Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Anglosphere's quarreling brothers

There are few things out there US and UK officers like to do more than pick each other apart. Like two brothers always trying to judge one by the other, from the outside it looks like conflict; it really isn't.
It is understood that there has been “tension and resentment” over the air of superiority adopted by British commanders such as Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who suggested that his American counterparts needed to take lessons from Britain’s experience in Northern Ireland and Malaya.

David Kilcullen, an adviser to the US State Department, told a recent seminar that there had been “lots of fairly snide criticism” from the British whose attitude had been: “Look at us, we’re on the street in our soft caps and everyone loves us.”

He added that such claims had been undercut by the performance since then. “It would be fair to say that in 2006 the British Army was defeated in the field in southern Iraq.” At the same event, Daniel Marston, an American consultant who until recently was a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and has been embedded with troops in Afghanistan, said that Britain was being forced to learn some humility after being “embarrassed by their performance”.

It is just two nations who expect a lot out of each other. In the end, we both know that both do the West's heavy lifting.

Any tension out there is for this reason,
Mr Brown hinted at some of his doubts when he told reporters in Kabul: “We are the second largest force in Afghanistan and we will expect as part of the burden-sharing that other countries will do more.” Senior diplomatic sources say there is also frustration in Britain’s military over the lack of a coherent mission statement for the Nato forces in Afghanistan. This has led to problems with US forces sometimes wrecking carefully nurtured community relations in their pursuit of al-Qaeda.

Carter Malkesian, an expert at the Centre of Naval Analysis, said: “Among those in the Department of Defence who are paying attention to these operations, Britain’s reputation has probably fallen. But they still recognise that the British Army, among all the allies, are those that fight the most and fight the best.”

A British officer in Afghanistan expressed surprise at the criticism from the US. “They have few enough allies who will actually do any fighting,” he told The Times.
That is the story - not the US and UK giving each other weggies.

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