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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 12:11 GMT
War View: 'Decide our aims, and stick to them'
Ian Wright, a former major in the British Army, who served as an intelligence officer in Bosnia, says peacekeeping requires clear thinking.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The sudden collapse of Taleban resistance in Afghanistan means that once again British troops are preparing to deploy on a peace support operation. The British Armed Forces experience in such operations is second to none.
Ten years ago the British Army had already notched up 25 consecutive years of experience in Northern Ireland. Since then, in between the routine deployments to Northern Ireland, the Armed Forces have fought the Gulf War and deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Sierra Leone on Peace Support Operations.
As winter arrives the desperate humanitarian situation has to be addressed. The Armed Forces can be used to facilitate the humanitarian operation.
Their experience and logistic capabilities are invaluable. Even in relatively stable situations the security and protection the Armed Forces provide to the distribution of aid is important. In Afghanistan it may be vital.
There will be a degree of concern for what lays ahead. This will be balanced by the collective confidence gained through the experience of recent years.
For a few this will be the first operational deployment. They will worry about how they will react to the first group of gun-toting Mujahideen they encounter; from personal experience I know the Mujahideen can be fairly intimidating.
They will worry about how they will react the first time shots are fired - it will happen. However, their nerves will be calmed by the experience around them. Today it is not uncommon to see Junior Non-Commissioned Officers with four or five operational medals.
The support elements will be confident that they can sustain the operation through an Afghan winter and add vital logistical expertise to humanitarian organisations.
There may be slightly more disquiet among military planners. The logistics of deployment are tried and tested. Getting the force to Afghanistan will be almost routine. Sustaining it perfectly feasible.
Planners concern will be focused on what exactly they are expected to achieve when they arrive. Their objectives must be clearly defined and within the capability of the force deployed.
The UN operation in Bosnia was an example to all of what can happen to when troops are deployed without obvious objectives and "mission creep" occurs - a military term meaning "moving the goal posts".
Afghanistan is not a UN operation. The situation is different, but the lessons of Bosnia must not be forgotten. Have a good reason for the deployment, set clear objectives and then stick to them.
Bin Laden is yet to be captured. Aid needs to be delivered. I am sure that the members of 45 Commando and 2 Para would love to assist in mopping up the Taleban or finding Bin Laden but, if they are sent to deliver aid, that is what they must do. Some one else will have to spend the winter hunting.
This is one of a series of differing opinions on the War on Afghanistan we are publishing. You can send your view about this or other articles by using the form below.
Sure the UK forces have good operational experience, but let's not forget that part of that experience was a defeat in Afganistan. The current situation is not very different from before, British troops will land, establish bases, and soon after that, the Afghans will turn their guns against them. What everybody in the West seems to forget, is that the Afghans deeply resent foreign intervention, especially a military one. So for all those who think the war is half won, I would like to say that its hardly started.
The international community must be involved in stabilising the situation and in nation building. A small selection of nations centred around a self proclaimed lead nation will not work as any solution reached would be bound to offend somebody and sow the seeds for future discontent. We should take the formula that has been presented to us, in parts, in previous operations: a UN-led activity on all fronts (economic, political, social and military) with a declared endstate and a roadmap with deadlines and acheivable objectives as to how to get there (Dayton went part of the way there). To enable the road map to start, a robust professional multinational stabilisation force is required working under the UN mandate. For this to be credible it needs to be based on a large core of nations used to working together. Nato is a good example of this. I do not understand why to date I have not heard of any proposal to use NATO to lead and form the core of such a force - especially after this combination has been so successful in the past (IFOR, SFOR and KFOR).
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