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Saturday, September 26, 2009

UK commander quits ....

Fri, 25 Sep 2009 15:03:09 GMT

The resignation of a senior British general extremely critical of the handling of the war in Afghanistan has caused a media frenzy.

Major-General Andrew Mackay, 52, resigned his commission on Thursday "for personal reasons," according to the Ministry of Defense, but it is understood that the commander was unhappy about some aspects of current war strategy.

He is reportedly the most high-ranking commander to resign since the start of the operations in 2001, and the fifth senior officer to leave the Forces prematurely in the space of two years. With mounting number of casualties hurting the already floundering public support and elections due by June 2010, the series of high-ranking military resignations could not come at a worst time for the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

While the Sun newspaper interpreted Mackay's resignation as "a huge blow" for Brown's government, the Daily Mail denounced it as an "embarrassment". "Don't be surprised if other senior officers follow his lead between now and the election.

It has got to the stage where officers are now prepared to fall on their swords rather than pretend to their soldiers all is well when it is clearly not," a senior military source told the Daily Mirror. The Daily Telegraph said the former brigade commander was shocked at the state of affairs upon arriving in Afghanistan in 2007, and is quoted as having said senior officer were "making it up as we go along." Since April 2008, he has been critical of the conduct, saying no efforts were made to "retain, gain and win" the trust of the Afghan population and that could mean failure in the long term.

A damming parliamentary report published this August, with his insight and help, concluded that British troops in southern Afghanistan, especially in volatile Helmand province, were let down by senior officers. The mission there "was undermined by unrealistic planning at senior levels, poor coordination between (government) departments and, crucially, a failure to provide the military with clear direction," the report read.

There are also concerns over the future of a conflict already in its eighth year, and nowhere close to an end, according to senior military commanders of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. Military commanders have called for more troops to back Britain's current 9,000-strong presence, but Brown has recently indicated that he would not deploy any more combat forces amid public anger over mounting fatalities, which has surpassed the country's death toll in Iraq.

This is while the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is expected to link avoiding failure in the war with the deployment of 30,000 more troops in his assessment due next week.

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