More than half of British public against UK mission in Afghanistan

September 10 2009

By Michael Evans

Most people are against the decision to send British troops to Afghanistan, according to a survey published today.

More than half of those questioned said that the Army should never have been deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

The latest gauge of public opinion will cause alarm in the Government, which has been trying in recent months to clarify the objectives of the mission in Helmand, codenamed Operation Herrick.

Gordon Brown said last week that his priority was to protect British streets from terrorism and warned that the threat would increase if the Taleban were allowed to regain power in Afghanistan and provide a sanctuary for al-Qaeda.

However, 53 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned for the survey, conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the National Army Museum, rejected the Government’s reasoning for the mission in Helmand.

When asked whether 9,000 troops should have been sent on Operation Herrick, only 6 per cent “strongly agreed”. Another 19 per cent “agreed”, giving a combined vote of support of one quarter of the survey participants.

Another 15 per cent were unable to make up their minds either way, indicating that the Government still has a long way to go to convince members of the public that the mission in Afghanistan is justified.

Even greater disaffection was shown towards the British military campaign in Iraq, which was finally brought to an end in July after six years.

Sixty per cent voiced opposition to Britain’s military involvement in Iraq. Only 20 per cent agreed that it had been right to send troops to Basra.

By comparison, there was much stronger support for past conflicts: 56 per cent agreed — and only 11 per cent disagreed — that it was right to send troops to the Falklands after they were occupied by Argentine forces in April 1982.

Those questioned in the poll also largely approved of the troop deployment to Northern Ireland, with 53 per cent in support. They were less enthusiastic about the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in the 1990s, with just under 30 per cent giving their backing and the same number disapproving of the operation.

To underline the apparent lack of support for Britain’s most recent overseas military operations, more than 70 per cent of the survey participants said that the Army’s most important function should be to defend British territory and British citizens.

When asked to give their views on other military responsibilities, including ones that are deemed by the Government to be crucial for the success of the campaign in Afghanistan, support was rock bottom.

Only 2 per cent of the sample thought that it was important for the Army to get involved in the reconstruction of countries affected by war and 1 per cent believed that it was a function of the Army to train and mentor international forces.

The Government’s exit strategy for Afghanistan is based around the hope that British and other Nato troops can train sufficient numbers of soldiers in the Afghan National Army for them to take over the security role in a few years.

Despite the reservations towards Britain’s military overseas commitments, 64 per cent of those questioned in the ICM poll said that they would support their children if they wanted to join the Army.

The survey was published to coincide with the opening at the National Army Museum of an exhibition entitled Conflicts of Interest, exploring three decades of wars in which the British Army has been involved.


American are also loosing their taste for war.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll found 51 percent who said the war was not worth fighting, while 47 percent said it was worth it.

US Raided Afghan Hospital

(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on More than half of British public against UK mission in Afghanistan  
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British troops ‘cannot bear brunt of Barack Obama’s Afghanistan surge’

British troops must not be sent in support of US President-Elect Barack Obama’s planned “surge” in Afghanistan, the head of the armed forces has said.

By Rosa Prince

November 9 2008

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, warned that the British military was already over-stretched, and suggested that troops from other Nato countries should be sent to fight.

Mr Obama has spoken of his desire to see a surge in troop numbers in Afghanistan, similar to that which appears to have had success against extremists in Iraq, to finally quell the Taliban insurgency.

But Sir Jock said that British troops were already struggling to cope with fighting in the two theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan, and could not take on more demands.

His words were echoed by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, who agreed that other Nato countries should take responsibility for any fresh surge in Afghanistan.

Both men also ruled out sending British troops to the Congo to bolster the United Nations force in central Africa.

There are currently 8,100 military personnel serving Afghanistan, with another 4,100 in Iraq due to withdraw by the middle of next year.

Sir Jock said that they should not be redeployed to Afghanistan once their mission in Iraq ended, adding: “I am a little nervous when people use the word ‘surge’ as if this were some sort of panacea.

“We welcome more military force being sent to Afghanistan. Everybody needs to do their share, we are very clear on that.

“In the context of what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are shouldering a burden which is more than we are able to shoulder in the long term, so we expect the others to take up their share of that burden.”

Appearing with Sir Jock on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Miliband was asked if Mr Obama’s proposed surge would require an increase in the size of Britain’s commitment there.

He said: “Not necessarily, no. As the second-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan, the first thing we say is that we don’t want to bear an unfair share of the burden.”

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, also warned that Britain was already making a “disproportionate contribution” to the Nato effort in Afghanistan.

He told Sky News’ Sunday Live: “We do need the rest of Nato to play its part in Afghanistan and undoubtedly it seems that Barack Obama does intend to send larger US forces and that is part of what is necessary in Afghanistan.

“We would all take some persuading that there would have to be a much larger British contingent there – there’s already a very large British contingent.”

