20 search results for "chinook"

Chinook
RAF Chinooks are crucial to military operations in Afghanistan

Great news then, trumpeted all over the media as Quentin Davies and the MOD tells us it has 408 million to upgrade Chinooks with new engines and cockpits.

Well it would be if it wasn’t recycled news. It’s been well known for some time that the Chinooks needed upgraded and back in 2008 we had this story taken from Flight International. It is dated 18th October 2008 nearly a whole year ago and says:

Efforts to bring the UK Royal Air Force’s fleet of Boeing CH-47 transport helicopters to a common configuration have been launched, with funding secured to start modernisation work on eight of its 40 Chinook HC2/2As.

Dubbed Project Julius, the work includes the integration of digital avionics and an engine upgrade to Honeywell’s T55-714 standard, and builds on existing efforts to provide Bowman battlefield communications connectivity and successor identification friend-or-foe equipment.

Meanwhile, so-called reversion work on the RAF‘s eight previously stored Chinook HC3s is on track, with the first extended-range aircraft to soon arrive at RAF Odiham in Hampshire for trials of its replacement analogue cockpit, integrated by Qinetiq.

A strange similarity there between today’s  “announcement ” and last years story, what can be the difference?.

And what can be the difference between this story from 13th August 2009

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) has agreed to purchase 55-L-714A engines and spares from Honeywell to retrofit the RAF’s fleet of 48 Chinook helicopters under a contract valued at $185 million. The 55-L-714A is the international customer upgrade for the T55 turboshaft engine [PDF]. The upgrade increases the engine power by 17%, increases the maintenance intervals and reduces fuel consumption by nearly 5%, according to Garrett Mikita, president of defense and space at Honeywell Aerospace.

and today’s story.

Surely they are not one and the same story? Obviously we are upgrading these Chinooks every six months, this can be the only explanation unless the MOD and Quentin Davis are lying.

The biggest give away is of course actually in the MOD story when it says:

Fortunately there were no casualties in the recent Chinook loses and Mr Davies revealed that in the second incident the helicopter was able to continue flying and reach safety despite being badly damaged by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). This was because the helicopter was one of the vehicles fitted with the new engines. All crew and passengers were then safely extracted on a second Chinook taking part in the mission.

Of course this story is from back on the 20th August 2009 a week after the agreement to purchase the new engines was apparently signed, surely we can’t be fitting engines that quickly, which must mean we have been getting the engines for some time.

So what we must conclude from the Press Release today is that this is yet again another re-announcement. It is not new money or indeed anything new, it is just a cobbled together Propaganda story to try and show that the Labour Government is helping our Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

This is a complete and utter travesty of the truth, but just nothing less than what you would expect from Gordon Brown, lickspittle Defence Minister Bob “Busta Gut” Ainsworth and their toady Quentin Davis.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Equipment and Logistics | RAF Chinooks to be upgraded for Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth Brownies Busta Gut Gordon Brown Labour Sleaze MOD Politics

Very strange that we should lose a Chinook to Taliban actions and yet it is barely reported in the British MSM.

Why would this be after the furore they made over the lack of helicopters in Afghanistan. We lose one of only 8 Chinooks currently available and it is not near the front of the news.

Still struggling to get time to blog, but will return to this over the weekend.

Taliban destroy Chinook in attempted election ‘spectacular’ – Telegraph.

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Afghanistan

A Chinook has gone down in Afghanistan and has had to be destroyed to stop it falling into enemy hands.

Happily there were no casualties from this incident.

A shoot-down of a Chinook would be a huge public relations win for the Taliban at this time.

This will obviously have some knock-on effects in the transport of equipment and forces for the Armed Forces in Afghanistan. The MOD were boasting about a 5 mile long convoy, this may add to the length of future convoys and add to the danger of the drivers and those  protecting the convoy.

The MOD has talked about the short and medium term replacement of this airframe but how long are these terms for the MOD. Medium could mean 3-5 years or even more

The BBC has this:

The British crew escaped injury in Afghanistan after a Chinook helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing, the Ministry of Defence says.

