British SAS Chief Quits Over Poor Afghanistan Equipment

Just last Friday, Douglas Duncan’s WPR piece on poor morale amongBritish armed forces mentioned the problem of troops deployed inAfghanistan and Iraq not being propoerly or adequately equipped. Thispast Monday, the Telegraph (via Defense Industry Daily) reported on anew equipment controversy, this one involving Britain’s lightly armoredSnatch Land Rovers, in which four British soldiers — including itsfirst female casualty of the war — were killed in June. The commanderof British SAS (special forces) troops in Afghanistan has now resignedas a result:

In his resignationletter, Major Morley, the commander of D Squadron, 23 SAS, said”chronic underinvestment” in equipment by the Ministry of Defence wasto blame for their deaths.
TheOld Etonian officer, a cousin to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, isunderstood to have described the MoD’s failure to buy better equipmentas “cavalier at best, criminal at worst”.

I’ll have moreto say about Barack Obama and Europe shortly. For now, suffice it tosay that a big part of Obama’s political approach is an emphasis onpersonal responsibility, demonstrated by his penchant for not shyingaway from making tough demands of people and constituencies. Withregards to Europe, that has been formulated as a call for recommittingto the Afghanistan effort, mainly in terms of increasing troop levels.But as Duncan’s piece and this Telegraph piece both illustrate, notonly are more European troops going to be hard to come by, there’s alot of investment needed just to get the ones that are already overthere properly equipped. The British experience echoes that of theFrench, and I’m sure would echo that of the Germans if the Germansallowed their troops to be deployed into combat zones (which they don’tfor the time being).

Meanwhile, as the EU foreign ministers madeclear on Monday, the expectation in Europe is of a complete overhaul ofthe strategic approach to Afghanistan, with a concentration on apolitical/reconstruction effort that will gradually supercede themilitary component. I have a hunch this means negotiated settlementswith the more moderate insurgents, combined with a subsequentconcentration of existing forces (rather than increased deployments) inmore hostile areas. But even if there were concessions in terms of moretroops, I’d be surprised they’d be significant, and shocked if theydidn’t come with demands of a greater European say in the direction ofthe operation.

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