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Posted by Richard Sunday, July 19, 2009

Will Pike and Patrick Little, two relatively junior former Army officers (Majors both), write in The Independent on the Afghani war. Amongst other things, they write:

Many senior officers and civil servants in the MoD have failed to support and deliver a winning strategy. They are distracted by wrangling over the defence budget, with its expensive equipment programmes; none of which will benefit the front line anytime soon.
Do I hear FRES, Future Lynx, Watchkeeper ...? And then they go on:

Projects conceived decades before 9/11 must not be allowed to wreck the prospects of success in what the Government claims is a war of critical national importance. They need to focus on the current battle and deliver blunt and objective advice to their political masters. If that advice is not being taken, they should resign and tell the public why. Equally, the political masters must assess carefully the advice they receive and test it against their political objectives. Politicians should be fully engaged in what is going on in Afghanistan, and not be afraid to meddle where appropriate. What is being done – militarily, diplomatically or developmentally – is being done for a political end.

Some reform in the Army is under way. In inception parts of it is fairly radical, but none of it is funded and therefore fragile. It needs to go much further to address the longer term issues responsible for its ponderousness in learning and adapting. The Army needs a campaign of institutional renewal, facing up to its failings, and embracing critical debate. It needs to be prepared to overhaul any aspect of its organisation. Moreover it needs to prove that it now listens to its highly experienced middle-ranking officers. All the evidence suggests that they have not, in contrast to the bottom-up impetus that so transformed the US Army's performance in Iraq in 2007.

The military task force in 2006 was deployed beyond its remit, and thus over extended itself. This resulted in a bloody summer and widely dispersed dispositions that subsequent units had to inherit but were not resourced for. Thus the military arm extended beyond their political direction. Where was the national chain of command? Three years later nothing has changed – it is just a bigger force, with equally confused ends, ways, and means. The effort remains woefully resourced and poorly directed.
Then we get the journos' "take" on it: "The defence cuts bleeding our forces dry" write Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady. They cite a report from "experts" from the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) – prop. Charles Guthrie, ex CDS and now non-executive director of Colt Defense LLC, one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world.

And the UKNDA conclusion? "Defence provision must be increased steadily over the next three years to 3 to 3.5 percent."

Is it any wonder the defence "debate" never gets out the front door. The idle hacks are stuck in a groove, unable even to read their own newspapers, too busy pushing their pre-ordained narratives actually to be able to engage their brain cells. And they get paid for it!

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