The crew managed to safely evacuate the helicopter after an engine fire forced the landing in Helmand on Wednesday.

The MoD said it was not ruling out enemy fire as a possible cause for the emergency landing.

The aircraft was deliberately destroyed by a coalition airstrike to keep it out of enemy hands.

The crew were picked up by another Chinook immediately after the incident.

The Ministry of Defence said that in the short term other UK aircraft in the region, and those operated by Nato partners, would be able to cover the “helicopter lift requirement”.

“In the medium term, the UK’s joint helicopter command is already planning the replacement of this airframe,” it said.

BBC NEWS | UK | Crew unhurt in Chinook emergency.

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Afghanistan

In this article in the Telegraph ‘Slow Bob’ Ainsworth gets rather tongue-tied when questioned about Helicopters in Afghanistan.  No wonder, it is a huge embarrassment to this country and the MOD that despite knowing that helicopters are now the backbone of our Armed Forces to allow battlefield mobility and safe resupply we still have insufficient available on our front line.

Anyway this is what Ainsworth had to say about the fact that billions have been spent on equipment but nothing on aircraft so why not go and buy some Chinooks from the Americans or lease them?:

“You don’t just go and buy some Chinooks and that gives you an extra number of flying hours.

“You have to have a training methodology, you have to have crews, you have to keep them flying. Its flying hours that matter and helicopter availability that matters not the number of frames that you might have.”

When he is asked about the eight Chinooks which have been sitting in Boscombe Down gathering dust since 2001; helicopters which were bought for use by special forces but were unable to fly at night because of software problems, Mr Ainsworth shifts in his seat, looking uncomfortable.

“You’re right we have got those eight and we are working on them and I am not saying that that is something anyone can be proud of. It started under a Tory government and continued under our government. But those eight will go into theatre.”

Again I interject and tell the minister that while he says that the aircraft will be used in Afghanistan, the head of the RAF recently said that they would only be used for training.

“Well some of those will be used for training,” Mr Ainsworth replies. “We cannot have a Chinook fleet out there and not have a training fleet back here.

“We have got to configure the fleet so that we can do the business in the correct way but those eight will be available to the fleet next year and as many of them as is sensible to put at the front line will be put at the front line.”

Is that why no more were bought “No, no – look I know what Liam Fox (the shadow defence secretary) is saying.”

But it’s not just him, there is a head of steam building up over the issue of helicopters.

Looking increasingly frustrated, Mr Ainsworth adds: “There are people who are demanding more helicopters and who can blame them?

“They want more of anything they can get there hands on but we have had a 60 per cent up lift in helicopter frames in theatre in the last two years.

“We will have the Merlin (Royal Navy helicopter), we will have the upgraded Lynx (army Air Corps helicopter) and we will have the upgrade on the Chinook, which means it will be able to carry an extra 12 people. So all around, we are stepping up the helicopter availability and capability. You cannot just go and buy a Chinook.”

He’s right of course you cannot just go and buy a Chinook, no you need to buy the Chinook (Boeing are on 001-312-544-2000) and then invest in your forces to be able to use them, but this is what we haven’t done despite the obvious necessity for many years. You need the the Political Will and Leadership to do this and this is what is singularly missing from this government, not just on Military Procurement Strategy but in all facets of the strategy to sort out the problems in Afghanistan.

Bob Ainsworth: not backing troops in Afghanistan is ‘disgraceful’ – Telegraph.

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Afghanistan Bob Ainsworth Labour Ineptitude RAF

This is not a new story but the National Audit Office report is due out in public today on the £422m waste of money that are 8 Chinook Mk3 helicopters that have never seen active service despite being ordered in 1995. In 2004, an NAO report described the purchase as

“one of the worst examples of equipment procurement”

it had seen.

It is worth remembering that these 8 Chinooks (now being converted back to Mk2’s) are amongst the 14 helicopters that were promised as additional support for our Troops in Iraq/Afghanistan by the current Labour Government in 2007. These are not now due in service until late 2009/10, which based upon the prior history is perhaps a little bit of wishful thinking. A written ministerial Statement on May 20th 2008 has more details.

For a good discussion on the problems and issues see here.

