The Ministry of Defence has been accused of paranoia for trying to ban a book that exposes intelligence blunders in the war in Afghanistan. The Daily Mail reports that Captain Dr Mike Martin from the Territorial Army spent six years researching the history of the conflict, and is pressing ahead with publication despite objections.
The book will be embarrassing for the Ministry of Defence as it exposes a surprising lack of leadership, intelligence and basic knowledge of the Afghan population. Dr Martin, who has now walked out of the Army in disgust at the censorship, argues that the war is not between the government and the Taliban but is instead a tribal dispute.
The book cites one example in 2008 when the Governor of Nad-e Ali asked British soldiers to clear the Taliban from the village of Shin Kalay. But the ‘Taliban’ were in fact a tribal militia raised by village elders to protect the community from the District Police, who had been accused of raping young boys and stealing property.
It later emerged that the Governor was from a rival tribe, and had been evicted from the village in the 1980s when he was a police chief under the Communist regime.
Dr Martin said: “The British had a very simplistic understanding of the conflict – an understanding that did not chime with how the Helmandis themselves saw the conflict. The insurgency narrative … meant we often made the conflict worse, rather than better.”
The former TA Captain maintains that his book is vital to learn lessons from the conflict. A view that was backed by General Sir David Richards, who retired recently from the military, having commanded international forces in Afghanistan between 2006 – 2007. He said the book was “quite simply, the book on Helmand. I sincerely wish it had been available to me when I was ISAF Commander in Afghanistan.”
The war in Afghanistan cost 448 British lives and last 13 years. It is unclear whether any long-term improvements have been made to the country.