The Ministry of Defence is “institutionally incapable” of running a successful campaign in Afghanistan, a top Army commander has claimed in a critical assessment of the operation in Helmand province.
Major-General Andrew Mackay, who commanded 52 Infantry Brigade in Helmand when he was a brigadier, resigned in September after voicing personal doubts about the way the campaign was being run.
In a paper published by the MoD’s Defence Academy at Shrivenham, in Oxfordshire, General Mackay says that messages from London often had “no relevance at ground level” to troops engaged in contact with the Taleban. He described the messages from the MoD as “a diluted and distant memory” by the time that they reached the front line.
The British Army in Helmand, he claimed, had also “consisently failed” to understand the motivations of the local Afghans.
After returning from Afghanistan in 2008, Brigadier Mackay was promoted to Major-General and became Scotland’s most senior commander, taking charge of the 2nd Division in Edinburgh. His resignation was a blow to the Army because he had distinguished himself in Afghanistan and was highly rated as a counter-insurgency veteran.
General Mackay’s assessment of what he regards as the MoD’s failures in Afghanistan appears in a 40-page report, written jointly with Steve Tatham, a senior commander in the Royal Navy.
They call for a new “hearts and minds” strategy which focuses less on winning battles against the Taleban and more on understanding their culture, economy and psychology. (end of excerpt)
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