Also worth looking here to see what helicopters we have available for use in the Forward Fleet. This shows that only roughly 60% of helicopters are available for active use. Table is produced below.

Helicopter Type Departmental total (total fleet) Number available (forward fleet) Number current and qualified pilots
Chinook 48 29 109
Merlin 70 41 108
Puma 45 34 95
Sea King 135 69 223

For the purposes of MOD reporting, the definition used for the number of helicopters available for use is the number in the Forward Fleet. This figure excludes any aircraft undergoing programmed upgrades, major repair or awaiting disposal.

BBC NEWS | UK | MoD accused of Chinook ‘cock-up’

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Afghanistan Labour Ineptitude

Sir Graeme is regarded as one of the Army?s most influential officers

British troops were deprived of the right equipment to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and were still being hampered by a lack of resources, the former head of special forces has claimed.

According to the Telegraph:

In a withering assessment of the “doomed” state of the military, the recently retired Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb said that the SAS had been denied even Vietnam-era equipment that could have saved lives. Resources remained insufficient to fight current and future conflicts, with much of the Army’s equipment

“either broken or lacking”,

Sir Graeme’s attack, in a speech to senior officers, is disclosed as Gordon Brown faces questions at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war. The inquiry has been told that the Armed Forces were forced to cope without a wide range of equipment because of a lack of funds from the Treasury when Mr Brown was chancellor.

In his speech, Sir Graeme said that politicians and the Civil Service bore “considerable blame” for the decline of the military. He said that the Iraq conflict had “tarnished” Britain’s standing and, until recently, Afghanistan had been “stumbling towards failure”.

The Armed Forces were “pretty much doomed on our current course and thinking” and would become the “dumpster of irrelevancy” unless they changed direction radically and gained the right equipment to fight today’s wars, he said. The focus on investing in ships, aircraft and tanks had endangered lives because it had left forces such as the SAS inadequately equipped with basic equipment, he claimed.

He warned that the Armed Forces were “clearly in decline” and were increasingly seen as “irrelevant” by the public and politicians. Sir Graeme disclosed that the lack of equipment had compromised the Bravo Two Zero SAS raid into Iraq in 1991, which included the soldier-turned-author Andy McNab. Helicopters were not equipped with a basic infra-red device to allow pilots to see at night — a piece of Vietnam-era kit — which meant that the eight-man patrol was left on the ground at the mercy of Saddam Hussein’s army. Three men died. A decade later, helicopters were still not equipped with the infra-red equipment, which almost led to the loss of two Chinooks as special forces tried to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. This was an example of a military that could do nothing more than “band-aid prevention”, said Sir Graeme.

The Ministry of Defence was buying equipment “we probably do not need” and unless it “mothball, cancel or break our procurement overdraft or sit down and reshape the force we so desperately need, we are unlikely to do anything”, he warned.

The future is bloody grim either way,” he said, “and the Reaper, unless you are prepared to prevent him, is probably going to join us for dinner.” Sir Graeme said that the military had to share the blame for the situation. The officer, known for his straight-talking, said that the Army’s leadership needed to “look no further than the mirror to identify the guilty party”.

Sir Graeme, who has been credited by the American General David Petraeus as a key architect in defeating the Iraqi insurgency, said that the Army’s leadership was at a “crossroads” where either “you play safe and join us old blokes or cry havoc and do your duty”. “We in uniform, the Armed Forces of this nation, are at fault for failing to recognise the changing character of the threats we face and then to do our duty and to set our store by the defence of this realm: all in all a somewhat damning indictment,” he said.

He added: “What you face is simply a moral challenge, a test of will and commitment that if you believe that all is not well – change it; do not wrestle with the sum of your fears; but embrace the course you believe to be right and charge down it; forge the trail and drag the rest with you.

We just have to look at stories like this about the Snatch Land Rover and it’s over long use in theatre to see what our Armed Forces have to deal with. Perhaps Gordon Brown will have read these articles before he goes before the Chilcot Inquiry tomorrow.

Army denied vital equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims former SAS head – Telegraph.

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Afghanistan

An RAF Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan. Recent conflicts have left the armed forces unable to take on new tasks, say MPs.

