Rather than withdrawing an additional 500 troops next summer, Mr Cameron will tell the Commons today that they will instead be withdrawn at the end of the year. This might seem like small beer to some. But to the commanders on the ground it could make all the difference between making a success of Britain's long and costly involvement in Afghanistan and crawling home with their tails between their legs, as was the case in southern Iraq four years ago.So British troops came "crawling home with their tails between their legs", from southern Iraq, did they? And, while I would be the last to disagree, I don't recall Coughlin saying that at the time, or shortly thereafter. In fact, on 18 December 2008, we got this:
But then, this is the great military analyst who, in April 2008 was writing:
When the Iraqi government declares war on the British Army, the time has come to pack up and go home. And, if the fiasco of the Iraqi government's recent ill-judged assault on Basra is anything to go by, that moment has arrived.The "fiasco of the Iraqi government's recent ill-judged assault on Basra" was, of course, the risky but highly successful Operation "Charge of the Knights" which we called correctly at the time, while the British media and the likes of Con Coughlin were floundering. It cleared the Mahdi Army out of Basra and restored peace to the city, after the British Army had failed and retreated to its barracks. It became the defining moment for Iraq.
Yet this is the man lauded by his employers and the world at large as the great sage, the great military and political guru. And now, after getting it consistently wrong, without so much as a blush, he re-invents the record to accord with reality.
And as for his current analysis, if he thinks withdrawing 500 troops from Afghanistan in the winter instead of the summer is going to make the slightest bit of difference, he is in the land of the fairies – where he has always been. Just how do the likes of Coughlin continue to get it so wrong, and still get taken seriously?