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has said that the Government should talk to Iranian and Taliban leaders in order to find lasting resolutions to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He added: “Negotiation with both the Taliban and Iran may be unpalatable, but it is the only route to success, and if it doesn’t happen now it will be too late.”


Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 4:38 am  Comments Off on British troops ‘cannot bear brunt of Barack Obama’s Afghanistan surge’  
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Elusive threats boost PTSD risk in Afghanistan

A Canadian soldier stands guard at the side of a suicide attack in the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. (AP / Allauddin Khan)

A Canadian soldier stands guard at the side of a suicide

attack in the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan on

Sept. 11, 2008. (AP / Allauddin Khan)

A Canadian soldier carries an improvised explosive device out of the grape field in which Taliban fighters had hidden it, on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 in Nakoney, Afghanistan. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Bob Weber)

A Canadian soldier carries an improvised explosive device

out of the grape field in which Taliban fighters had hidden it, on

Oct. 8, 2008 in Nakoney, Afghanistan. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Bob Weber)

November 8 2008

Stefania Moretti

Canadian troops fighting in Afghanistan are up against two dangerous adversaries. The first, the elusive enemy; the second, the less-tangible threat of mental breakdown.

Indeed, new studies suggest soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are more likely to suffer from mental illness because of the high degree of uncertainty that characterizes the NATO-led mission.

Traditionally, wars have been fought on the front lines of the battlefield with an identifiable enemy in uniform. But in Afghanistan, the enemy is “elusive,” said one mental health expert. Threat can come from anywhere.

Afghanistan has been described as a 360-degree war with virtually no safe zone. Suicide bombers dressed in civilian garb, improvised explosive devices strewn across the treacherous “Highway of Death” connecting Kabul and Kandahar and entire communities surrounded by deadly land mines means soldiers face around-the-clock danger.

As a result, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are likely at higher risk of developing post-traumatic disorder than their comrades serving in other missions, Dr. Alain Brunet, of the Douglas Research Centre and McGill University, recently told in a telephone interview from Montreal.

British troops sent to Afghanistan last year were nine times more likely to suffer from PTSD, according to that country’s Ministry of Defence in a study released this month. Most British troops are stationed in Helmand province — a less volatile region than Canadians stationed in the Taliban hotbed of Kandahar province.

Veterans Affairs Canada pegs the number of Canadian war vets who will experience PTSD as high as 10 per cent.

But the figure only represents former soldiers, and does not reflect soldiers currently on duty in Afghanistan, where the risk of PTSD is likely much different, Brunet said.

As many as 28 per cent of troops come back from armed combat with one or more mental health issues, according to data complied by the head of the Canadian military’s deployment health section last year. Of those:

  • seventeen per cent exhibited signs of high-risk drinking
  • five per cent showed symptoms of PTSD
  • five per cent had signs of serious depression

Since the mission in Afghanistan began in 2002, the number of Veterans Affairs members with a PTSD condition has more than tripled, up from roughly 1,800 to 6,500, according to a Veterans Affairs briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press in March. Veterans Affairs expect the numbers will continue to climb with troops scheduled to stay until at least 2011.

In 2007, the number of suicides among regular and reserve members of the Canadian Forces rose to 36, the highest in more than a decade, military police records from earlier this year show.

There is a sense that there has been a recent surge in PTSD, and it can be attributed to a number of factors, Brunet said.

The spike in military PTSD cases may also stem from fewer cases going unreported, thanks to education and screening programs implemented by the army in recent years.

Within two months of returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan soldiers undergo a mandatory PTSD assessment followed by several weeks off and counseling.

Brunet, whose research focuses on the risk and remission factors associated with the disorder, said an officer with PTSD symptoms should not be re-deployed because the risks are “cumulative.”

“The more you go (to Afghanistan) the more likely you are to develop the disease,” he said, adding the diagnosis of PTSD in the army is “amazingly important.”

Dozens of soldiers have already completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and some could face a third if the mission is extended.

But significant barriers preventing PTSD diagnoses among soldiers remain, despite efforts made by the Canadian Armed Forces to educate soldiers about the disease.

Having PTSD can be a career-ender for a soldier, Brunet said.

A combination of this fear of dismissal from duty and the “macho culture” that permeates the force makes officers hesitate to disclose their problems, Brunet said. “We are sending mixed messages.”

The “hallmark” of PTSD is persistent nightmares, but symptoms can also include, flashbacks, gaps in memory, detachment from loved ones, little control over impulses, problems concentrating, anger and irritability.

Although it’s natural to experience any or all of these symptoms after witnessing a traumatic event, PTSD sufferers become incapacitated by their frequency and severity.

“Personally, I wouldn’t want to have a comrade working with me and to have to rely on someone with PTSD,” Brunet said.


Afghan veterans more likely to suffer from mental illness