According to the Defence Commitee:

Army at full stretch, navy over-committed and RAF pilots short of planes for training

That just about covers the full gamut. The Guardian goes onto report:

Britain’s forces need a period of “effective recuperation” after operating at a rate well above official planning assumptions, a report by the Commons defence committee says today. “The MoD was unable to tell us how long it would take before the armed forces return to satisfactory levels of readiness”, it says.

It describes how RAF pilots are unable to train because aircraft are tied up on operations, the navy has too many commitments and major exercises are having to be cancelled.

The report quotes Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, a senior commander, as saying that his fellow senior officers believed the army needed to expand from about 102,000 troops to 112,000 to meet demand.

This is the state our dithering and delaying Prime Minister has brought  our Armed Forces to by his years of mis-management, first as Chancellor and lately as the Prime Minister.

The shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, said the report

“exposes the damage that has been done across the armed forces by Labour’s refusal to hold a proper review for over a decade.

It is clear that radical reform is needed to ensure that our armed forces are best configured to defend British interests and that our procurement programme gets our troops what they need, when they need it,”

This is something I have been saying for a while, and despite this Ainsworth wants to ring fence spending on items such as Trident and the new Aircraft Carriers BEFORE the SDR is carried out. This is political posturing rather than strategy as they attempt to bribe voters in marginal constituencies.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, said war in Iraq and Afghanistan had taken its toll on troops and echoed Lamb’s call for a boost to land forces.

“There is quite a strong argument to say that our land forces are not large enough, particularly units that may have done two or three tours in Iraq and are now on a second or third tour in Afghanistan,” he told GMTV. “Inevitably and sadly we have taken a number of casualties and people are tired. So those units need to be stronger. If they were 10% or 15% stronger they would be more resilient to casualties and if people become ill or injured.”

It is time to get the SDR done and sort out proper long term funding for our forces. How we sort out the shorter term problem of  knackered soldiers and equipment is much harder without a substantial withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is time to get our supposed allies to help us in Afghanistan.

Iraq and Afghanistan wearing down the military, MPs warn | UK news | guardian.co.uk.

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Armed Forces

Chinook

Not long ago Bob ‘ Busta Gut’ Ainsworth said he was busting a gut to help our Armed Forces in Afghanistan, maybe he hasn’t heard about a problem the MOD is apparently having with the Treasury who according to the Times are blocking the movement of budgets to allow the purchase of five Chinooks rather than upgrading Sea King helicopters. The  Times has this to say

The Treasury is blocking the Ministry of Defence from buying just five extra Chinook helicopters to send to Afghanistan, senior defence sources said last week. Defence chiefs have been desperate to get more helicopters to Afghanistan to provide protection against the Taliban’s successful bombing campaign. A total of 116 British servicemen and women have been killed by Taliban bombs since the campaign began in August 2007, more than three-quarters of the 151 who died in that period. Senior commanders have repeatedly said they need more transport helicopters to move troops and supplies to outlying bases in order to cut the numbers killed.A shortage of helicopters has forced troops to resort to supply convoys that are up to 100 vehicles long and stretch for two miles, leaving them easy prey to Taliban roadside bombs. Ministers have been talking about replacing a £300m programme to upgrade Sea King helicopters with a straightforward purchase of five new Chinooks. “But the Treasury has said we can’t switch the money from one to the other,” an MoD source said. “If we don’t upgrade the Sea Kings we don’t need the money.”

Seems strange that if the Armed Forces want to change how they spend their money the Treasury should say no. Perhaps this is more of a political decision as the Chinook money would likely go to the US whereas the upgrade money is likely to stay mostly within the UK, if it is this upgrade or similar that  is being talked about.

In other news in the Times it seems as if the MOD is asking the Royal Navy and RAF to cutback unnecessary spending to ensure enough money is available for Afghanistan.

Treasury block more helicopters for Afghanistan – Times Online.

