Sunday, November 08, 2009

Afstan: Brits to reduce combat effort to win public support?

My word. Three stories (via Norman's Spectator):

1) McChrystal seeks to keep UK troops 'out of harm's way'
General aims to foil Taliban plan to make Afghanistan a British election issue

Barack Obama's top general in Afghanistan is considering a radical realignment of Britain's role in the country amid fears that the Taliban will target UK troops in the run-up to next May's general election.

General Stanley McChrystal, Nato commander in Kabul, believes Britain's continued involvement would be politically more palatable at home if its 9,000 soldiers were moved out of "harm's way" from the frontline in Helmand.

Senior defence strategists fear that the death toll of British soldiers, currently 230, could be as high as 400 by the time of the election in six months, as Taliban fighters try to exploit UK public concerns about the war...

The McChrystal plan would be welcomed by those arguing for a phased withdrawal in the face of rising British casualties. But it could be seen as a humiliating downgrading of Britain's status. A senior military source said: "Given the risks of a UK strategic withdrawal prompted by the high casualty rate over the summer, McChrystal feels the need to keep Britain 'in the fight' by withdrawing British forces from harm's way, by firstly pulling them back into a smaller area of operations commensurate with their resources [what the CF have already done]; and secondly by transferring them to a 'capacity-building' rather than a 'frontline mission' [I wonder if our government will attempt quietly to slide the CF in that direction now]."

Gordon Brown on Friday [Nov. 6] said British troops would stay in Afghanistan, but insisted that they could not be expected to risk their lives if President Hamid Karzai did not stamp out corruption after his clouded second-term victory. For the first time, the Prime Minister raised the prospect of the mission's failure, saying the UK and US would "succeed or fail together"...
2) Army wants to retreat in Afghanistan
ARMY CHIEFS are drawing up plans to withdraw British troops from outlying bases in Afghanistan.

In what would be a significant change of strategy against the growing Taliban insurgency, they are considering abandoning several bases including Musa Qala, the scene of bloody battles that claimed 15 British lives. Army forces would attempt to hold only the larger towns in Helmand province.

It is understood the new “retrenchment” strategy is backed by the head of the army, General Sir David Richards.

Gordon Brown has yet to take a final decision, however. Ministers are concerned the new strategy would be branded defeatist [emphasis added]...
3) Ministers question future of Afghan mission

No wonder another US combat brigade, likely Marines, seems wanted for Helmand. If the Brits go really dovish, it will effectively be the US doing almost all the fighting alone. Sad. What an "alliance".


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