO allies more broadly.

"My overall impression is most European governments get it. They understand how important Afghanistan is and they are actually eager to fill the commitments they've made," he said.

"The problem is many of them are coalition governments. Some of them are minority governments in a coalition. And there is a lack of appreciation on the part of their voters of why Afghanistan is important."

The Pentagon chief has ordered a report from his staff before the October meeting on pledges allies have not met.

So, what lesson has the teacher given us? Well, let me give you a quote.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging the future but by the past."

--Edward Gibbon
The lesson is that having a functioning, useful and effective military able to execute national policy takes numbers; numbers in both material and equipment. It takes funding, it takes a long-term focus on sustainable warfighting, industry, and intellectual capital pipelines that feed it.

You cannot "transform" yourself into the cheap and easy. From a historical perspective, even the "huge" USA military is small when judged by the amount of treasure we are spending on it.
Unfortunately, while I applaud the British efforts, there is a great question on their ability to sustain what they are doing. One hopes the first act or two are strong - as I am not sure if there can be a third or fourth (we have that challenge as well in IRQ, so yes I know the glass house I play in). The USA at least is trying at least to grow its military and is spending to try to match its burn-through of personnel & equipment. Notsomuch with our British allies. The mal-treatment of their military by Labour is a scandal - at least it would be treated as such if there was a Conservative Government in power. Sigh.

While we are on the subject, check in tomorrow for an overview of what is happening to Nelson's legacy. Bring a glass of Port or shot of Rum with you, you will need it.

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