U.S. military officials carp about British troops in Afghanistan

Following up on our Dec. 15 story that international military-humanitarian coordination problems are sinking U.S. success in Afghanistan, a new United Press International (UPI) report claims that there is more grumbling about Britain’s counterinsurgency efforts in the perpetually troubled Helmand province.

From a story entitled U.S. said unhappy with Brit Afghan efforts:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 16 (UPI) — U.S. military officials are privately grumbling about what they consider Britain’s poor performance in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, sources say.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is reluctant to commit 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan after getting a bleak progress report while U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is voicing strong reservations about the effectiveness of Britain’s counterinsurgency efforts in Helmand, unnamed sources told Tuesday’s Times of London.

Gates has announced plans for a surge of 20,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan, which could involve taking over from Britain in the restive southwestern province. The Times said U.S. military officials are upset over what they see as Britain’s lack of equipment, including helicopters, leaving their troops unable to perform the same tasks as U.S. counterparts and leading to more cautious tactics.

You know it’s getting testy when unnamed Defense Department officials roast the Brit commanders as allegedly having “an air of superiority” but who need to be “rescued” from provincial counterinsurgency missions by U.S. air strikes on Taliban targets.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann raised similar concerns when he told The Colorado Independent, “Many of the NATO allies serve 4-6 month tours which means they barely have time to destroy anything designed by their predecessor before they abandon the field to the chaos of their successor.”

Extending the average six-month tours of duty for the 8,000 troops garrisoned in Helmand is a volatile subject in the U.K. and other NATO nations. In a Sunday Herald story, British military officials warned that Afghanistan could become another Northern Ireland — a bloody 38-year civil war politely known as “The Troubles,” which involved 20,000 British troops.

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