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Afghanistan Busta Gut Politics

The normally quite peaceful Michael Yon has a real go at British Media OPs in Afghanistan and their erstwhile lickspittle leader Bob Ainsworth.  It shows the lengths that some within the MOD are going to cover-up some parts of the war in Afghanistan. The problem is that the truth hurts, but lies destroy. Without truth we cannot ever hope to defeat the enemy.

Michael starts out

The surprise discontinuation of my embedment from the British Army left my schedule in a train wreck.  Until that decisive moment, I am told, that my embed with the British Army had lasted longer than anyone else’s; other than Ross Kemp’s.  I’ve also been told that I’ve spent more time with the British Army in Iraq than any correspondent.  So it’s fair to say, we have good history together.

In the last 12 months, I’ve been the assigned journalist to the British Army in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, then over to the jungles of Brunei to attend a man-tracking school, and again back in Afghanistan.  During that time, I’ve also been with U.S. forces in Iraq, the Philippines, and Afghanistan.  I’ve accompanied the Lithuanians in Afghanistan and also been downrange for months without any troops or official assignment.

This dispatch, and many others, should have been about soldiers at war. But it’s not.  This dispatch is being written in downtown Kandahar City and I have not seen a soldier in days.  The Taliban is slowing winning this city.  There have been many bombings and shootings since I arrived in disguise.

But the real meat of the story is further into the article. Here are some selected quotes

Before going further, it is essential to underscore the importance of the “Media Ops” in the war. When Media Ops fails to help correspondents report from the front, the public misses necessary information to make informed decisions about the war. Many soldiers in the British Media Ops are true professionals who strive constantly to improve at their tasks and work very well with correspondents.  Their professionalism and understanding of the larger mission—ultimate victory—provide an invaluable service to the war effort.

This very Major had earned a foul reputation among his own kind for spending too much time on his Facebook page. I personally saw him being gratuitously rude to correspondents.  Some correspondents—all were British—complained to me that when they wanted to interview senior British officers, they were told by this Major to submit written questions.  The Major said they would receive videotaped answers that they could edit as if they were talking with the interviewee.  (Presumably, senior British officers are avoiding the tough questions, such as, “So, when do you plan to send enough helicopters?”)

When I asked a different Media Ops officer about meeting with a senior British General in Afghanistan, I was told that submitting a CV (curriculum vitae) would be helpful, to which I laughed.  A CV?  How about this:

Contrast this

For those who don’t know him, James Megellas is a retired U.S. Army officer who commanded Company “H” of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.  Maggie is the most-decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division, having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and been nominated for the Medal of Honor.  Maggie at 92 and is an extraordinary man.  He can give an eloquent speech for an hour without a single written note.

He has spent a couple months in Afghanistan—in the worst places—and I plan to go back with him in December.  He’s a true leader and a wise man, known to General McChrystal and General Petraeus. General Petraeus told me last week that CENTCOM had okayed Maggie’s trip to Afghanistan.  Maggie is an American treasure.  Last week in the Netherlands, “Maggie” was spending time General Petraeus and with European royalty, including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.  General Petraeus and World War II veterans stayed several days at the same hotel Maggie and I were in.

In Holland, folks were lining up to honor and pay tribute to our World War II veterans and General Petraeus.  I didn’t want to distract General Petraeus with any questions while he was so busy.  But on about the third day, there was a tap on my shoulder and I was told that General Petraeus had some time if I wanted to talk.

I asked the good General some tough questions on Afghanistan—the kind that would end discussions with timid people—yet, like normal, he fielded those questions with the candor that I so respect in him and have come to expect. The same has happened to me with the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and other top military leaders.  Gates and Petraeus will field challenging, difficult questions and will take what you throw at them.  Yet the British Media Ops in Afghanistan wants correspondents to submit written questions so they can provide tidy answers.  That’s a sad joke and there are many correspondents, including me, who are not laughing.

With this

When I deliver good news, out rolls the red carpet.  Bad news, and it’s time to fight again.  Only now it’s not Censoring Iraq, it’s Censoring Helmand.  And it’s not the U.S. doing it this time, but the British government.  The British people are demanding truth and they deserve accountability.  They aren’t getting it from Camp Bastion.

