Afghanistan : The Battle for Helmand

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    • #110125
      Max
      Keymaster

        This is a very good, very interesting and somewhat painful documentary. I was deeply involved with this and know many of the people in the video.

        I arrived in Helmand in early 2007 for a two year stint contracting for the office. I had just spent 3 years in Iraq in the ‘wild west’ days and I had not really had any attention on Afghanistan since deploying there with BritMil after 9/11 (mainly to Bagram / Kabul / RC East-ish areas). It seemed to have gone silent after 2002 until Helmand kicked off in 2006, as shown in the video. BritMil went there and created an insurgency.

        I had a role working recce, liaison and security in Helmand. It turned out many times that I found myself between a political rock and a hard place. At the higher levels of BritMil, Brigade Command, there was a political aspect that belied ground truth. They wanted places to be secure so that they could push civilian reconstruction workers / projects in there (i.e. Foreign Office / DFID types). The reality on the ground was very different. Part of my role was to supply security advice / ground truth across to the Foreign Office and they had strict ‘duty of care’ polices for employees, which mostly meant there was no way in hell we could place them out from Lashkar Gah into outlying posts. We did, however, manage to get some of that done in various places.

        I don’t really mention this much, content that when people read my scrubbed resume, they assume I am a security contractor knuckle-dragger. Fair enough. The interesting thing was that as a former captain I knew many of the people deployed out there with BritMil, and Brigade Commanders had a hard time because they found I would not be intimidated but they saw me in their own mind still as a captain, and thus I should just do what I was told. One of them is in the video!

        The retaking of Musa Qala is in the video. We did that, and it was a well done operation. BritMil secured the area, putting in a choke hold by surrounding the town, and then US forces (‘Task Force 51’ if I recall correctly?) did an air assault into the valley to the north and fought down the valley. We went in with ANA to put the flag up – political symbology. We installed the governor of Musa Qala, he looked just like a character out of Pirates of the Caribbean with his black kohl eye-shadow and curly toed sandals and robes. I was sure he was a fucking pedo. Political expediency. We lost the town again later. Did the US Marines retake it?

        So I would get out and go in to places and conduct liaison and reconnaissance. Depending on the situation, that may be embedded with a BrtMil patrol or operation, or whatever. Of course I had the resume to fit right in. We did this work to develop the situation and set things up for the grown-ups to come down from the office in Kabul and take the glory. Having contractors doing the work on the ground is a great cut-out.

        I did my best also to try to get reconstruction types in despite the kinetic nature of the situation and the restrictive duty of care requirements. Most of them were confined to Lashkar Gah otherwise. but BritMil Brigade HQ lied all the time and I had my own Intel team and my own eyes out there on the ground. A shown in the video, they could not secure it to really allow reconstruction to happen. One time, even in Lash, we were moving in a close protection convoy down to the Governor’s Office, through a market street, and a suicide bomber threw himself onto the hood of one of the vehicles, detonating. The EOD guy had a compound inside Lash and along the wire of the HESCO bastions, he had all the sandals of the suicide bombers put up on display. He told me: “I always find the flip flops.” LOL.

        All in all, it was a stressful thankless job. Political fucking expediency. My wife had been sent back to the US from London and in the end, with our first child, I gave it up and quit, deciding to just become an American.

        That’s probably enough of a confession, as we head up to Remembrance Sunday.
        :-(

      • #110126
        Max
        Keymaster

          What I also find interesting, is that I do not think I have a single photo from Helmand. I am always fascinated by these Instagram heroes with all their photos, and their ‘Throwback Thursday’ photos. These jobs are not the sort of jobs where you take photos, or even think of it. I spoke to Tommy by email, and he is not even allowed photos in his current contracting job.

        • #110127
          Joe (G.W.N.S.)
          Moderator

            …they assume I am a security contractor knuckle-dragger.

            I’ve known for sometime that most don’t understand or appreciate your true background, some of this through ignorance. Though much seems intentional? ;-)

            Who am I to say?

            All in all, it was a stressful thankless job. Political fucking expediency.

            So much potential, so much wasted. :scratch:

            What I also find interesting, is that I do not think I have a single photo from Helmand. I am always fascinated by these Instagram heroes with all their photos, and their ‘Throwback Thursday’ photos. These jobs are not the sort of jobs where you take photos, or even think of it. I spoke to Tommy by email, and he is not even allowed photos in his current contracting job.

            I’ve tried to point out the value of “indicators,” this “Instagram heroes with all their photos” is an indicator.

            Speaks volumes.

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