Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A Very Different Winter

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are preparing for a 'very different winter' amid signs that suggest Taliban militants plan to ramp up their attacks in the coming months rather than reduce them because of the logistical challenge of travel, particularly in the country's foreboding mountain passes.

The Canadian battle group commander of Task Force Kandahar said: "We know for a fact that the insurgents aren't leaving this winter."

"They recognise key decisions are being made by Obama, the British, the Germans, the Danes, the Canadians and my others as to force levels and future commitments.

"There is no doubt about it, we can expect throughout the winter that we will continue to be dealing with the same types of incidents, same numbers, same brazen attacks," Lt Col Jerome Walsh said.

The Taliban took the credit for the decision on Monday to cancel the planned presidential run-off election. The Taliban's recent posturing, both on the ground and in the media, is further evidence the group is refining its tactics to increase its political clout in the West.

"The biggest achievement the Taliban has made this year is in promoting the debate about the merits of the war at home," said Richard Barrett, the head of the UN's Taliban and al-Qaida monitoring unit and a former British intelligence officer.

Also reported is that British medics in Afghanistan see more traumas than all UK hospitals put together on an average day.

Col Peter Gilbert, Officer Commanding of Hospital Squadron at Camp Bastion in Helmand province said, "We are seeing injuries here on an almost daily basis that nobody in the health service will ever see."

Gilbert, 51, who is the commanding officer of the Territorial Army's 256 City of London Field Hospital, heads a squadron of about 170 men and women, from the clerk at the front desk of the hospital to the specialist surgeons.

A few days ago surgeons operated on a Danish soldier after an explosion blew off both his legs, a whole arm and the hand from his other arm.

Gilbert said the reason such extreme casualties can survive is down to three things, rapid treatment on the ground, getting them to hospital as soon as possible and specialist treatment when they arrive. Doctors normally speak of the 'golden hour' fro treating patients immediately after they sustain an injury. In Helmand the phrase has been modified into 'the platinum 10 minutes'.

As well as Nato troops who have been injured the medics treat Afghans from the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Insurgents are also treated (under guard) and receive exactly the same treatment as an injured British soldier.

This is only a brief glimpse of the front line and it would seem there is to be no respite for the troops this winter. Many are exhausted as they have had no leisure time for weeks or months. Their days and nights consist of work, food and sleep.

Our politicians don't appear to care because they have left these soldiers in limbo while they decide on a plan. Douglas Alexander was on television yesterday uttering the usual platitudes which we know are all lies.

I can quite easily suggest a plan. It's called a withdrawal plan. The sooner politicians agree to bring the troops home, the sooner they may begin to claw back some respect from the public. I note Kim Howells, a former Foreign Office minister, has broken ranks and called for the phased withdrawal of our armed forces. He told the Guardian, "It would be better to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate, instead, on using the money saved to secure our own borders."

Finally one politician is brave enough to speak out against the government's propaganda.


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