Yesterday in my piece on Brexit I made some observations on the recent form of the British military.
Today in the New York Times there is a timely article on the small patch of ground in Afghanistan which cost 106 British lives to hold in the last decade.
The Brits finally evacuated from the strategically important town in 2010.
In the same year the Afghan defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, said American troops were better equipped and better trained than their British allies.
Driving around in their cheap and nasty Snatch Land rovers the Brits were easy pickings of the I.E.D.s planted by their local enemy.
Wardak said in 2010:
“They came with all these I.E.D. threats and their soft Land Rovers; I think a lot of people were amazed …they came to a really difficult province in Afghanistan with just Land Rovers, which are not much different than the ones driven in the streets of London.”
Now the Taliban have control of Sangin again.
Of course, the Brits can have victory parades in London and show off their military prowess to The People at Ibrox if they feel the need.
However, the reality is that the last two wars that the British Army have fought in (Iraq and Afghanistan), they have been defeated in the field by poorly equipped Islamist militias.
The Mahdi Army, a Shia outfit led by Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra, and by the locals in Afghanistan.
The latter go by the name of the “Taliban” although that really is a catch all for anyone who had a go at the occupying force.
It is simply the Pashto word for “students”.
This is because it was a group of young men from an Islamic seminary who seized power in a largely lawless Kandahar in 1994.
A local warlord who had raped a local girl was hanged from a tank gun barrel.
The lynch mob were led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, a teacher in the college.
This incident was the start of the regime that sheltered Bin Laden and his crew.
Initially, the local people were happy to have some law and order imposed in their city.
However, then came in the harsh laws, like the banning of secular music.
Being caught owning hi fi system became a capital offence.
In fact, lots of things under Taliban rule became punishable by death.
After 911 it was clear that the Bin Laden harbouring regime had to go.
Helmand Province (about the size of England) was always going to be the hardest nut to crack, and that job was given to the British.
The formal title of the UN mandated NATO force there is “ISAF” (International Security and Assistance Force).
My American cousins suggested to me that it really stands for “I Saw Americans Fight”.
They certainly were not impressed by the Brits in battle.
Once more, this is at variance with the Jingoistic narrative beloved of the Daily Mail brigade.
Here in a piece from August 2007 in that well know anti-British Army rag The Financial Times Stephen Fidler lays out the facts.
The title of the piece “How the British army lost Basra” should provide a few clues to what actually happened there in 2007.
After the British left Basra place for the agreed safety of the airfield, the Mahdi Army became the de facto civil and military power in the city.
They controlled Basra for a year until the US forces regained control.
During that interregnum scores of women were murdered, some in full view of the public.
Their crime, in the view of the local militia, was they were insufficiently Islamic.
It is worth noting that the oppressive situation of women in the country was not laws thus.
This is a picture of two women in a record store in Kabul in the 1970s.
Here is a “then and now” picture of women in Kabul in the last 40 years and it makes for a depressing sight.
During the time that the Mahdi Army were ruling Basra, the British Army “provided over watch” from the safety of the airfield.
That was the deal that they struck so that they wouldn’t be attacked.
That left the militia free to impose their grim interpretation of Islam on the women of Basra.
It was a shameful capitulation and an ignominious end to an illegal war launched on lies.
Now the locals are back in charge of Sangin, the site of another British defeat.
This should be a sobering lesson to anyone in dear old Blighty who think that they can give anyone a slap in the 21st century.
Please, pull the other one.
It’s got an I.E.D. attached to it.