Some of the Media Ops guys in Afghanistan are good at something such as threatening future access if a correspondent shows “attitude” about being poorly treated.  My answer is go to hell. They can take their access and. . . .   I work for the soldiers, for the readers, and for the people in general.  If Media Ops chooses to be an obstacle, that is their choice.

Propaganda or Censorship?

Some of the smokescreens are less important but they are demonstrative of the pattern: On 20 August a, CH-47 helicopter was shot down by a Taliban RPG during a British Special Forces mission.  Richardson reported that the aircraft landed due to an engine fire.  Some hours later, while I was on a mission nearby, the Taliban were singing over the radios about shooting it down.  I heard the rumble when the helicopter was destroyed by airstrikes.  The Taliban knew they hit the helicopter.  So who is Richardson lying to?  Not the enemy…unless the enemy is the British public.

Consequences?

There is the maxim that a customer can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant’s kitchen by the restroom.  After much experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have discovered another: Soldiers always treat correspondents they way they treat the local people.  When soldiers treat correspondents badly, they treat local people even worse and are creating enemies.  Those troops who brag about how they mistreat or detest correspondents are abusing and resentful of the local population, and they cannot win this sort of war.  The people will kill them and the media will bash them and they will blame the people and the media.  When a soldier alienates sympathetic correspondents, he has no real chance against mortal enemies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, and they will defeat him.  Yet there is subtlety: for “the people,” in the case of Media Ops, is you.

Hogwash time

Meanwhile, as I noted British citizens began demanding answers from their government.

A question was asked and Minister of Defence Bob Ainsworth made public his reply:

Ann Winterton (Congleton, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defense for what reasons the journalist Michael Yon is no longer embedded with British armed forces in Afghanistan.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 14 September 2009, c2121W)

Bob Ainsworth (Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence; Coventry North East, Labour)

Opportunities to embed with Task Force Helmand are in high demand from across the media—national, regional, print, broadcast, specialist and new media. It is not possible to meet all requests and slots must be time-limited to ensure that the opportunities are shared as widely as possible. A normal embed for a national news organisation will last on average around two to three weeks, including time for travel.

Michael Yon had been embedded with British forces on a number of occasions before his recent visit—twice in Iraq in 2007, and once in Afghanistan in 2008. His latest embed had been scheduled to last for two weeks but it was extended to take account of delays to his arrival.

In all, his stay was extended twice and he was embedded for five weeks—much longer than is normally the case, and longer than had been agreed with him before he went. He was facilitated by British forces in a number of locations and given a high level of access both to the operations and to our personnel. At the end of this five-week period Task Force Helmand ended his embed as they were no longer able to support it given their other commitments, including other media visits.

That’s hogwash, Mr. Ainsworth. Pure hogwash!

Conclusion

My relationship with the British military is not diminished and I would go into combat with their soldiers anytime.  My respect for British soldiers is immense and undying.  But I’m ready to throw down with Media Ops if they even glance in my direction.  I refuse to work with the crew at Camp Bastion.

It’s hard to forget the Major’s cutting insults at the soldier who was training in the heat as a commendable young man.  Any combat troop, whether they are pilots, PJs, sailors, special operations, or my favorite—the infantry—should never be the subject of jokes or derision from any military leader of any rank.  The infantry soldiers are out there living like animals, taking bullets and getting blown up and, all while the Major sits back in his comfortable tent, playing on Facebook and watching The Simpsons. Those combat troops, British and American, are my family. That Major and his ilk should not cut fun of them.

Bottom line for the bad apples: Nobody is asking for access.  This is not a game.  Stay out of the way.

Bullshit Bob.

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Afghanistan Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth Censorship MOD Propaganda

iCasualties.org collates figure for casualties for all countries in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The link below shows the UK Casualties in Afghanistan, but the event I wanted to highlight is how these casualties are happening.

It is a sad fact that all, yes all, the casualties that occurred during August where as result of IED attacks, some followed by small arms fire as rescuers were ambushed. At least half of the deaths occurred in and around Sangin were I highlighted yesterday Michael Yon was embedded.

When we read Yon’s article we begin to understand how desperate the situation is in the area of Sangin. I have extracted the following as examples of how little of this area our Armed Forces control or can even patrol safely.

