What Afghan soldiers really think

The NATO Commander in Eastern Afghanistan has said that this year 54 foreign bases have already been closed Last December Channel 4 aired a documentary entitled Billion Dollar Base: Deconstructing Camp Bastion , the predominating takeaways from which were a) what phenomenal amounts of money we d spent on our eight-year operation in and around Helmand Province, and b) how unimpressed the Afghan brass were by what little we were leaving behind. I found myself watching most of it through gritted teeth; but it was hard, nevertheless, not to have some sympathy for the incoming Afghan soldiery. A new documentary film has now taken up that very story.

Tell Spring Not to Come This Year (dir. Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael McEvoy) offers us a rare glimpse of the Afghan National Army specifically, the heavy weapons company of the ANA s 3/3/215 Corps, in Nahr-e-Saraj as they take on the continuing Taliban (et al.) threat through the transition phase and into their first year without the support of a standing NATO troop presence. Many of them are evidently in two minds as to whether this is necessarily a good thing.

A mid-ranking officer, at company prayers (sic): In 2014 our foreign colleagues will be leaving Afghanistan They supported the army, police and the Afghan state. They suffered a lot of casualties in Afghanistan. They spent a lot of money, they worked hard for over a decade.

But now they ve left us. Left us alone in this mess. And it is not clear that they are ready to deal with this mess unsupported.

Their skills and drills are pretty dodgy; their infrastructure is unstable (nine months without pay, and counting ); and their company commander likens his relationship with his men to that of God and his servants . And there is still a widespread lack of gratitude viz. their out-going counterparts (referred to, near-universally, as Americans ).

One officer walks aghast round the shell of an abandoned ISAF camp, looking for so much as an electrical cable. Another man avers somewhat charmlessly that if ISAF knew an attack was imminent, they wouldn t even warn the Afghan soldiers. But they are sincere in their efforts, even in the Taliban heartlands.

These are our people. We should talk to them and find out what they want, so we can take their security seriously. Watching history repeat itself as, in Afghanistan, it appears to do more quickly than anywhere else on the planet what is still somehow surprising is in just how many ways the Afghan National Army s war is almost exactly the same as ours was.

Their complaints are as old as Thersites: our company always gets the worst chores; the kiss-asses get promoted quicker; the officers aren t leading from the front. Their lifestyle is broadly similar: they smoke, they lounge about, they play-fight, they watch trashy videos on laptops, they send cutesy messages to their boy/girlfriends. They wish they were not there.

Two of the most prominent talking heads, Captain Jalaluddin (who had wanted to study literature) and Private Sunnatullah, were both unemployed before the ANA presented itself. They ask the poor and the hopeless, Do you want to serve? and they say, Yes, I ll serve.

So they send them to places like Sangin. They even have the same tactical, strategic and political dilemmas: they don t have enough in common with the locals (most ANA soldiers are not deployed in their native areas, for obvious reasons); they do not trust the local police units; they think they re being sold out by their own politicians; and they have little or no faith in the military future. Everyone thinks another war is coming.

At random: We need to get out there and impose ourselves. We can t shoot them just because they re growing opium. Who ruined Afghanistan?

Your people? Did I ruin it? Every one of these conversations was had ten times a day by British and American soldiers during their time in Afghanistan, and in these very same towns and villages.

It is no consolation to see that the Afghan National Army has not yet found the answers, either. Captain Jalaluddin assures his parents: Helmand is safe, there s no need to worry about me. But they watch the news, he says: they know.

And the overarching reality, of course, is that this young officer s war is nothing like mine, or any other British soldier s in Afghanistan. Jalaluddin has been in Helmand for seven years now. Most of us were there for less than seven months.

Tell Spring Not to Come This Year premieres at the Sheffield Documentary Festival on 6 June A.S.H.

Smyth was a trooper in the Honourable Artillery Company.

He served in Helmand and Kabul, in 2013 Tags: Afghanistan , Camp Bastion , Channel 4 , documentary , Film , Helmand , NATO , Taliban , Tell Spring Not to Come This Year , TV , War 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 References ^ Afghanistan (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Camp Bastion (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Channel 4 (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ documentary (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Film (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Helmand (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ NATO (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Taliban (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ Tell Spring Not to Come This Year (blogs.spectator.co.uk) ^ War (blogs.spectator.co.uk)

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What Afghan soldiers really think

Prince Charles becomes Irish Regiment colonel in Canada

According to a Canadian Forces news release, The Prince of Wales has agreed to serve as Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Regiment of Canada. The regiment are currently celebrating their centennial which will see them take part in a Freedom of the City Parade in Sudbury, Ontario. The Irish Regiment of Canada is a Reserve Force infantry regiment that belongs to 33 Canadian Brigade Group which is based in the 4th Canadian Division.

