Monday 2 November 2009

Correspondent's change of heart over more troops

Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times Washington correspondent and noted foreign reporter from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has written an interesting piece for this week's edition of The Spectator. In "More troops will just mean more targets" Lamb says she has changed her mind about the need for more troops in Afghanistan.
Her change of heart started with a meeting a year ago with junior officers about to go out to Afghanistan from the the British Army's 2 Rifles regiment based in Ballykinler, northern Ireland. Speaking as an experienced reporter who knew southern Afghanistan well, she was supposed to deliver an upbeat and amusing briefing to the young officers prior to the regiment's deployment to Helmand, something she had done before and which she had always enjoyed.
But this time it was different: "I had been in Helmand the previous month and was shocked at the lack of progress. How could I give a positive presentation of what the troops might achieve when the security situation was so much worse than before British troops arrived in 2006?"
She continues: "That night in Ballykinler, I looked around the room at the faces of the soldiers so eager to get out to Afghanistan. Some were so young they still had spots. As a mother myself, I couldn’t shake the thought that many would not come back. For all of them their lives would be changed."
The following day Lamb vowed never to give such a talk again.
Last week, she says, 2 Rifles returned from Helmand. During their tour of duty, 13 men from the regiment died and another 11 were badly wounded and remain in hospital.
Lamb's less emotional, but nonetheless convincing argument is that the Allies are propping up a corrupt government and that huge sums of money are being wasted on war in Afghanistan. As Lamb says, "The cost of one Javelin missile to blow up a compound of suspected Taleban is 80 times what the average Afghan makes in a year." A very powerful piece.

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