First on the difficulties of travel in the area:

We need more helicopters.  Enemy control of the terrain is so complete in the area between Sangin and Kajaki that when my embed was to switch from FOB Jackson to FOB Inkerman—only seven kilometers (about four miles) away—we could not walk or drive from Jackson to Inkerman.  Routes are deemed too dangerous.  Helicopter lift was required.  The helicopter shortage is causing crippling delays in troop movements.  It’s common to see a soldier waiting ten days for a simple flight.  When my embed was to move the four miles from Jackson to Inkerman, a scheduled helicopter picked me up at Jackson and flew probably eighty miles to places like Lashkar Gah, and finally set down at Camp Bastion.  The helicopter journey from Jackson began on 12 August and ended at Inkerman on the 17th.  About five days was spent—along with many thousands of dollars in helicopter time—to travel four miles.  Even Generals can have difficulty scheduling flights.  Interestingly, when I talk with the folks who reserve helicopter space, they say the Generals are generally easy-going about the lack of a seat, but that Colonels often become irate.

This will obviously not have been helped by the loss of yet another Chinook over the weekend which again had to be destroyed despite coming down close to our own bases.

Second on the arrogance of the Taliban in this area:

As the pilot brought the helicopter to the yellow pin called FOB Inkerman, an Afghan man had parked his car just near the front of the base on the 611.  He took out a shovel and began digging, hidden by his car, he thought, at a spot where a bomb had recently detonated.  A British soldier fired a warning shot and the man drove away.  An Apache helicopter eventually attacked the car out in the desert.  There he was, just within direct view of Inkerman, digging in a bomb.  This is typical of the larger situation.

Third on the difficulties of taking prisoners in case of affecting relations with the local population

The war is a busy place and far too much happens out there than can possibly be explained.  Llater that night, a platoon launched on a mission to raid several compounds.  I was invited on the mission on 18 August but did not go due to the usual writing-crunch and impending elections, and so during breaks I sat in the ops center and listened to the radio calls.  The raids unfolded, and after half a night the soldiers brought back six suspects, one of whom had run from the soldiers and urinated on his hands to remove explosives residue.  The terrain had been rough and the night was dark and so two soldiers busted their ankles.

Major Ian Moodie, commander of B Coy 2 Rifles, guaranteed me that in the morning there would be a gaggle of locals, including elders, who would arrive to demand release of the prisoners.  Major Moodie said this problem is exacerbated by the helicopter shortage; if he could get the prisoners extracted as soon as they were captured, he would be able to say that the prisoners had already been moved and there was nothing he could do, but already in the past he had decided to release prisoners to cool tensions.

Later in the day of 19 August, locals arrived to demand release of the six.  All were released except for one, who was finally picked up by a helicopter on the evening of the 19th, the day before the latest historical Afghan elections wherein Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai had reached the showdown to decide who would become the President of one of the most primitive countries on Earth, but one that probably gets more international press and attention than Japan and Germany combined.

And last but not least on what you should believe in the papers and what comes out from the MOD:

The soldiers keep streaming in from the mission.  The Pentagon and British MoD spin lies (though I have found Secretary Gates talks straight), but veins of pure truth can be found right here with these soldiers.  The Pentagon and MoD as a whole cannot be trusted because they are the average of their parts.  There are individual officers and NCOs among the U.S. and U.K. who have always been blunt and honest with me.  Among the higher ranking, Petraeus and Mellinger come to mind, but for day-to-day realities this is where it’s at.  Out here.  Nothing coming from Kabul, London, or Washington should be trusted.

To my mind what this says, is that when General Stanley McChrystal said the Coalition strategy in Afghanistan was failing he was understating the problem somewhat. Don’t expect the BBC to highlight this. It has disappeared from their website one day after they highlighted it. This is typical of the suppression and censorship that we are seeing in the UK.

Meanwhile back in La-La land Gordon Brown admitted it had been a “bad” summer.

iCasualties: Operation Enduring Freedom: Fatalities By Country.

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Afghanistan Gordon Brown La-La Land

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