The Irish Regiment has served Canada throughout its long history valiantly, serving with great distinction during both the First World War and Second World War. In more recent conflicts, the regiment has contributed to Canadian Armed Forces efforts in Cyprus, Afghanistan and the Golan Heights. Canadian Minister of National Defence, The Honourable Jason Kenney, spoke of Prince Charles s appointment, It is an honour for the Canadian Armed Forces to have His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, become Colonel-in-Chief of the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Regiment of Canada on the Prince Charles, who spent five years in the Royal Navy, has been appointed Colonel-in-Chief of The Irish Regiment of Canada.

occasion of their 100th anniversary. His Royal Highness is a strong advocate of the Canadian Army and the Canadian Armed Forces and this is another honour for an already distinguished regiment. Prince Charles is currently Colonel-in-Chief of a number of other Canadian regiments including The Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona s Horse, The Black Watch, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the Air Reserve of Canada.

Charles is also Commodore-in-Chief and Vice Admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy. Whilst Colonel-in-Chiefs do not have operational roles, as patron s of regiments they are kept informed of all important activities of the regiment as well as paying occasional visits to their units. Canadian Army units are often honoured by having a member of The Royal Family as their Colonel-in-Chief.

Brian Bigger, Mayor of Greater Sudbury, commented on the new Colonel-in-Chief, The city of Greater Sudbury is proud of its five decade long relationship with the 2nd Battalion, The Irish Regiment of Canada. Having His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales serve as Colonel-in-Chief underscores the vital role that this celebrated regiment plays in defending Canada at home and away. Prince Charles himself has a distinguished military career which saw him serve a four month attachment with the Royal Air Force as well more than five years active service in the Royal Navy.

It was recently revealed that Charles s Black Spider Memo s , a set of secret letters to Government ministers, would be published in to the public domain.

1 Photo Credit: Royal Navy Media Archive 2 Featured Photo Credit: Andy Gott 3 References ^ It was recently revealed that Charles s Black Spider Memo s , a set of secret letters to Government ministers, would be published in to the public domain. (royalcentral.co.uk) ^ Royal Navy Media Archive (flic.kr) ^ Andy Gott (flic.kr)

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Prince Charles becomes Irish Regiment colonel in Canada

Royal Welsh Regiment's goat mascot, Taffy, dies (From South Wales …

ONE of the mascots of The Royal Welsh, Taffy the goat has died it was announced today. The animal, who is also known as Lance Corporal Gwillam Jenkins, had become famous throughout Wales and elsewhere following their support to Freedom Parades and the London Olympics in 2012. Taffy had met Royalty, the Prime Minister and a long list of famous personalities, all of whom admired his good behaviour and personality.

Taffy had also led the Welsh Rugby Union team out onto the pitch in the Millennium Stadium becoming familiar with members of the national side. The goat who also had his own service number, 24416906, died peacefully in his pen in the early hours of May 14. Regimental Secretary of The Royal Welsh, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Kilmister said: The Regimental Mascot is part of who we are as a Welsh Regiment.

Lance Corporal Gwillam Jenkins will be missed by members of the Regiment but his blood line will continue and the next generation of mascots will maintain his legacy and our tradition. Regimental Adjutant, The Royal Welsh, Captain Ben Phillips said: As an officer of the Regiment on duty I would have to check Taffy each night, ensuring that he was in good health and spirit. Occasionally he would trigger his own goat ambush on an unsuspecting new officer during these checks, much to everyone s amusement, but for the most time he behaved himself.

As I recall he preferred to listen to BBC Radio Two while relaxing in his pen. Since the earliest days of the Regiment s goat mascot, it has been traditional for the animal to be cared for by a member of the Drums Platoon, usually a Non Commissioned Officer, known as the Goat Major. He is entirely responsible for all the duties of feeding, watering, exercising, grooming and, of course, instilling the necessary parade discipline into a young Regimental goat.

Fusilier Owen is the current Goat Major in 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, who had looked after Taffy on a daily basis. There are many stories of how the goat came to be our Regimental mascot. One relates to the Crimean War of 1854-56 and the 41st of Foot or the Welch Regiment.

It is said that a young Welsh soldier found a kid goat, maybe to supplement his poor rations or maybe to keep him as a pet. This young Welsh soldier was on sentry duty during a cold night, so he put the goat inside his grey coat to keep him warm, but the soldier fell asleep. An enemy Russian patrol approached the Welsh position and the goat bleated whilst the enemy approached.

The goat woke the young Welsh soldier, who was alerted and woke up his fellow Welshmen and repelling the Russian attack. Perhaps it was this event that led to the first goat being presented by Queen Victoria from her Royal Herd at Windsor at around 1860. A letter has been written to The Colonel in Chief of The Royal Welsh, Her Majesty the Queen, informing her of the death of Taffy, but also to ask permission for The Royal Welsh to select a new goat from the Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales.

Over the summer men of the Regiment will go there to help round up the goat herd and choose a new mascot. Once herded together a kid goat will be adopted into the regiment. The Goat Major will then begin the hard work and instil the necessary self-restraint and obedience into the goat.

Taffy the VI s headstone will be added to the many others that have served the Regiment over the years in the garden outside of Regimental Headquarters.

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Royal Welsh Regiment's goat mascot, Taffy, dies (From South Wales …

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